Time for a Soak: 5 Hot Springs in the Willamette Valley

By Matt Wastradowski

Mountainous landscapes and towering volcanoes are some of the Willamette Valley’s most distinctive natural features. And the same forces that created those jagged peaks and sweeping landscapes are responsible for another of the Willamette Valley’s most sought-after attractions: hot springs. The mineral-rich springs, fed by volcanic and geothermal activity below the Earth’s surface, offer a relaxing respite from the modern world, often in the heart of old-growth forests or along bubbling rivers. So whether you’re looking for a natural hot spring or something a bit more developed, here are five hot springs throughout the Willamette Valley and Cascades Range—and what makes each so special.

Note: You’ll want to keep a few rules and common courtesies in mind before throwing on your swimsuit (or stripping down altogether). First, don’t drink alcohol while you soak; doing so can cause and exacerbate dehydration and dizziness. (And along those lines, don’t bring glass bottles around the water, either.) Be sure to pack out whatever you bring in, so the next group of soakers can enjoy the same experience.

Wildfire updates: Some of these hot springs are currently closed due to damage from wildfires; be sure to check with the appropriate business or land manager to find out the current status of each hot spring—and to see what precautions may be necessary to enjoy each hot spring.

Bagby Hot Springs

Discovered in 1880 by local hunter Bob Bagby, the hot springs are perhaps the most popular in all of Oregon today. Three springs and numerous seeps flow through the area, and water temperature ranges from 120°F to 138°F. To reach Bagby Hot Springs, visitors must hike about 1.6 miles through a forest of old-growth cedar and Douglas fir (the mostly-flat trail gradually gains about 200 feet of elevation along the way). Once there, soakers can relax in a pair of open-air, wooden structures—surrounded by towering fir trees and soundtracked by the bubbling springs—that host tubs for individual and group soaks.

  • WHAT IT OFFERS: One bathhouse hosts one large tub, with room for up to six adults, while a second bathhouse hosts three individual tubs and one large tub in an open, communal setting.
  • WHO’LL ENJOY IT:Oregon’s most popular hot springs attracts soakers of all stripes: Outdoor enthusiasts love its setting in an old-growth forest, veteran soakers appreciate the communal vibe, and occasional soakers enjoy the choice of tubs.
  • FEES:$5 fee to soak per person; an attendant collects fees at the trailhead between early spring and Labor Day, while a self-pay station is available winter-early spring. Visitors can also purchase a wristband before soaking at the nearby Ripplebrook Camp Store.

Breitenbush Hot Springs

The eponymous pools are just some of the many attractions you’ll enjoy at Breitenbush Hot Springs. The retreat center boasts several soaking tubs and hot springs; a steam sauna; yoga, meditation, and other wellness offerings; massage (for an added fee); overnight stays in the lodge; and more.

The hot spring pools and steam sauna are clothing optional, but clothing is required elsewhere on the property. And keep in mind that reservations are always required.

  • WHAT IT OFFERS: Breitenbush Hot Springs hosts the most developed hot springs in the Willamette Valley—yet it offers a holistic escape from the modern world with its self-care and wellness activities.
  • WHO’LL ENJOY IT: You’ll appreciate the developed nature of Breitenbush if you’re new to soaking, and you’ll enjoy the amenities if you’re looking for a wider wellness retreat.
  • FEES: $23-$39, $11.75-$19.50 for children 4-12, free for children under three; rates include access to the natural hot spring pools and steam sauna; well-being programs, such as yoga and meditation; the on-site lodge; a library for relaxing and reading; and more.

Belknap Hot Springs

The soaking opportunities at Belknap Hot Springs aren’t exactly hot springs as you would imagine—they’re spring-fed pools of hot mineral water—but the experience nevertheless offers a serene and relaxing getaway from the modern world.

Belknap Hot Springs sits on the McKenzie River and offers two pools, along with several acres of gardens, for rest and rejuvenation. One of the pools is reserved exclusively for overnight guests—guests can stay overnight in a lodge, cabin, or on-site RV spots—while the other is available for daytime soaks. And if you need a break from the pool, Belknap Hot Springs offers several poolside lounge chairs, as well as several gardens for a relaxing stroll. Note that bathing suits are required at all times, and pets are not permitted in or around the pools.

