Umpqua Hot Springs is iconic- a gorgeous series of seven cascading hot springs, tucked into an evergreen forest, overlooking a rushing river below- and is a must-stop site if you’re traveling in Southwest Oregon.
So if you find yourself in the Pacific Northwest and fancy yourself a natural hot tub (and, let’s be real, who doesn’t?), add Umpqua Hot Springs to your bucketlist and use the tips that I’m sharing below to make your visit as epic as possible!
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Table of Contents:
- How do I get to Umpqua Hot Springs?
- Where should I stay when I visit Umpqua Hot Springs?
- What should I know about visiting Umpqua Hot Springs?
Pssst…. are you a fan of hot springs? ME TOO! If you love hot springs as much as me, you might be interested in checking out these other posts:
- 5 Incredible Hot Springs in Mammoth Lakes, California: Everything You Need to Know
- 7 Hot Springs in Stanley, Idaho: Everything You Need to Know
First, some frequently asked questions about the hot springs:
How do I get to Umpqua Hot Springs?
Umpqua Hot Springs is located in the Umpqua National Forest in the southern part of Oregon state, which is not particularly close to any major city. If you’re flying into Oregon to visit its beautiful sites, the closest major airports to the hot springs are in Portland (approximately 4 hours away) or Eugene (2 hours and 45 minutes away). To get the cheapest airfare to smaller airports like these, I swear by using Skyscanner to set flight alerts and score the best deals on tickets. You’ll also need to rent a car to make the trek here.
Alternatively, if you’re planning your visit during a Pacific Northwest road trip, in addition to the cities mentioned above, I’d recommend considering adding in the adorable town of Bend, Oregon– known as the sunniest spot of the Cascade Mountain range and home to dozens of microbreweries- as your springboard to the hot springs (two hours and 15 minutes away).
Where should I stay when I visit Umpqua Hot Springs?
The hot springs are only open from sunrise to sunset, so unfortunately, you cannot camp overnight at the springs- please be respectful of that restriction. There’s plenty of camping in and around Umpqua National Forest, though, if you’re looking to pitch a tent or if you have an RV– for example, for a free dispersed campsite, check out Clearwater Forebay Number 2 or for more established (and paid) campgrounds, consider the Tokotee Lake Campground or Diamond Lake Campground.
If you’re instead looking to stay in something a little more glamorous than a tent, there’s a few decent choices nearby- consider Umpqua’s Last Resort, which offers some fun “glamping” options (we stayed here and loved it!) or for hotels, check out the Steamboat Inn or the Dawson House Lodge.
What should I know about visiting Umpqua Hot Springs?
Alright, on to the tips about actually visiting Umpqua Hot Springs:
1. When to plan your visit to Umpqua Hot Springs.
The road to the hot springs stays open all year. That being said, Umpqua National Forest can get quite a bit of snow in the wintertime and the road may sometimes close or otherwise become impassable.
If you have your heart set on visiting, I’d recommend visiting between April and November. This would be an awesome place to enjoy spring in Oregon, cozying up in the warm water, despite the remaining chill in the air. Alternatively, my husband, Justin and I visited in the second week of October and the fall foliage really made the wooded forest look that much more gorgeous.
If you do visit in the wintertime (I bet the springs would be epically dreamy in the snow!), note that rangers may sometimes close the gate to the hot springs- unless signage tells you otherwise, you can still hike, ski, or snowshoe to the hot springs from the gate, but expect to add an additional 3.0 miles roundtrip to your hike there.
You can call the Toketee Ranger Station at 541-498-2531 or 541-496-4020 (only open on weekdays) to check the status of the road.
2. But what time should I visit the springs?
The hot springs are essentially Instagram-famous at this point, so needless to say, this is a popular site. If you want the springs all to yourself and at their most photogenic, I’d highly recommend coming here early and, if you can swing it, on a weekday.
Justin and I wanted to catch the sunrise here, for the moody fog that hangs over the river in the morning, and to enjoy the springs without other people- but somehow, even with arriving a bit before 7 AM on a Wednesday, we were still the third car in the parking lot! I can’t imagine how crowded the springs get on weekend afternoons.
Fair warning- I hear the springs get pretty rowdy (as in, illicit drug use rowdy) in the evenings, so depending on whether that’s your scene (it’s definitely not my jam), I’d recommend planning accordingly. If you decide to drink in the springs, bring your beverage of choice in cans, instead of glass bottles. Just like at a pool, bottles can sink to the bottom of the springs, break, and cut up an unsuspecting soaker.
3. Driving to Umpqua Hot Springs.
The forest road to the parking lot can be riddled with potholes, so if you’re driving here in the dark or are not used to navigating bumpy roads, drive very slow and cautiously.
Most passenger vehicles should be able to get down the road just fine if you drive slowly and carefully. That being said, having a high clearance vehicle with four wheel drive couldn’t hurt (especially in the wintertime, when this road can get pretty icy!).
