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Bagby to Silver King Lake Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Pool, Hot Springs Fork, Bagby Hot Springs Trail (bobcat)
Guard Cabin, Bagby Hot Springs (bobcat)
Pal Creek, Bagby Hot Springs Trail (bobcat)
Vine maples on talus, Bagby Hot Springs Trail (bobcat)
Conk, Bagby Hot Springs Trail (bobcat)
Shore, Silver King Lake (bobcat)
The Bagby Hot Springs Trail to Silver King Lake (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Bagby Hot Springs TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Silver King Lake
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 15.2 miles
  • High Point: 4,120 feet
  • Elevation gain: 2550 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Seasons: Summer through early fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

The Bagby Hot Springs Trail #544, originally called the South Fork Mountain Trail, is a historic route, used by settlers since the mid-19th century and by Native Americans before that. It essentially splits the Bull of the Woods Wilderness as it climbs from Bagby Hot Springs and then continues, for a total length of 12 1/2 miles, to Elk Lake. From the trailhead, the northern section described here is a wonderland of massive old growth and pristine creeks as yet unscarred by recent fires. The trail follows the Hot Springs Fork of the Collawash River as it crosses numerous side creeks, many of them named. Once in the wilderness area, the trail is often brushy, and there may be some blowdown to negotiate. The overhanging shrubbery, when wet, will give you a solid soaking, so make sure you come equipped with rain gear.

Of course, a major attraction (or blight, to some) on the trail are the Bagby Hot Springs themselves. They are well worth a stopover at the end of your hike. Friends of Bagby Hot Springs long ago restored the communal and individual soaking tubs that were destroyed in an act of arson in 1979. The place is still popular but rather more sedate (alcohol is prohibited) and much, much safer. A $5 soaking fee, payable at the trailhead, is required for use of the bathhouse facilities, which are now managed by a concessionaire. Make sure you wear the wristband provided. Clothing is optional only at the bathhouses themselves.

Take the wide trail and cross the footbridge over pristine Nohorn Creek. You will enter a lovely old-growth forest of large Douglas-firs with western red-cedar, western hemlock, and an understory of yew, vine maple, and Oregon grape. The path crosses a short boardwalk, and soon you’ll see the Hot Springs Fork of the Collawash River flowing to your left. This scene, with the mossy rocks and shallow pools of the creek below overhung with vine maple and the large old growth towering overhead, continues until you cross the bridge over the Hot Springs Fork. Rise a little to the footbridge over Peggy Creek and, in short order, you arrive at the rustic bathhouses and log shelters at the Bagby Hot Springs Forest Camp. Walk through this shaded camp, which can become rather crowded on weekends, and note the 126-degree hot spring which feeds the main bathhouse. The 1913 Guard Cabin is to your left, and a more recently constructed (1974) Guard Station is up to your right. A second hot spring feeds a small bathhouse. The springs are named after Robert Bagby, a local hunter and prospector.

The trail continues through huckleberry and rhododendron, soon passing a Bull of the Woods Wilderness sign. Steep trails lead down to the right to the campsites along the Hot Springs Fork. Pass in front of Shower Creek Falls, which splashes over a rock overhang – just like a shower! Traverse above the cedar-lined creek, passing more campsites below. The trail drops and rises to cross Spray Creek. After this, you arrive at a windfall clearing sprouting a diversity of young conifers, including western white pine. Swish through the overhanging huckleberry, salal, and rhododendron, crossing an unnamed creek and then Doris Creek with its campsite. The next creek, as you gradually rise, is little Ora Creek. Pass through another windfall opening, and come to Alice Creek. There’s a third windfall corridor before you enter lovely old-growth woods with an open understory and cross Pal Creek, the only one of these creeks which still sports, as of 2016, a name tag. The trail rises to a rocky viewpoint that offers a vista southwest to Whetstone Mountain. Then gradually descend to cross a talus slope overhung with colorful vine maple.

Make the Betty Creek Crossing where the stream meets the alder-shaded Hot Springs Fork, and continue past a couple of campsites (All these creeks may have been named after girlfriends/wives/mothers of former forest rangers). Cross a gully with a trickling creek, and ascend through a boggy seep. Cross Ester Creek, and squish through another small seep. The trail levels below a scree slope rimmed with vine maple. After this, negotiate a rough patch where two large trees have come down. Descend to the Hot Springs Fork among large Douglas-firs, and pass through a vine maple thicket. When you reach the Hot Springs Fork Upper Crossing, at low water you can rock hop across slightly to your right; at high water, this is a ford.

After crossing, make a left through a devil’s club thicket. As you rise, you can see a waterfall splashing on the creek to your left through the trees: to visit this waterfall is an easy bushwhack through waist-high huckleberries. The trail keeps rising up a lovely moss-carpeted slope in pristine montane woodland. Huckleberry bushes overhang the trail, and there are a few glimpses of the rugged north face of Silver King Mountain. Make two switchbacks, and then cross Port Orford Creek. The trail crosses two more small creeks before passing through Howdy Doody Camp. Make a traverse under some impressive Douglas-firs and hemlocks. Eventually, reach a scree slope blazing with vine maples.

At the Bagby Hot Springs-Silver King Lake Trail Junction, take the spur trail labelled for Silver King Lake. The path winds up the slope among Douglas-fir, mountain hemlock, and silver fir. Reach a campsite on level ground. A short trail tunnels through the rhododendrons to secluded Silver King Lake, quiet, serene, and nestled in its dark ring of conifers.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Bagby Trail #544 (USFS)
  • Green Trails Maps: Battle Ax, OR #524
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, Bull of the Woods Wilderness, Opal Creek Wilderness, Opal Creek Scenic Recreation Area
  • Geo-Graphics: Bull of the Woods and Opal Creek Wilderness Map
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Clackamas River Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood

Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

  • $5 fee for using the hot springs payable at trailhead; those just hiking do not need to pay
  • Campground next to the trailhead; many backcountry campsites along the trail
  • Past Bagby, the trail has overhanging brush along much of its length. If the foliage is wet, this can be a drenching experience even if it isn’t actually raining. Come with full rain gear.

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region by Matt Reeder
  • Best Old Growth Forest Hikes: Washington & Oregon Cascades by John & Diane Cissel
  • Hiking Mount Hood National Forest by Marcia Sinclair
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Take a Hike: Portland by Barbara I. Bond
  • 100 Oregon Hiking Trails by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Hiking Hot Springs in the Pacific Northwest by Evie Litton
  • Hot Springs and Hot Pools of the Northwest by Marjorie Gersh-Young
  • A Hiker's Guide to Oregon's Hidden Wilderness (Central Cascades Conservation Council)

More Links

Page Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.