Oregon is known for being an outdoor paradise; where else can travelers discover misty forests, snowy mountain peaks and vast desert expanses in one day? From the Cascade Mountains to the Painted Hills, volcanic activity has helped shape the many different landscapes of Oregon. Along with mountains and valleys, Oregon’s volcanic past helped create a host of hot springs scattered across the state. These hot springs are natural, hot pools of water—natural hot tubs. Some are more developed and have lodging nearby, while others feel completely remote and undiscovered. So whether it’s a soak under the stars in the high desert or a steamy pool in the forest, there’s a hot spring calling.
1) Summer Lake Hot Springs
Two hours southeast of Bend in Southern Oregon, the Summer Lake Hot Springs offer relaxation and a bit of history in the Oregon Outback. The resort spans 145 acres with naturally occurring hot mineral springs throughout the property, along with an ancient historical site marked with petroglyphs. The resort offers full-hookup RV sites and rustic, geothermally heated cabins. With breathtaking 360-degree views of forest, desert and mountain peaks, travelers will barely notice that the resort doesn’t have TV or Wi-Fi. Along with smaller cabins, there are two houses available for larger groups to rent, and tent camping is also allowed on the property. When guests aren’t soaking in the hot springs, they can enjoy the resort’s trail system for hiking, as well as the wildlife pond. Reservations are required to use the hot springs, so be sure to book ahead of time.
2) Paulina Lake and East Lake Hot Springs
Just about 45 minutes south of Bend lies a geological wonder. Deep in the Deschutes National Forest sits the Newberry Volcano, which erupted as recently as 1,300 years ago to create twin lakes nearby. East Lake sits on the eastern side of the Newberry Volcano, while Paulina Lake is to the west. The underground volcanic activity creates small pockets of hot water along each lake where guests can soak. The hot springs in East Lake are on the southeastern side, while Paulina Lake has hot springs on the northeastern side. In both lakes, visitors have constructed makeshift hot tub walls out of stones found nearby. The only accommodations in the area are camping sites with hiking access to the springs. This absence of development means visitors rarely have to deal with crowds. For the best accessibility, visit either lake’s hot springs between May and July, when the water levels are lower.
3) Crystal Crane Hot Springs
Out in Eastern Oregon a bit past Burns, visitors can find a resort that can be visited any time of the year. Crystal Crane Hot Springs might be a 2.5 hour drive from Bend, but the variety offered by the resort makes the drive worth it. Guests can enjoy the springs two ways – on the back porch of their own privately enclosed cedar bathhouse or in the open-air public hot springs pond. The natural mineral waters are said to have healing properties that can help visitors manage conditions like arthritis and eczema. The lodging here is plentiful and unique; guests can stay overnight in camping spots, full-hookup RV spots and even rent out a teepee or a converted old sheep herder’s wagon. Outside of camping, the resort offers several options from two-person cabins to an entire house known as The Ranch House. The nearby area is filled with natural attractions to entertain guests between soaks, including the expansive Alvord Desert and some of the nation’s best birdwatching.
4) Breitenbush Hot Springs
Described as an off the grid experience, Breitenbush Hot Springs offers guests a digital and substance-free detox zone, free of TV, Wi-Fi, cell service, alcohol, drugs or intoxicants. Out here, about two hours southeast of Bend, guests are truly one with nature. Breitenbush is the largest thermal spring area in the Oregon Cascades with several options from individual soaking tubs, Spiral tubs, smaller to the bigger main springs. The resort offers day-use passes, but also recommends guests experience a personal retreat with an overnight stay in one of the lodge’s five available rooms, or a personal camping site. Every overnight stay comes with three vegetarian meals sourced from nearby Oregon farms. This is a clothing optional site; guests can soak in bathing suits or nude. Reservations are required, so plan accordingly.
5) Umpqua Hot Springs
Also known as the Toketee Hot Springs, the Umpqua Hot Springs are accessible year-round, but the hike becomes 1.5 miles longer in winter when snowy conditions force the closure of the gate. The drive to the trailhead from Bend is a little over two hours, taking visitors to the southwestern part of the state. This is a rather undeveloped area, with only two official camping sites, one outhouse and some picnic tables near the parking area. Nude bathing here is very common, so be prepared. The three soaking pools are stacked in a unique arrangement where each pool sits higher in elevation than the last—these descending pools create incredible photo opportunities with towering pines in the background. The main draw is their remote feel; crowds are uncommon, and it is pretty normal for guests to feel as though they have escaped to a secret wooden glen away from society. A $5 fee per vehicle is required for parking.
6) McCredie Hot Springs
Drive an hour-and-a-half west from Bend into the Willamette National Forest and discover McCredie Hot Springs. These hot mineral springs are open year-round, but depending on the season, water levels may shift and change the number of available soaking pools. In colder months, the pools can sometimes drop in temperature, so be sure to check the water temperature before hopping in. The pools themselves have been naturally created from water surfaced from the edges of the Salt Creek. This undeveloped attraction has no on-site lodging or camping spots, and the pools are closed nightly, monitored and enforced. The closest campground to stay is Blue Pool campground. Once again, clothing is optional. Recreation pass is required.
7) Alvord Hot Springs
Deep in the southeastern corner of Oregon (and a four-hour drive from Bend), visitors can find the Alvord Hot Springs. In 2013, the owners of these springs modernized the destination, adding a parking lot, bathrooms, new camping spots and a general store. Visitors can submerge themselves in two large permanent soaking pools, surrounded by wooden decking, benches and a canopy. The nearby Alvord Desert is a popular adventure destination, and can be visited as a day trip from the camping spots at the Alvord Hot Springs. Guests can enjoy 24 hours of access to the pools for just $5.
8) Ritter Hot Springs
This developed but rustic hot springs destination sits alongside the John Day River in remote northeastern Oregon, about four hours from Bend. The hot springs and surrounding lodging, open from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, are part of the century-old ghost town of Ritter. The soaking pools here are very accessible, and have developed infrastructure surrounding them. Guests can drive right up to the springs and avoid any hiking.
9) Cougar Springs Hot Springs
Cougar AKA Terwilliger Hot Springs is a two-hour drive west from Bend into the Willamette Valley, near the McKenzie Bridge. The four ascending soaking pools differ in temperature from 85 degrees to 112 degrees. Accessible year-round, the pools can be found at the end of a leisurely quarter-mile hike into the Willamette National Forest. There is no onsite lodging or camping available, and the pools are closed from sunset to sunrise, and monitored heavily, trespassing inclusive of fines. Alcohol is prohibited but clothing is optional.
Each of these hot springs offers something a little different for visitors. So whether it’s an undeveloped gem in a wooded glen with camping nearby or a family outing with overnight lodging, there’s sure to be an option in Central Oregon or nearby that will be a great fit for your upcoming hot spring adventure.
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