The Bagby Hot Springs are a destination unto themselves, but adventures looking for a more secluded woodland spot after their soak might want to try the Sliver King Lake Hike. It’s a trek that includes a stop at the hot springs, but then continues up to a less-visited lake, promising a reprieve from the crowds as well as 12 and a half miles of hiking. Open all seasons, it’s a fairly well-maintained trail and a great way to explore the Bull of the Woods Wilderness.
Start off at the Bagby Hot Springs trailhead, and walk under looming Douglas fir old-growths and past the rushing waters of the Collawash River’s many side creeks. The understory is beautifully lush and populated with yew, Oregon grape, and craggy rock features. This forest stays wet and wild for a solid chunk of the year, allowing abundant moss growth that washes everything in shades of green. The faintest hint of moisture clings to these woods, so come prepared with rain gear anytime other than summer.
The path winds through the woods, crosses two footbridges and offers views of the river. In no time you’ll pass the rustic Bagby Hot Springs lodges, which make for a fun detour if the area isn’t crowded. Then get back on the trail and walk past thickets of huckleberry and rhododendron as you return to the woods. You can affirm you’re on the right trail by looking for a Bull of the Woods Wilderness sign. (Some steep side-trails lead to a nearby campsite, so if you end up there, just backtrack.
A little way down you’ll pass Shower Creek Falls, and likely get splashed by the water plunging off the overhang. It’s all part of the experience, but watch for wet rocks in this stretch. Western hemlock and cedars dominate this part of the woods, along with clumps of white pine, as the trail rises and dips a few times. You’ll cross another creek, pass dense growths of huckleberry, salal, and rhododendron, and then come up to the Doris Creek campground.
There’s another two creek crossing up ahead (Ora Creek then Alice Creek) before you enter a windfall corridor and a spot of old growth forest. Then cross Pal Creek and hike up an incline leading to a viewpoint of Whetstone Mountain. Descend next down a talus slope populated by vine maples that leads out to Betty Creek, which connects up with the Hot Springs Fork.
You’ll pass a couple of campsites, then ascend up a marshy slope, skipping over Ester Creek on your way up. The path levels here as you skirt a scree slope and head on to the Hot Springs Fork Upper Crossing. In dryer moths you can hop across this waterway, but in winter be prepared to ford the creek.
A thicket of devil’s club awaits you on the opposite shore, along with an incline leading past a waterfall hidden by the trees. (It’s simple to bushwhack through huckleberries to if you want a view). Stick to the trail up through dense, mossy woodlands and look through the trees for glimpses of Silver King Mountain as the path leads up switchbacks. You’ll cross three more creeks before hitting Howdy Doody Camp.
The trail continues through a stretch of old-growth Douglas-firs and hemlocks before opening to another scree slope. The Bagby Hot Springs-Silver King Lake Trail Junction is right ahead, where you’ll take the Silver King Lake spur out to the campsite. To find your prize – the serene Sliver King Lake, hemmed by conifers and still as a pool – just push through some huckleberries until the shore comes into view.