Hike to Bagby Hot Springs
Walk through an old-growth forest to the best wild, free hot springs in Northwest Oregon
By William Sullivan
About the Hike: Hollowed-out cedar logs serve as 8-foot-long bathtubs at this rustic, free hot springs. Even if you don't plan to soak, the trail here is a delight, through a towering old-growth forest. Expect crowds on weekends and in summer.
Difficulty: An easy, 3-mile walk round-trip, with just 200 feet of elevation gain.
Season: Open all year.
Getting There: To find Bagby Hot Springs from Interstate 205 near Oregon City, take exit 12 and follow signs east 18 miles to Estacada. Go straight, continuing 26 miles on Highway 224 to the bridge at Ripplebrook. Then, following signs for Bagby Hot Springs, keep straight on paved Road 46 for 3.6 miles, turn right onto paved Road 63 for 3.5 miles, and turn right onto paved Road 70 for 6 miles to the trailhead parking lot on the left, where a Northwest Forest Pass is required ($5 per car per day). Leave no valuables in your car, as this area has a history of theft.
Fees: Recreation Fee Pass (Northwest Forest Pass) parking permits are required at the trailhead. They cost $5 per car per day or $30 per season.
Hiking Tips: From the parking area, the trail crosses Nohorn Creek on a footbridge and launches into the woods. After 1.5 miles you'll reach a signboard at the hot springs. To the left is the bathhouse, with long benches outside for the waiting line. Remember the area's rules: no unleashed dogs, no music, no baths longer than an hour, and no soap. Swimsuits are rare.
If you keep right at the log cabin, you'll follow the Bagby Trail through a picnic meadow. After 0.2 mile, a spur descends to eight riverside campsites. Next the Bagby Trail passes 50-foot Shower Creek Falls-a cascade some people use for a cold shower after their hot bath.
History: The original house burned in 1979 when bathers carelessly used candles for light. The rebuilt structure includes five private rooms and an annex with four more tubs.
Geology: The Bull of the Woods Wilderness is part of the Old Cascades, a 30-million-year-old range that predates the High Cascades. Because the volcanic peaks here have been eroded down to their roots, rocks with minor deposits of quartz, silver, nickel, and gold have been exposed. A gold rush in the late 1800s and early 1900s brought Bagby and other miners here, although no one returned with a fortune.