As someone who has personally gotten a flat tire from the rough roads of the Pacific Northwest’s national forests, I’d also recommend double checking whether you have a spare before making your way here.
Cell signal is spotty, at best, here, so also be sure to download offline maps on your Google Maps app before starting the drive.
4. Parking at Umpqua Hot Springs.
The parking lot is teeny tiny, holding about ten cars, and unfortunately, if the parking lot is full, you’re kind of out of luck (I don’t believe you’re supposed to park along the side of the road). So, as I mentioned above, come early!
There’s allegedly been some break-ins in the parking lot, so I’d be mindful to not keep anything of value in your car and store away anything that might attract a thief’s attention.
5. Is Umpqua Hot Springs free?
Yes and no. If you live in the Pacific Northwest and enjoy hiking, there’s a good chance you already have the Northwest Forest Pass, which, for $30, gives you annual access to all of the trailheads in national forests of Washington and Oregon (or, if you’re a National Park lover like me, an annual $80 America the Beautiful Pass, which provides you access to all of the national parks, national forests, and 2,000 other federally-managed parks across the United States).
If you’re just passing through the area and one of the above passes doesn’t make sense for you, you can alternatively pay $5 at the trailhead (be sure to bring cash and a pen so you can fill out the permit!). Rangers have, and will give tickets, so please be sure to properly show your pass on your dashboard or from your rearview mirror, or register at the trailhead.
6. Use the bathroom at the trailhead.
There’s a vault toilet by the trailhead that was reasonably clean when we visited and is regularly serviced by the national forest service- if you think you may have to relieve yourself during your time at the hot springs, I’d highly recommend you using this one.
There’s also an outhouse right by the springs themselves, but it’s not regularly cleaned and honestly, pretty disgusting. Given that it’s infrequently emptied, this outhouse is also bolted shut a good portion of the year.
Gross but true fact- the springs have been closed in the past due to an unsafe amount of human waste around the pools. So that everyone can keep enjoying the springs, please use either of the designated bathrooms (… but seriously, stick with the one at the trailhead. You’ll thank me later).
7. You’ll need to hike to the springs.
You’ll need to hike 0.8 miles round-trip to reach the springs. Past the trailhead, you’ll walk along a bridge painted rainbow colors and then, on to a short, but steep hike up to the springs.
The path is usually incredibly muddy and, along the way, you’ll need to scramble up rocks and roots, so I’d recommend wearing a sturdy pair of hiking boots (I have a pair of these Merrell’s in rock/bluestone that I’ve been using for years and you can find the men’s equivalent can be found here).
Some of the soakers here tend to skew a bit on the “hippie” side and I’ve read reports of folks doing this hike completely barefoot- I run around barefoot so much that Justin frequently calls me a “hobbit”, but even I would be afraid of doing this trail sans footwear.
There’s also no water at the trailhead, so be sure to bring some along (Justin and I swear by these massive Nalgene bottles). The hike itself is pretty easy, but with pools ranging from 105-115 degrees, you can get dehydrated from just relaxing in them!
8. Manage your expectations of the water.
The hot springs are carved into a tannish-orange travertine deposits formed by calcium and other minerals from the spring water.
Most of the photos I saw online before visiting the springs showed shimmering deep blue pools, but I can only imagine this is thanks to heavy-handed editing- the minerals in the water and the dirt lining the pools’ floors makes the pools a murky blueish-tan color. This doesn’t mean the water is unsafe to sit in and enjoy, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend drinking it!
9. Bring a waterproof bag.
The Pacific Northwest is famously rainy and Umpqua National Forest is no exception. Thanks to frequent rainfall, the trail and the area directly surrounding the hot springs is usually quite muddy and wet, so if you want to keep your clothes and electronics dry, I’d recommend packing your stuff in a dry bag (Justin and I have this one).
There used to be an wooden shelter by the spring where you could store any stuff you wanted to keep dry in the event of a sudden downpour, but it burnt down in the past couple of years. So, at a minimum, I’d recommend bringing along a trash bag to store your stuff, just in case.
10. Pick up your trash.
Speaking of trash bags, please follow the leave no trace principles and be sure to take every single piece of trash you generate back out with you. The reviews for this hike on AllTrails is littered (pun obviously intended!) with folks complaining about the amount of trash and waste (human and otherwise) found on the ground around the springs.
The reviews are so bad on AllTrails, I frankly almost didn’t visit Umpqua- who wants to sit in a hot spring that reeks of human waste? Thankfully, when we visited, the springs were stink-free (other than a faint sulphur smell, which I personally quite like!), but there were bits of trash, including a tampon wrapper (frickin’ GROSS), next to the spring.
