Need a restorative winter warmer? Hike 11 miles along the icy banks of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River to a natural hot spring just 35 miles from Seattle. During winter, the lone access road becomes impassable; it’s foot travel only, but you’ll still need reservations (see Trip Planner) to secure one of just 20 daily permits. From the parking lot (1) off Middle Fork Road, take the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Trail #1003 across the Gateway Bridge (2) and follow the main track left. At .8 mile, reach a side trail (3) leading to the granite backbone of Stegosaurus Butte. Follow the river, then climb through a recent landslide (4) that toppled the Douglas firs and exposed a view of 5,519-foot Mt. Garfield.
At 4.5 miles, reach Cripple Creek (5) and a roaring 20-foot cascade set against a granite backdrop. Turn uphill here for a one-mile side trip to Tin Cup Joe Falls. Hike another mile to the Dingford Creek junction (6). During spring snowmelt (April to May), the Thunder Creek ford, three miles ahead, can be impassable. Scout Dingford Creek to help anticipate Thunder Creek’s flow (see next page). If Dingford’s raging, take the left spur to Dingford Road and follow the forest road four miles to Goldmyer. Otherwise, continue toward Wildcat Creek (7) and Rock Creek (8), both spanned by wooden bridges.
At 8.1 miles, veer right at the Y-junction (9). You’ll soon pass the intersection with the Rock Creek Trail #1013.3 (10), which leads to Snow Lake and Snoqualmie Pass. Stay on #1003 to Thunder Creek (11), where two 10-foot falls emit a low roar. Cross the stream if the torrent is passable, then continue to Burntboot Creek (12) and the fallen logs that provide access to Goldmyer Hot Springs. The springs are staffed by caretakers for Northwest Wilderness Programs, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to wilderness preservation; check in (13), and camp along the river. Then hit the pools (14), which seat one to four, and range from 100°F to 120°F.
Get there From Seattle, take exit 34 off I-90 east, then a left on 468th Ave. Drive 1.5 miles to SE Middle Fork Rd. Follow it 11 miles to the Middle Fork trailhead.
Gear up REI, 735 Northwest Gilman Blvd., Issaquah, WA. (425) 313-1660; rei.com
Permit Northwest Forest Pass required ($30/year). (800) 270-7504; fs.fed.us/ r6/passespermits
Reservations Access is $15/ day per person. Call 90 days ahead. (206) 789-5631; goldmyer.org
Trip data backpacker.com/hikes/946235