Guys, I have never worked so hard to relax for 20 minutes in my life! However, it was pretty fun, and I’d recommend the unique Bagby hot springs hike for anyone looking for things to do around Oregon.
After I joined the Hedgers on their bus life adventure, we made our way from Portland to Mt. Hood National Forest in hopes of seeing the famous snowy peak over Trillium Lake. Since the weather was pretty crummy, we decided to wait it out a bit to see if things would clear up. While we waited we decided to hike to the nearby-ish Bagby Hot Springs! It was so cold out, the thought of soaking in a hot tub sounded heavenly.
Their friend, Kerby, had her car with her, so it was easy to hop in and drive the hour and forty-five minutes to the trailhead and make it a little day trip within the forest!
The Unique Bagby Hot Springs Hike
The Geology of the Springs
There are three major hot spring located near a Clackamas River tributary. The water is anywhere from 120-138F (49-59C) and includes various minerals like silica, sodium, sulfate, carbonate, chloride, calcium, hydroxide, potassium, magnesium, lithium, fluoride, strontium, nickel, and arsenic.
The springs got their name from Bob Bagby, who discovered them in 1880. There are still two unused cabins you can see today, a cabin from 1913 and a guard station from 1974. All the current bathhouses were built by the Friends of Bagby between 1983 and 1986.
Before you even get to the baths, you have to hike for about a mile and a half (or 2.4km). It’s a really easy hike with very little elevation.
Main Bathhouse or Private Deck
The Main Bathhouse area has five rooms with hollowed logs as the baths. They reminded us of the log flume rides you see in amusement parks. I think they roughly fit about 2 people, and these are the only ones you can be naked in.
Side note, when we went, the one was broken, so it was only four. I imagine no one will come to fix it until next season.
The Public Deck holds three smaller tubs and one bigger tub, which is what we used. The smaller tubs were bigger than the log flume ones, so you could probably do 3-4 people in, though we mostly just saw 2 people in them at a time. Our tub can apparently fit up to 8 people, but I’d say that’s pretty generous! The four of us fit comfortably, and I think even one more person would have been a bit of a squeeze.
While the Private and Public Deck are connected, the Upper Deck is set a bit apart. It’s just one big tub with more of an open deck. We popped over and looked into it before we left, so here’s the tub if you’re wondering if it’s better or worse. When we went, a big group kind of commandeered this area.
Using the Baths
The hike wasn’t the only thing I meant when I said you had to work for your soak! Once you’ve gotten your tub (which can be up to an hour or two of waiting), you need to fill it up. Since we had the big tub, it took almost an hour between the four of us to get it half full.
The tubs all have a faucet, but it’s not a heavy flow, so you’ll want to fill up buckets from a black tube next to one of the other tubs. You’ll also want to get cold water from the river down below because 138F is pretty hot on its own!
Also before you start to fill it, you’ll want to use one of the scrub brushes to just kind of clean out the tub from the people before you and any leaves or twigs that got into it. And, yes, that sock is meant to help plug the tub, so stuff that in first and then put the plug on top. For good measure, you may also want to put one of the rocks over that too.
Tips for the Bagby Hot Springs
What to Wear
You’ll probably want a swimsuit for the springs, though I just wore underwear and a sports bra. I’d highly recommend wearing a bikini over a one piece or tankini since there aren’t private changing rooms. If 12 years of swimming competitively taught me anything, it’s that deck changing with a one piece is hell.
Also, bring a change of underwear if the idea of walking back in wet clothes doesn’t sound too appealing.
For the hike itself, I’d definitely recommend some sturdy, waterproof hiking shoes, but I also saw some guys clearly walk it in a pair of rubber flip-flops, sooooo I guess whatever’s most comfortable for you! I have Keen Terradora hiking shoes that I wore.
We didn’t have any cell service while we were there and had TMobile and AT&T between us. Maybe Verizon works, but I wouldn’t rely on it. Just enjoy the outdoors and being a bit disconnected!
The bathrooms are basically portapotties but in wooden huts instead of the bright green plastic containers, you’re probably thinking of. They smell, but the one closer to the Upper Deck is more bearable since it gets less traffic than the other one. Bring hand sanitizer because there’s no sink or soap to wash your hands.
You can bring pets, and there were plenty of cute pups around the baths just hanging out while their owners soaked. Obviously, don’t bring your dog into your bath!
How to Visit the Bagby Hot Springs
You’ll want to use “Bagby Hot Spring Trailhead” for GPS. If you try to just look up the Bagby Hot Springs, it’ll tell you there’s no route available.
The springs cost $5/person. During the main season, between April and Labor Day, there’s an attendant that will give you a wristband. There’s also a store nearby where you can pay by card.
However, we were there during the offseason, so no one was around to give us wristbands or check that we paid. Instead, we put cash in one of the envelopes, filled out our information, and place it in a bin near the trailhead.
Best Time to Visit
We went in mid-October on a rainy day, and it was perfect when we finally got a chance to soak and relax. I think any season is pretty okay, though they warn against hiking in winter if the roads are icy or the snowfall too heavy.
Also, because it overall takes about 1-2 hours between waiting, filling the tubs, and soaking, you may want to try to visit in the off hours. A summer weekend is probably going to be the busiest!
Side note, if it’s busy and people are waiting, there are signs asking you to limit your soak time to 45 minutes! Trust me you really don’t want to spend longer than that in the tubs anyway.