Warning: Some images contain nudity.
I recently visited the Umpqua Hot Springs in Southern Oregon and left with mixed feelings. The beauty and serenity of the area was overshadowed by less than sanitary conditions. However, I also left with a renewed passion for nature preservation and education.
The Hike to Umpqua Hot Springs in Southern Oregon
When we visited, the gravel road leading to the trail head was closed. Fortunately, it was still open to foot traffic. Although it was an easy walk, the road added 4 miles round-trip.
After 30 minutes of walking, we arrived at the trail head to find a bathroom, parking lot, and information board.
First, the trail crosses the bridge above the powerful North Umpqua River. The trail veers right and becomes a steep incline with rocks and tree roots underfoot. The hike is 0.5 miles out and back with an elevation gain of 200 feet.
The Hot Spring Tubs
There are various tubs that range in temperature. The hottest tub was against the embankment wall. As the water flows downward, it becomes cooler. Therefore, you will probably prefer the tubs at the top. As a bonus, the tubs overlook the North Umpqua River.
Clothing is optional. From the reviews I have read, the area is normally very popular. However, we drove up during the peak of wildfire season and several roads were closed at the time (including the gravel road leading to the trail head). I believe this deterred many people from visiting. Fortunately for us, we had the place all to ourselves.
What to Bring
- Snacks (in case you have to walk the 2 mile gravel road)
- Bathing suit (optional)
- Small Towel
- Ziploc bag for packing out trash
- Bug spray
- Hand Sanitizer
- A hippie vibe and an open mind
Note: There are no dressing rooms for you to change in. The bathrooms are vault toilets and you do not want to be in there any longer than you have to be. If you want to wear a bathing suit, wear it under your clothes.
Fees and Regulations
The hot springs are day-use only and there is a $5 park pass fee. Additionally, there are many recreational passes that can be used as a form of payment.
The Negative Side the Umpqua Hot Springs
Unfortunately, the area has gotten a bad reputation in recent years. According to The Oregonian, the area was closed in September 2016 when the water tested high for E. coli. The area has mixed review on travel websites such as TripAdvisor. When we visited, it was obvious that people had not packed out their trash. We found cigarette butts, clothing, and (gasp) used feminine hygiene products. If the unsanitary conditions continue, the Forest Service officials will be forced to make a decision; increase regulation or close the area.
How to Help
We cannot let such a beautiful place be destroyed by apathetic humans. The easiest way to aid in preservation is to practice “Leave No Trace” and educate your family and friends on the seven principles. Have children? Bring them outdoors regularly and teach them to appreciate and respect nature early on. Speak up if you witness someone breaking the “Leave No Trace” principles. Additionally, you can donate to the National Forest Foundation. Donations of $35 will pay for the planting of ten trees and a subscription to their semiannual magazine. You can also volunteer with the Forest Service based on your talents and skills.
Regardless of the negative points, the Umpqua Hot Springs in Southern Oregon is worth a visit. More importantly, it is worth saving.
Crater Lake National Park is 1.5 hours away. There are multiple waterfalls in the area that are within 1-2 hours and will make an epic Southern Oregon road trip. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter or “like” Vagabond RN on Facebook for my upcoming article on the best Southern Oregon waterfalls.
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