Fantastic hot springs and where to find them: 7 springs within 4 hours of Eugene
Oregon is replete with hot springs, and most of them are accessible to the public. For those looking for a wild time in a natural setting, there are many public hot springs operating on land owned by the U.S. Forest Service. These allow nudity and are usually free. For those who want to shell out a few extra greenbacks to avoid bathing with the naked, there are plenty of private hot springs to visit — from the inexpensive Bagby to the luxe Breitenbush.
There are countless other springs in Oregon besides the seven listed here, but these are the most accessible from the Eugene area. You’ll need a car (or a friend with one) in order to attend. My advice: get a small group together, make a road-trip playlist and go soak.
1. Bagby Hot Springs
Driving time from Eugene: 4h
Nudity: Only in private tubs
One of Oregon’s most acclaimed and beloved hot spring destinations, Bagby features hot tubs located in repurposed whiskey barrels and hollowed logs. Housed in a historic cabin built in 1913, Bagby is more formal than the public springs in the Willamette Valley area, though less so than Breitenbush or Belknap. As of 2013, nudity is only allowed in private tubs. It’s a 1.5-mile hike to the springs, and it’s four hours from Eugene (closer from Portland), so only go to Bagby if you’re looking for adventure.
2. Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat And Conference Center
Driving time from Eugene: 2h 45m
Call in advance for this one. A worker-owned cooperative that only serves vegetarian meals and generates its own electricity through hydropower and diesel, Breitenbush manages to (perhaps paradoxically) seem hippie and posh at the same time. Three small rock pools are available in a lush meadow setting, while four smaller tiled hot tubs are available in a more conventional patio setting. “The Bush” is closed often for spiritual retreats and events, but there’s a detailed list of open spring spots on its website, so it’s easy to plan a trip there in advance.
3. Cougar Hot Springs
Driving time from Eugene: 1h 15m
Fee: $6 per person
Located in the midst of the gorgeous Willamette National Forest, Terwilliger Hot Springs — better known as Cougar Hot Springs — is the most popular hot spring among University of Oregon students. Located along the McKenzie River, Cougar is accessible from Highway 126 after a quarter-mile hike that will surely put you in company with plenty of bros and hippies. You’ll see five pools separated by rock walls, laid out in steps down a ravine. It’s likely to be busy, but its combo of awe-inspiring woodland and liberal nudity will surely attract Oregonians until its hills crumble to dust.
4. Deer Creek Hot Springs
Driving time from Eugene: 1h 15m
Located near Cougar but slightly closer to Belknap, Deer Creek is a small pool that can only seat half a dozen, but it’s little-known enough that space shouldn’t be a problem. Deer Creek probably isn’t the best for parties, but it’s ideal for relaxing with a small group and surrounding yourself with nature. It’s free, but features nothing in the way of amenities – it really is just a hot spring. If you’re looking for an au naturel experience, Deer Creek is the place to go. Needless to say, nudity is allowed; in fact, you’re unlikely to find anyone wearing clothes out in this secret little spot.
5. Belknap Lodge & Hot Springs
Driving time from Eugene: 1h 10m
Fee: $7/hour, $12/full day
Located amid an idyllic, wanderable sea of gardens along the McKenzie River, Belknap Lodge is a great resort spring that won’t set you back as much as Breitenbush. Belknap boasts two large mineral swimming pools, each heated to a reasonable 102 degrees Fahrenheit. It doesn’t have the natural feel of something like Deer Creek or even Cougar, but it’s less raucous and likely to boast fewer hooting, hollering college students. Tent sites, cabins and RVs are also available to rent if your taste for adventure goes beyond just spending an hour or two in a warm tub.
6. McCredie Hot Springs
Driving time from Eugene: 1h 5m
McCredie is slightly closer to Eugene than Cougar, is free, and requires only minimal hiking to access. It’s a bit less popular among college students, in part because of the notorious temperature of its water. Some hot spots reach upwards of 114 degrees Fahrenheit, so this one’s not for newbies. Still, McCredie is enduringly popular as a free, slightly wilder alternative to Cougar. If Cougar is the Beatles, think of McCredie as The Rolling Stones. McCredie features one large party pool as well as a number of quieter ones.
7. Umpqua Hot Springs
Driving time from Eugene: 2h 25m
Umpqua is closed indefinitely due to high levels of bacteria in the water. It’s projected to open again in summer. But it’s sure to be as much of a hotspot when it reopens as it was before its closure last year. Umpqua’s located in Southern Oregon near the North Umpqua Trail, so there’s plenty of hiking around — as well as tons of waterfalls, including the legendary Toketee Falls only 11 miles from the spring. Keep this one on your back burner and watch out for updates, though it’ll likely be absurdly crowded once they suck all the nasty stuff out of the water and declare it safe once more.
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