The Four Best Hot Springs in Western Oregon

It's too cold to swim in rivers. Visit these hot springs instead.

(Grace Bevans)

Summer is, technically, still a week away.

Still, all of June feels like summer, and that means it sure feels like it's time to get wet.

The problem? In Portland's northern climes, where so many rivers are fed by melting snow, it'll still be a few weeks until a chilly river feels refreshing. And Portland's public pools don't open until summer officially starts June 20.

Instead of chattering in the Sandy, why not relax in a naturally warm pool of magma-heated, mineral-rich waters? Because the peaks of the Cascades are volcanic, Western Oregon is dotted with hot springs. Here's are the springs to look out for in the Cascades, from Portland south along the I-5 corridor. SOPHIA JUNE.

Cougar (Terwilliger) Hot Springs

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Are you passing through Eugene? Carve out a couple extra hours for a side trip to one of Oregon's best springs. Terwilliger Hot Springs—also known as Cougar since it's next to Cougar Reservoir—is just an hour from Oregon's second-largest city, a trip mostly on gently curving roads.

Cougar Hot Springs (Justin Tyler George)

It's just an easy half-mile hike from the parking lot, which is sandwiched between the reservoir and a little lake fed by a waterfall. Take the trail through old-growth fir and you come upon a small wooden deck overlooking the hazy blue pools, which are deep enough to submerge yourself in and separated by slabs of flat rock like you'd expect at a fancy putt-putt course.

(WW Staff)

The top pool is the warmest, and if you get right up by the trickle of hot water, you've got a super-soothing natural bath. Get there early in the morning and you'll have the tubs pretty much to yourself—an empty bottle of Arbor Mist floating in one of the pools was the only thing disturbing the natural beauty and solitude on my visit. MARTIN CIZMAR.

Take Highway 126 east from Eugene until you get to Aufderheide Scenic Byway (Forest Road 19). Follow Aufderheide Drive for 16 miles, taking a right when you get to Cougar Reservoir and continue on Aufderheide Drive to the Terwilliger Hot Springs parking lot. From the parking lot, the trailhead is on the northern shore of the little lake.

Bagby Hot Springs

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Bagby is overrated. I don't use that word a lot; I love Salt & Straw as much as the next gal. But Oregon has a lot of natural hot springs. For most of them, you just go, maybe pay a small fee, get naked and sit. That's what hot springs should be. At Bagby, however, they not only make you work for it, they make you pay for it.

After a 45-minute hike, you come to a 103-year-old lodge, where hot water flows from natural springs out of spigots into wooden tubs. The top floor offers five rooms with small private tubs. On a Sunday afternoon visit on Memorial Day weekend, there wasn't a wait for these. If you're alone or with one companion, these tubs are probably the way to go—although, I couldn't help but think about all the sex people have had in them.

If you're with more than just one other bather, you'll have to wait for the tubs outside the lodge, which comfortably fit up to four. While it's filling with boiling hot water, you grab a 6-gallon bucket and walk down to a stream, where you fill the bucket and then carry it all the way back to the tub and pour it in to cool the water. Repeat this a dozen or so times until you've carried about 72 gallons of cold water.

(Emma Hughes)
(Emily Joan Greene)

Once it's finally filled, your muscles are sore enough to need it. Also, you're not allowed to be naked in the area. If you're a CrossFit, cute-sports-bra type, maybe this is your steeze. Otherwise, head to the more naturalistic hot springs. SOPHIA JUNE.

Two and a half hours from Portland: From I-205, take Exit 12A to OR-212 E/OR-224 E toward Clackamas. Drive east on Highway 224 through Estacada. Just past the Ripplebrook Guard Station, the highway turns into Road 46. Follow this for 4 miles to the junction of Road 63, turn right and travel 4 miles to Road 70. Turn right and follow Road 70 for 6 miles to the Bagby Trailhead. The walk is 1.5 miles. $5 per person.

Umpqua Hot Springs

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First, the bad news: Umpqua Springs is the farthest from Portland on this list. It's almost five hours away, east of Roseburg on the way to Crater Lake, if you're headed there. Why make the trip? This is arguably the finest hot springs in the state, a gorgeous collection of small pools perched on a steep embankment overlooking the rushing North Umpqua River below.

(Martin Cizmar)
(WW Staff)

The largest pool is covered with a little wooden lean-to emblazoned with hippie art, including an intricate Steal Your Face. The other pools cling to the side of the hill, getting cooler as you go lower, but all are warm and offer great views. The hill is made of mineral-rich, brownish-orange soil that contrasts spectacularly with the greenish waters of the springs. The pools are popular with traveler types—I shared one with a man whose entire face was covered in tattoos—and the chill vibes are fueled by cheap beer and talk of French hostels. MARTIN CIZMAR.

From I-5, take U.S. 138 west to Forest Road 34/Toketee-Rigdon Road. Follow to Forest Road 3401/Basket Butte Road until you see signs for the Umpqua Hot Springs trailhead.

McCredie Hot Springs

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McCredie is everything I imagined a hot springs would be. You pull off an old state highway after passing through the nearest town, pop. 3,200, and then hike for about 20 minutes before coming upon an isolated pit in the forest. McCredie is muddier than most, but in a nice, beets-and-yerbe-mate kind of way. Plus, it's a short walk down from the river, if you really want to rinse off. It's usually crowded, and you'll probably bump butts with a hairy older man. No clothes or day fees. Yessss. On your way home, stop at Lee's Gourmet Garden in Oakridge, where Jackie Chan's former personal chef will serve you orange chicken your worn body will annihilate before the long drive home. SOPHIA JUNE.

Three hours from Portland: From I-5 South, take Exit 188 for Oregon State Route 58 toward Oakridge. From Oakridge, follow Route 58 east 8 miles to the signed hot springs parking area located near Blue Pool Campground and Milepost 46. To reach the pools on the far (south) side of Salt Creek, drive a half-mile east of the parking lot and take Shady Gap Road across the creek. After crossing the bridge, park in any of the pullouts and follow an unnamed trail up the bank to the south-side pools.

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