Hot Oregon

Dipping into hot springs and other warm places south of the border

By Ken Swarner on February 3, 2017

Hot springing in the winter is not for the feint of heart. There is the snow to contend with, the austere locations, limited services, and of course, the nudity. 

Living on the Pacific Rim affords us the opportunity to get into the mountains for some raw, up-close experiences with nature ... as nature intended ... in the buff.  These are places where people of all shapes and sizes find relaxation sans clothing, legally - where they can soak nude with other enthusiasts, or if lucky, completely alone.  But, not everyone has to join them.  The clothed are equally welcome, provided they leave their cameras and judgment at home.

Still, if hot water pulsating from the earth, and naked people, are not your thing, there are other places where man has tamed the elements of fire and water, bringing relaxation to the masses ... and sanctuary for the more modest.  And, you will find it all in Oregon.

Hot springs

Living in volcano country affords some great experiences, including submerging yourself in water and heat that literally springs up from under the soil.  It is awesome to soak in a pool created by God - to be surrounded by mountains and trees while soaking your muscles and joints.  

Sometimes, you can have a hot springs all to yourself.  Other times, as mentioned, you'll share it with both those in bathing suits and underwear, or in nothing at all.

In Oregon, two hot springs are your best bet - because they are easily found and accessible.  The first is roughly an hour-and-a-half east of Roseburg - the Umpqua Hot Springs (  This is a challenge in the winter - you really have to want it, however, your chances of a private soak are better here, too.  With the current snowfall, to get to the springs requires a two-mile hike in snow.  During the summer, the two miles can be traversed by car, but of course, that will mean more soakers, too.  Once you hike or drive, there remains a quarter-mile hike up a hill, which right now is frozen and makes the hike tricky - you'll need the trees and occasional railing to help pull yourself up the trail.

Umpqua features a series of seven pools that cascade down the side of a hill leading to the North Umpqua River.  Anticipating a low-crowd, we arrived at the trailhead at 8 a.m., did the two-mile hike, and then had the pools to ourselves for over an hour.  When we left around 10:30 a.m., one sole-hiker was at the snow-covered parking lot - granting him a solo dip as well.

The Umpqua Hot Springs is surrounded by trees - and the only sounds are the slow trickle of water moving from pool to pool, birds, and the rushing river below.  Aside from some trash left by %$#@-jerks, the experience was pure heaven.

An hour north of Roseburg is Eugene, Oregon, and an hour east of there takes soakers to the Terwilliger or Cougar Hot Springs ( depending on who you talk to - it's the same place.  

Great care and detail have been taken to provide an amazing place, including pools enhanced by natural rock and engineering, stairs and a covered changing area.  I could practically do laps in the top pool, it is quite large, and then sit under the waterfalls in the next three pools that cascade down the hill leading to Rider Creek and Cougar Reservoir beyond it.  

The last three miles to the parking lot are a bit rough, especially in winter with snow on the ground. We did 15 miles per hour and had to drive around large potholes and fallen boulders.  Once at the parking lot, it is an easy three-minute walk to the pools along a dirt trail surrounded by nature - a lot easier than a two-mile hike in the snow, but we weren't alone, either.

By the time we arrived at 8 a.m., there were already seven people in the hot springs - roughly half in the buff.  Tall trees tower over the pools, and with the stairways, it was easy to climb in and out of the different pools.   Terwilliger is gorgeous, and once a week, they are closed for a couple hours for litter control and maintenance.  This place shows it's well loved, and by far, it was my favorite of the two.

Other places to warm up

Making a weekend of hot pools and saunas are easy in Oregon.  You can combine visits to both Umpqua and Terwilliger hot springs with other experiences as well.

First, in Portland is an indoor clothing-optional spa with soaking tubs and sauna - check out Common Ground at  Portland also has a Scandinavian sauna club, Loyly for the clothed with dry saunas - see

Just 20 minutes east of Terwilliger is the Belknap Hot Springs Resort - tucked in the mountains with two large pools and trails into the woods -

In Eugene, a private hot tub club is often booked so make reservation, and includes one private room with both a hot tub and a sauna - find them at Onsen Spas,

Finally, in Ashland, Oregon, near the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, are two must-experience spas.  First, Jackson Wellsprings is a large hot tub heated by natural hotsprings with a Olympic-sized cold pool and steam sauna to round out the experience -  And Chozu Bath and Tea Gardens is the most upscale with a private pool and communal soaking pool and sauna - the vibe here is amazing -

Happy soaking!