The Best Hot Springs in the PNW
Pacific Northwest hot springs can range from backcountry soaks you have to trek into the woods for hours for...to commercialized spas. But with most of them, the unspoken (or spoken!) rules are fairly consistent, so please be wary of these before exploring any of the springs.
Keep them clean. Natural springs and the connecting waterways will deteriorate with even the most eco-friendly, biodegradable soaps and shampoos, so please don’t treat the hot spring as a bath and add anything in. That means keeping your pup out, too.
Leave no trace - this is an always rule for the outdoors, but I’ve seen so many hot springs littered with beer cans and granola bar wrappers - remember why you came here, and try to honor that and leave it beautiful so we can continue to enjoy it for millennia. Pack out any trash, and leave the place better than you found it.
Respect other visitors - be courteous of your noise levels - don’t bring a stereo and be mindful of everyone’s reason for enjoying the outdoors, which might include a need for some quiet time. A hello suffices!
Heads up - clothing may be optional. This plays into #3 - know your audience and be respectful of families, and also be protective of your own safety in the backcountry!
Capacity - try to visit in early hours or late hours, or weekdays if possible. These do fill up, and it’s best for your enjoyment as well as for the environment to keep them at moderate capacity.
Smell - be prepared for the natural sulfur smell in most hot springs. Akin to rotten eggs, it’s ~charming~ and good for ya, but just know the place won’t smell like lavender.
Without further ado, here are some of our favorites in the PNW:
Cougar Hot Springs, aka Terwilliger - a collection of 5 pools of varying temps (something for everyone!) in central Oregon.
Olympic Hot Springs - WTA says 4.8 miles, but there’s a long term road washout, and it’s more than double the length (check recent trip reports for details). People often bike part of the trail, and hike some. It’s pretty moderate/easy, but a long slog! A good overnighter, too. You’ll reach a few pools, where the last is the hottest.
Breitenbush Hot Springs - the retreat vibe for more of a vacation feel in central Oregon. They have yoga, meditation, and vegetarian meals on site. It’s a vibe. Note - they are rebuilding from the fires right now.
Trail Creek Hot Springs - natural springs 20 min east of Cascade, Idaho requiring a steep but very short walk down to the pools. Pretty cool, the creek and springs run next to each other, and a valve has been built separating them, so you can actually control the temperature...fancy indeed. It’s also free with street parking.
Newberry Caldera Hot Springs - so yeah, it’s an active volcano, but it’s been a while. The two lakes, Paulina and East, both have hot springs on their banks. Be warned - this is a full fledged adventure - you might have to actually dig out your own soaking tub.
Scenic Hot Springs - absolutely stunning and near Stevens Pass in WA (email them for bookings during COVID). Soak in a quiet forest in giant black tubs continuously filled with natural spring water, with epic views. It’s about an hour hike of the road and has a fee.
Umpqua Hot Springs - deep in Southern Oregon’s Umpqua National forest, these are a steep ¼ mile hike from the parking area, but the hot cascading pools are pretty worth it, with views of the forest and the waterfalls. These are very popular.
Baker Hot Springs - you do have to hike and make sure to read recent reports for details on how to navigate getting there. It is moderately popular and muddy, but a great option to tack onto a hike in the Baker area.
And, a couple of the greatest hits outside of the PNW:
Travertine in Mammoth Lakes, CA
Conundrum Hot Springs, CO (requires a 17 mile round trip hike...perfect weekend?)
Hot Springs State Park, WY (A whole state park, y’all! Hiking trails and free indoor and outdoor thermal baths a couple hours outside of Yellowstone)