Know Before You Go
Developed in partnership with On She Goes, a digital travel platform for women of color.
Winter in Portland usually means a hearty dose of rain. But that doesn’t mean you have to hide from the drizzly gray skies the city is known for. Au contraire — wet weather is perfect for fully appreciating a relaxing dip in Mother Nature. Sitting in a steaming spring while cool, fresh drops of rain splash your face is a downright ethereal experience.
And even though it’s perfectly legal (in most places) to strip down and soak, the process feels as risqué as an after-hours skinny-dipping adventure. Numerous natural hot springs are scattered around the Portland metro area, and they’re worth the short car trip to get there. Check in advance for inclement weather and road conditions before heading out on your mini road trip. And if you’re looking to maximize your time, consider renting a cabin for a leisurely and cozy getaway.
Hot Springs Near Portland
Bagby Hot Springs
The cluster of hot springs closest to Portland is located just under two hours away in the lush Mt. Hood National Forest. Popular year-round Bagby Hot Springs features several bathhouses and bathing options. After a 1979 fire burned down the original bathhouse, a new structure was built in its place that houses five private stalls, each with its own tub. Below the main bathhouse, a large, round, wooden tub can comfortably fit a handful of friends, while tubs made of logs fit single bathers.
The rustic tubs are filled from nearby hot springs. Because the temperatures are typically scalding, bathers must fill and carry buckets of cold water to get the baths to a comfortable warmth. Clothing is rare, and late in the evening it’s been known to get fairly busy. Since the springs are only accessible by a 1.5-mile hike, it’s best to arrive with plenty of time (or flashlights) to make it back before dark. Bring $5 cash for parking.
Breitenbush Hot Springs
The quickest route to Breitenbush Hot Springs will take 2.5 hours from Portland, but if you’re looking for a full day (or more) of relaxation with the works, this is the place. This majestic center located on the Breitenbush riverbank feels like camp for new-age adults. The expansive facility offers several options for hot springs including three natural, stone-lined pools with one designated tub for silence; four spiral tubs of varying temperatures; and a cold plunge nearby. Indulge in daily wellness offerings, such as mindful meditation, ayurvedic yoga and deep-tissue massage.
When you’re hungry, you can nosh on entirely organic, vegetarian meals. (Reservations are required for all visits.) You must typically book well in advance to enjoy this retreat for more than a day, but daily passes are also offered on a $20 to $36 sliding scale. Because of the lack of cell phone service, it’s especially important to check and note directions before driving there.
Bigelow (Deer Creek) Hot Springs
The smallest and most rustic of the bunch, Bigelow sits right against the winding and rushing McKenzie River. Also called Deer Creek Hot Springs, this tiny natural spring is off the beaten path, about 20 minutes from Cougar (3 hours from Portland) and a quick walk from a nearby trailhead.
The pool only fits two to four people comfortably and runs a bit cooler than other springs, but slinking into the cave can increase your exposure to warm spurts. (The water temperature is warmest in summer and fall.)
Clothing choice is up to each bather, and since the pool is mostly private, you won’t have to succumb to peer pressure either way. Keep in mind that adventurous kayakers often float along the river, though, so if you’re busy snapping away for a photoshoot, you’ll probably have an audience.