The following is the sixth of a seven part series. Part six is focused on hot springs. The final part of this series on fall adventure recommendations will be published next Monday.
Who doesn't love hot springs? When the weather cools, they stay hot. Soaking in a thermal pool while surrounded by rain, snow or fog is personal joy. The natural impulse to stay dry is reversed by the comfort of being neck deep in hot water. Along the West Coast, hot springs come in many varieties. Some are simple, rustic cabins or natural pools, and others are much more constructed and refined. Some are public, and nudity is permitted, and others offer closed rooms for a private soak. For me, I like the variety, and these are some of my favorite ones to visit when fall rolls around.
Central Oregon's Newberry Volcano is Oregon's largest by volume, with two gigantic lakes in the mountain's 5-mile wide crater. Paulina Lake is one of these lakes, and at certain parts along its shores you can actually dig your own hot spring. The closest thing to a structure is the downed wood used to provide a backrest in your personal lakeside pool. Paulina Lake is only accessible into early fall; once the snows arrive, access gets blocked.
Located just past Detroit Lake on Santiam Pass, Breitenbush Hot Springs has a retreat, conference center, and cabins for rent. The pools here are clean and very well maintained. As you soak in them, you get to enjoy beautiful views of the Willamette Foothills and sounds of the Breitenbush River running nearby. There are three pools of varying temperatures. As a privately-run hot springs, there is a day use fee.
In remote Southeastern Oregon, Crystal Crane Hot Springs is one of the nicer establishments you'll find. You can choose to soak in a large public pool for a nominal fee that is waived if you're staying overnight. Or you can opt for a private soaking room and pay by the hour. In addition to soaking, you can camp or stay in one of the rentable accommodations, including a seasonal tipi with a private soaking tub. The hot spring is open year-round, fall and winter are the perfect seasons to visit.
Alvord Desert sits on the eastern side of Steens Mountain in Southeastern Oregon, making it incredibly remote. Here sits one of Oregon's most famous hot springs, with a nice but rustic wood deck and protective structure. The pools are accessible year-round and are engineered to provide a perfectly hot soaking pool. The views are expansive, and you can choose to stay the night at the parking area for a small fee.
Like Alvord Hot Springs, Summer Lake Hot Springs, also in Southeastern Oregon, is a great option for a remote fall soak. A rustic timber-framed and metal-clad barn houses a large indoor pool. You can also soak at one of the two outdoor rock pools and enjoy the desert view. It's a long drive from everywhere to get here, so the resort has six rentable cabins and numerous campsites.
Located 25 miles north of Truckee, California, Sierra Hot Springs sits on the edge of the Tahoe National Forest. The clothing-optional hot springs resort is open to both day visitors and overnight guests. The Temple Dome pool is the resort's main attraction, where you can soak in a geodesic dome. But if the ambience inside is too constructed, opt for one of the outdoor pools with forest views instead.
Sitting at 6,000 feet and located to the south of Lake Tahoe, Grover Hot Springs offers a family-friendly experience. While soaking in the pools, you can enjoy incredible views of the Sierra Nevada. Open year-round, there are nearby trails that are good for hiking or snowshoeing, and afterward, you can relax in the thermal pools. Note that the pools are closed on Wednesdays for cleaning, and hours will vary in the fall and winter.
We covered Wild Willy's in the last segment on desert visits in the fall, but it's more popular as a hot spring. Located on the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada, the views from the soaking pools are some of the best in California. It's a magical place.