Natural, hot soaking pools… surrounded by some of the best nature scenery on earth. If this sounds too good to be true, think again. Oregon plays host to some fantastic, accessible hot springs and there are many within the reach of Corvallisites. Explore the following survey – on paper, and then in person. Just be sure to check out the information at the bottom for locations and directions.
Cougar/Terwilliger Hot Springs
Drive Time: 1hour 54 minutes
You’ve seen that movie, haven’t you? The one where they’re driving on a winding road somewhere in Oregon with the looming sky and majestic trees? Well, this time you’re the star of the movie — you’re driving to the Cougar reservoir and you’re about to get in some hot springs! As you get closer, it would behoove you to watch out for the occasional rock or two that may decorate the road, which does eventually become gravelly.
When you see the waterfall you have arrived. An easy half-mile hike takes you to five rustic pools, the top pool being the hottest. There is a handy bucket by the cold-water stream just a few feet away for that cold-plunge rush. Or if you’re there for the heat alone, make sure you spend some time in the womb — the shallow cave where the hot water comes from.
Crushing up some stones forms a nice clay masque. Warning—covering yourself in a thick layer of clay may make you seem like the weirdest person in the hot spring, but don’t worry, this is Oregon… there’s likely somebody there who’s weirder, or at least more naked than you.
Belknap Hot Springs
Drive Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Very close to the Terwilliger hot springs on 126 East, Belknap Lodge and hot springs is a smart place to go to warm up in style. You’ll feel classy as soon as you walk in this joint. Well, not if you’re expecting plush robes, sandals, hot towels, etc. You won’t find that here. Bring those things, plus whatever you like to use in the shower. The showers are not private stalls, but more like a friendly locker room. No need to be shy though, like yourself, the other folks are just here to soak. There is only one pool and it’s big, with the shallow side sloping down into the deeper, much hotter side where the water comes in.
The big pool is nice to move around in, something the little rustic pools aren’t as good for. Unfortunately there is no cold pool, though there are showers outside in case you need to cool off. In the winter the ground around the pool may be covered in ice, so use common sense and don’t fall over.
Umpqua/Toketee Hot Springs
Drive Time: 3 hours 8 minutes
This little beauty is tucked just outside of Roseburg and it’s a bit longer to get to, but if you have the time, you won’t be disappointed. A slightly longer hike gets you up to the springs, where the upper most pool is hot, like Dante’s Peak hot, which is good for those who like to get a little cooked. The other pools are absolutely perfect. One of them is even covered by a wooden structure in case the weather turns a bit Oregon-y on you.
The travertine pools are sloped on a hillside and overlook the beautiful Umpqua river. There are nice camping spots and an easy-to-moderate hike to the Toketee falls. Toketee is a Chinook word meaning “pretty” and the falls earns its moniker.
McCredie Hot Springs
Drive time: 1 hour 45 minutes
I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of these hot springs until just recently. McCredie are the closest springs to Corvallis, and finding them is easy. The springs have arguably the shortest walk of the rustic springs. Apparently I was alone in not having known about McCredie because they were very crowded when I visited. 3 beautiful pools sit adjacent to Salt Creek, making for an easy yet intimidating cold plunge. These springs are a bit tempestuous because of the way the heat bubbles up from the ground. Some spots are too hot, while others are much cooler. A nice way to go about it is to crawl around on your belly like an alligator until you find a spot that suits you….and don’t worry, you are still not the weirdest person in the hot spring.
For the more adventurous, there are two springs on the opposite side of Salt Creek, slightly longer to get to, but very worth it. Be aware that if there has been heavy rain, Salt Creek can flood the hot springs, so check the weather before heading out!
Looking for directions? Many hot springs are located off the road and require a little bit of effort that your GPS may not be up for. Check out http://soakoregon.com/ for directions and information for all the springs here, and much more!
By Maria Brown