Now is as great a time as any to immerse yourself in a natural pool of hot water. Here is a short list of 14 hot springs located in Oregon. Some are clothing optional, while others offer a more private soaking experience in reservable enclosed rooms. Stop by on the way to other adventures, or make it a trip in and of itself.
Reaching Bagby Hot Springs is a worthwhile hike by itself that meanders through towering old-growth fir and cedar trees. The hot springs can be busy, but the crowds diminish as the weather cools. Nudity here is common, but technically it is only allowed in the private bathhouses. There is a $5 fee.
Breitenbush is a long-time Oregon establishment north of Mount Jefferson. There are three main soaking pools at varying temperatures in addition to smaller tubs at the well-maintained facility. The hot springs at Breitenbush are part of the larger community retreat and conference center, and they cost $15-28 per day to use.
Bigalow Hot Spring, also called Deer Creek Hot Spring, is a pool partially set inside a small cave adjacent to the McKenzie River. The spring is more warm than hot, but the rock pool is a nice place to relax while watching the river flow past. And it's free.
The hot springs at Belknap are part of a resort that was first built in the 1870s. The spring releases scalding hot water that is piped across the river to pools that are accessible from the lodge. The pools are available to overnight guests and visitors who can pay by the day or by the hour.
The well-used Terwilliger Hot Springs is near Cougar Reservoir on the McKenzie River. Popular with college students, nudity abounds at the pools. Volunteers drain and clean the pools weekly, usually on Thursday mornings. There is a $6 per person fee.
Along the banks of the North Umpqua River, the Umpqua Hot Springs complex has multiple terraced pools. There is a day use parking fee for those not accessing the hot springs as part of a longer hike on the North Umpqua Trail.
NOTE: As of September 2015, Umpqua Hot Springs is temporarily closed due to high bacteria levels in the water that can pose a risk to bathers.
Soaking at East Lake offers a unique experience. Here you can dig out your own pool heated from sulfur venting from the caldera of Newberry Volcano. East Lake and nearby Paulina Lake are in the crater of Oregon's largest volcano by volume. These hot springs are free, but they become inaccessible with winter snowfall.
Paulina Lake, like East Lake, is in Newberry Volcano's 5-mile-wide caldera. The hot springs here are found along the lake's rim, where small wooden "tubs" have been constructed. Like East Lake, access is restricted to summer and early fall before snowfall.
Along the shores of Summer Lake in southeastern Oregon lies the secluded Summer Lake Hot Springs. The pools are part of a small resort with rentable cabins and campsites. There is a $10 day use fee.
A short walk from Frenchglen at the foot of Steens Mountain, Barnes Warm Springs offer a pleasant soak on a hot day. The pool sits at the site of an abandoned homestead. And it is free.
Lying on the east side of Steens Mountain at the entrance to Alvord Desert, the Alvord Hot Springs is a relaxing destination in what feels like the middle of nowhere. The pools are kept at the perfect temperature and are accessible year round. There is a $5 day use fee.
The hot springs at Crystal Crane are well developed and offer public and private bathing options. A large communal pool is kept at 102 degrees and has a $3.50 fee that is waived for visitors who stay overnight. Private wood soaking tubs are available for $7.50 per hour.
The hot springs at Ritter are located along the banks of the Middle Fork of the John Day River in a remote corner of eastern Oregon. The small and somewhat dilapidated enclosed tubs are across the river from a small hotel and pool. There is a $3 fee for use of the hot springs and a $5 fee if you also plan to swim in the hotel pool.
The hot springs at Hart Mountain are located deep in Central Oregon. The water temperature stays between 100 and 105 degrees. The pool is big enough to accommodate about six people, but you probably won't have to share.
The Forest Service and other local management agencies are considering closing access to many of these sensitive locations due to excessive trampling of plants, large amounts of garbage, cans and glass bottles, human waste, and toilet paper left behind. They simply do not have the staff or the funding to attend to these issues. If you want to continue enjoying these areas, pack out all garbage and toilet paper and dispose of it properly, use vault toilets and other restroom facilities when provided, and stay on established paths. Using these areas responsibly will increase the chance that people can continue to enjoy them.