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Thermal Magic 

Discover Oregon's Bounty of Hot Springs

During the summer, the invigorating cold waters of the Deschutes River and the Cascade Lakes are a welcome respite from the heat. When the winter weather hits, though, it’s the exact opposite. We search for ways to warm our bodies—wood stoves, layers of clothing and hot chocolate. Not all of us own or have easy access to a hot tub and even if we do, the gratification of soaking in the waters of natural hot springs is priceless during the frigid winter.
A seasoned soaker, Willy Cosmo takes time for a little self care. - JOE CULHANE
  • Joe Culhane
  • A seasoned soaker, Willy Cosmo takes time for a little self care.

Staycation

In Bend, McMenamins is the closest option to warm your bones. This popular location downtown boasts a large Turkish-style hot pool. Beautifully crafted stained-glass windows and shimmering turquoise tiles give the pool an opulent air. Add the fountain, water-spouting lions and an open ceiling, and you feel like royalty. This inviting, decadent pool remains open year-round but with one caveat: you must be a hotel guest. Did someone say family staycation?

Stay Local

Before moving on to the more developed spots, I should mention briefly the hot springs closest to Bend, those at East and Paulina Lakes, located in the Newberry Caldera. On the south lake shore of East Lake, soakers can find a pool of magma-heated water ranging from 104 to 120 degrees! The north shore of Paulina Lake also has a few small pools dug by volunteers. However, using these pools depends completely on the water level. By late fall or winter, the lakes are usually high, and the springs can become submerged.

Belknap Hot Springs

A short road trip to Belknap Hot Springs Gardens & Lodge is completely worth a weekend trip. This destination near McKenzie Bridge boasts a variety of accommodations like cabins, RV and tent sites and a lodge with quite the collection of classic DVD movies for the kids’ viewing entertainment. The lower pool in front of the lodge has a perfect view of the McKenzie River and is available for day use. Another pool, more private, is readily accessible for lodgers. In addition, the many acres that make up Belknap allow for hiking along the river or a stroll through the Secret Garden.     

Cougar Hot Springs

Terwilliger Hot Springs, aka Cougar Hot Springs, provides a more natural dipping experience. Located in the Willamette National Forest, these springs are public and require only a small fee but offer a large reward. A short trail begins with a picturesque view of the Cougar Reservoir and Rider Creek Waterfall. It then leads to the relaxing thermal waters of five tiered pools surrounded by lush forest. Of all the hot springs in this article, this one is both of my daughters’ favorite.

Breitenbush

After the 2020 fires devastated Detroit and much of the Santiam Canyon, Breitenbush Hot Springs recently reopened and is ready for guests. A sauna, delicious meals, yoga classes, a labyrinth and more make this spot one of the most luxurious experiences, for sure. Better yet, the property is off grid, so it’s the perfect opportunity to detox from the electronics. (Be forwarned, nudity is allowed in the pools.)

Kah-Nee-Ta

By this time next year, we might have an addition to the list. The famed Kah-Nee-Ta in Warm Springs plans to reopen after being closed since 2018. With both hot springs and a water park, Kah-Nee-Ta is a true kid favorite.

Crystal Crane Hot Springs

East of Central Oregon, near Burns, families have another opportunity to rejuvenate at Crystal Crane Hot Springs, an unexpected oasis in the desert. The surrounding dry landscape makes the trip no less magical, and perhaps, even adds to the experience. At night, the dark sky is unobstructed, and the stars shine brighter than you can imagine. With other landmarks like Alvord Desert and Steens Mountain close by, a unique road trip awaits.

Summer Lake

Finally, Summer Lake, about two hours southeast of Bend, might have the richest history of the aforementioned hot springs. Here, archaeologists found human DNA dating over 14,000 years in the nearby Paisley Caves! Native Americans referred to the area as Medicine Springs. Whether you’re a history buff or not, the springs are a rejuvenating retreat with much to explore in the surrounding area.

Looking for more things to do in Central Oregon? Josh recently published “100 Things to Do in Bend” V2. Find it at local bookstores or online at: reedypress.com/shop/100-thing-to-do-in-bend-oregon-before-you-die-second-edition/
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