Have you ever been to the Dead Sea and covered yourself in that mineral rich mud? Well, there aren’t any famous mud baths up in the Pacific Northwest, but you can certainly find an abundance of mineral-rich soaking pools in various forests and beaches in Oregon and Washington. Similar to the Dead Sea, the water in a natural hot spring is believed to have healing properties for containing sulfur, phosphate, potassium, iron and selenium. Even better, these hot springs are often in strikingly beautiful locations. Some are pools, fashioned out of rocks, allowing the spring water to descend into the pools below, creating a waterfall effect. Some of these soaking pools are the main event at high-end resorts where guests can stay overnight, catch a game of golf, explore other spa offerings, and dine at fine restaurants. Whatever your soaking style is, there is something for everyone!
Bagby Hot Springs
If you’re in Oregon and looking for a soak, a classic spot for native Oregonians to visit is Bagby Hot Springs. Located just 2.5 hours from Mt. Hood Village RV Resort, these hot springs were discovered in 1880 by an early hunter and prospector, Bob Bagby. A cabin was later built in 1913 to accompany the hot springs, and bathhouse structures were constructed in the 1920s.
Bagby Hot Springs is located about 40 miles south of Estacada, OR in an old growth forest. Unlike other “low-flow” springs, the water at Bagsby is replenished for each bather and tubs are scrubbed between each use. This method avoids contamination from bacteria in the water itself. The hike into the hot springs is pleasant and easy. If you plan to come in the springtime, wear shoes that can withstand mud, and keep in mind a NW forest pass is required for parking (learn more about Northwest Forest Passes here) and there is a $5 day pass fee.
To access the trailhead, from Portland, take exit 12 off I-205 in Clackamas. Drive east on Highway 224 through Estacada to the end of the highway. Once you see the Ripplebrook Ranger Station, continue on and the end of the highway becomes Forest Service Road 46. Continue for about 3.5 miles, then turn right onto Forest Service Road 63. You will arrive at the trailhead, which is marked on your left, after 5.5 miles. The drive in will take you about an hour, and the hike into the springs from the trailhead is an easy 45 minute, mile and a half walk.
Terwilliger Hot Springs aka Cougar Hot Springs
Often called Cougar Hot Springs because of it’s proximity to the Cougar Reservoir, the Terwilliger Hot Springs is located within the dense woodland of Willamette National Forest. Take the ¼ mile trail to the springs from the trailhead for a relatively flat hike. Along this hike, you’ll get beautiful views of Rider Creek Waterfall. Once you reach the springs, you will see five soaking pools, spaced by rock walls. Each of these pools descend down, making a stair formation, with a staircase on the side for access. The pool floors are mostly bedrock or gravel, so you may want to bring sturdy water shoes for this excursion. The water for the Terwilliger Hot Springs flows from a cave source at the top of the 6 pools and each successive pool is slightly cooler in temperature as the one above it. It’s advised to get there early as these pools tend to get crowded.
There are 2 restrooms/changing facilities available near the pools, as well as storage for clothes and bags that are visible from the pools. Clothing is optional at the pools, but clothing is mandatory on the trail and at the trailhead. The Terwilliger soaking pools are only open during the day, from sunrise to sunset. Terwilliger/Cougar Hot Springs is a little over a 2 hour drive from the Bend-Sunriver RV Campground via US-20W and OR-126.
Sol Duc Springs
Another resort where you can reap the benefits of a mineral-rich soak, without the ruggedness of a standard hot spring, is Sol Duc Springs in Olympic National Park. These pure mineral water pools at Sol Duc are quite large, and can accommodate a lot more people than the natural hot springs. Spend the day, stay overnight at one of the cabins (they sleep up to 4), or choose one of the 17 RV sites available late March thru early October. While on the property, consider taking a hike to Sol Duc Falls, a popular trail among resort guests. This easy 3.5 mile loop trail takes you over the Sol Duc River Bridge and along the Sol Duc River. About 2.5 miles into the trail and you’ll hear the water swiftly moving and crashing over the ledge, announcing that you’ve finally reached the falls. Sol Duc Springs is located about a 3.5 hour drive from La Conner RV & Camping Resort (WA) and a 2.5 hour drive from Oceana RV Resort & Campground (WA). If traveling from the La Conner RV & Camping Resort, be sure to make ferry reservations ahead of time and visit wsdot.com for more information.
Have you ever soaked in a hot springs or at a special bathhouse? Tell us about your experience in the comments!