So take only pictures, leave only footprints; pack it in, pack it out- whatever phrase you want to use, please just clean up after yourself (and if you see trash left by others, be an awesome human and pick that up, too!). There wasn’t a garbage can at the trailhead when we visited, so plan on packing your trash in your car for disposal later on.
The springs have been closed in the past for being trashed- let’s keep them clean and beautiful so we can keep enjoying them for centuries to come.
11. The springs become progressively colder.
The pools are fed by a spring located at the very top of the hill, so the warmest pools are the ones closest to the top. There are a series of pools leading down the hillside to the river below, with each one getting progressively colder and colder. If you visit in the colder months, the ones closest to the river will likely be too chilly to sit in and enjoy.
If you happen to visit during the warmer months and want to check out the pools down the hillside, please note that the rocks are wet, steep and super slippery. I was too lazy to put back on my socks and hiking boots to safely make my way down the hillside and I really wish I had brought along hiking sandals (I’ve got my eyes on these) so I could have more easily made the trek safely down the hill.
12. You’ll probably see some genitalia.
Most of the natural hot springs (i.e., the ones you don’t have to check into a spa or facility for) in the Pacific Northwest are considered clothing optional. So expect to see some naked people– young people, old people, skinny people, fat people, just about everyone.
After Justin and I were there for a while, a woman showed up, promptly stripped down to her birthday suit, and started a, ahem, very up-close-and-personal photoshoot in the spring next to us. Other than being a bit out of our usual norm, this didn’t bother us- just go into the experience fully expecting to see and interact with totally naked folks!
On that note, if you’re taking photos here, be respectful and don’t take photos of the nude people, in the background or otherwise. You wouldn’t like it and neither would they!
13. Be a courteous soaker.
This is a popular place that can, at times, get crowded. Be willing to share your pool with others or, if you have a large group and you see there’s others waiting, limit your soaking time to around 45 minutes.
Follow general common sense- don’t blast your music, taunt other people, or bathing with soap or shampoo in the pools (apparently, this happens? Hippies, man). Just treat others the way you’d like to be treated and we’ll all be that much better off– hot tip, I know.
14. Put your phone or camera down and JUST ENJOY.
While Justin and I were at the hot springs, there was a couple who got there a few minutes after us. Throughout the entire two and a half hours we were there, they took turns jumping in and out of the pool and exclusively just took pictures or videos of each other with their cell phones. They literally did not sit in the pool for one second, phone not in hand, and just soak in (yet another pun) the gorgeous natural surroundings!
I get it- the hot springs are STUNNING and admittedly, I try not to tell others to put down their cameras. As a blogger, I myself have gotten my fair share of side eyes at restaurants and other sites when I’ve taken my camera out and started emphatically shooting.
That being said, there seems to be a point where you’re not really enjoying the experience itself any more, so just try to keep that in mind while you’re visiting!
15. Climb down to the “secret pool.”
If you’ve made it this far, I’ll let you in on a little secret- there’s a rope, leading down the left side of the springs, to help you get down the cliffside.
If you follow the rope all the way down, you’ll find a last pool that’s level with the river and, given that it’s “hidden” from the other pools, you’ll likely have this one all to yourself! As I mentioned above, the pools get progressively colder the closer to the river you get, so expect lukewarm bathtub water in this one.
16. Bring a towel and have a dry set of clothes waiting for you in the car.
I LOVE hot springs, but I mysteriously always forget to bring a towel whenever we visit one. We have started to leave travel towels, like these, in our car for that very reason (you never know when you’re going to find an awesome lake or hot spring to jump in!).
I’d also recommend leaving a clean, dry set of clothes in your car in case yours gets wet along the way or you just wanting to change. Given the water’s murkiness and, to be honest, some of the online reviews about the cleanliness of the pools before I went, it felt really good to change my clothes once I got back to the car.
17. Be sure to explore the surrounding area.
Once you’re done at the hot springs, make sure to check out some of the other beautiful sites around Umpqua.
- Tokotee Falls– You’ll literally drive right past the trailhead for these gorgeous falls on your way to the hot springs, so might as well make a stop! You’ll need to take a 0.9 mile round trip hike to the overlook to the 120-foot two-tiered falls, framed by stunning basalt columns.
- Crater Lake National Park– Less than an hour away from Umpqua Hot Springs is the United States’ deepest lake (and the ninth deepest lake in the WORLD!) and one of the 7 wonders of Oregon. There’s all sorts of neat hikes and overlooks here, but note that most of the park is inaccessible November through April.
- Deschutes National Forest– This one is a bit farther away (three and a half hours from the hot springs), but if you’re on a road trip around Oregon, this forest is full of epic hikes, including Broken Top and the South Sister.
- Williamette National Forest– Close to Deschutes National Forest is Williamette, with its own set of awesome sites, like the out-of-this-world-looking Blue Pool and Cougar Hot Springs.
Have you visited Umpqua Hot Springs? What was your experience like? Let me know in the comments below!