  • WHAT IT OFFERS: Belknap Hot Springs boasts a family-friendly retreat from the modern world, deep in the heart of the Cascade Range.
  • WHO’LL ENJOY IT: Families, retirees, and those uncomfortable with the lax dress code at other hot springs will enjoy the well-maintained respite along the McKenzie River.
  • FEES: $8 for one hour or less, $15 per day (fees include shower and bathroom facilities); $110-$185 per night for lodge rooms; $135-$550 per night for cabins; $35-$40 per night for RV sites; $30 per night for tent sites

Terwilliger (Cougar) Hot Springs

You’ll feel like you’re in another world long before you’ve dipped your toe in the waters at Terwilliger Hot Springs (also known as Cougar Hot Springs). The quarter-mile trail that leads to the clothing-optional hot springs is surrounded by old-growth forest, and the pools themselves are flanked by ferns and fir trees. Six soaking pools are laid out in a step ladder-like pattern; the pools are fed by a spring above the topmost pool, so you’ll enjoy progressively cooler water as the pools descend—from 112°F in the uppermost pool to 85°F in the lowest pool. Keep in mind that the pools are clothing optional—but that nudity is not allowed within eyesight of nearby Forest Road 19 (Aufderheide Drive). Soakers should also know that the hot springs are closed between 8 a.m. and noon every Thursday for cleaning, and that the area closes daily from sunset to sunrise. The pools are open year-round, but Forest Road 19 is not maintained in the winter, and the road may be covered in snow and ice.

Note that the Terwilliger Hot Springs reopened in June 2019, following a 2018 wildfire, and the trail leading to the hot springs sustained fire damage. Stay on the trail at all times, and watch for falling trees, rockslides, and other hazards along the trail.

  • WHAT IT OFFERS: The varying temperatures at Terwilliger Hot Springs offer a little something for everyone’s heat tolerance, and the pools are large enough to accommodate groups.
  • WHO’LL ENJOY IT: Honestly, just about everybody—as long as you don’t mind crowds.
  • FEES: $7 per person, per day; $66 annual pass also available

McCredie Day Use Area and Hot Springs

It’s easy to see why developers once built a resort near McCredie Hot Springs. Bordering Salt Creek in the heart of the Cascades Range, the hot springs sit in a lush forest not far from OR-58.

Visitors arrive at the hot springs next to Salt Creek after a half-mile, mostly flat hike. Some of the pools can be too hot for comfort—temperatures range from 98°F to 114°F—but the creek’s chilly water feeds some of the pools, cooling them down and creating a more comfortable soaking experience. The pools range from 3 feet across to 35 feet across, and the deepest pool is 2 feet deep. Clothing is optional.

But keep in mind that accessing the more secluded southern bank requires crossing Salt Creek, which can run high and fast—especially after heavy rainfall, and in winter and spring. If the creek looks too swift for your liking, don’t chance it.

Note that the hot springs are open dawn to dusk, year-round, for day-use only. Camping is not allowed at the hot springs.

  • WHAT IT OFFERS: The shallow pools at McCredie Hot Springs offer a quick getaway from Eugene—it’s just an hours’ drive—and a cozy soaking experience.
  • WHO’LL ENJOY IT: McCredie Hot Springs is among the most popular hot springs in the region, so you’ll want to be comfortable sharing the pools with crowds (many of whom will take the “clothing optional” designation to heart).
  • FEES: $5 day-use fee

Take Care Out There

We want you to have the safest possible experience while enjoying the Willamette Valley outdoors—so we urge you to Take Care Out There when soaking in our bucolic hot springs.

In so many words, all we’re asking is that you do a little advance planning, understand what’s closed, avoid crowds, and keep close to home so rural communities stay safe.

These graphics offer a good overview of how to safely make the most of your outdoor experience: