Terwilliger Hot Springs (also known as Cougar Hot Springs) is a five-tiered pool accessible with 0.9 miles of easy hiking. The hot springs is located in Willamette National Forest, halfway between Eugene and Bend, Oregon. Potential visitors should know that clothing is optional at the hot springs. Those who are uncomfortable with nudity may wish to seek warm waters elsewhere. If you choose to pursue this adventure, you’ll uncover a beautiful natural hot springs and rewarding relaxation. Man-made pools cascade down from Terwilliger Hot Springs, offering five different temperatures to bathe in, ranging from 85 to 112 degrees Fahrenheit. Find the temperature that’s right for you and go for a soak at Terwilliger Hot Springs!
Begin from a parking area off Aufderheide Scenic Byway, which runs north to south along Cougar Reservoir, a 1,280-acre lake. Cross the road and walk 1/8 of a mile north on a path along the west side of the road. The main reservoir is on the opposite side of the byway, but you can look over a smaller (often dry) body on the left. A creek tumbling into this area from the northwest flows from Terwilliger Hot Springs. Look southwest where another creek flows out of the forest in an even more impressive fashion. Terwilliger Falls makes a vertical plunge of 100 foot.
Enjoy the waterfall view as you approach a trailhead payment booth. Each hiker must pay $6 to American Land & Leisure, the concession that manages the hot springs within the national forest. Leave the road on a 0.3-mile trail to the hot springs itself. The dirt trail gently ascends just 75 feet and is lined by Douglas fir, moss, and ferns. Obscured glimpses of Terwilliger Falls may be visible through the trees as you pass a steeper path dropping to the left. Proceed up the main trail on a short, pleasant route to the hot springs.
Shortly before reaching Terwilliger Hot Springs, come to a dog tie up station on the left. Dogs are not allowed at the hot springs, so pets must be leashed to the ring bolts in the logs. Your dog will be out of view as you soak, so your furry friend should be comfortable hanging out unattended, either alone or with other dogs.
Just before the hot springs, you will pass vault toilets on the right. The trail then turns downhill toward a covered but open area with benches where you can change and store belongings. Unfortunately, theft does occur, so be sure to leave your valuables at home or stowed safely in your car. You may be tempted to take lots of pictures of the serene hot spring. However, it’s best to leave your camera behind as well. Visitors are discouraged from taking photos due to the clothing optional policy. If you do take pictures, get permission from other bathers before snapping any shots.
From the benches, take the stairs down to Terwilliger Hot Springs. The uppermost pool is the hottest and typically ranges from 105-112°F. Each lower pool gets successively cooler as the water flows away from the source. The pools are made with stone walls on top of the natural bedrock. The floor of lower pools is more sandy and silty. In addition to cooler water, the lower pools may also contain more debris. The natural sulfur smell is very mild and subtle. Bathers should never put their heads underwater in any hot springs, due to risk of brain infections.
Can’t take the heat? Directly adjacent to the hot water is a small, cold stream that can be used to cool off and recuperate during longer visits to the springs.
As you sit in the hot springs, take in the beauty of the surrounding fern-lined forest. If you let your mind wander, you might imagine that you’ve escaped to a tropical paradise. When you’re ready to return to reality, simply walk back down the trail the way you came.
Both the pools and the parking area fill up on weekends (other eager bathers will likely be pining for your parking spot). It is best to visit Terwilliger Hot Springs on weekdays and early in the morning. The hot springs are open seven days a week from sunrise to sunset, with the exception of Thursday mornings from 8 a.m. to noon when the hot springs are closed for cleaning.
The cost of entry is $6 per person, payable in cash or check only (all prices as of 2016). Children 12 years and under are free. Annual passes for the hot springs are available at $60 per person. Alcohol and glass containers are prohibited, along with loud parties and lewd behavior. Photography is only allowed with the permission from other bathers. Dogs must be leashed and are not allowed past the Dog Tie Up Area. Bathrooms are available at the parking area and next to the hot springs.
To get to the trailhead: From Eugene, take exit 194A from Interstate 5 and drive east on Route 126. After 6.5 miles, turn left to stay on Route 126. Drive another 39 miles and turn right onto Cougar Dam Road (NF 19). Go 0.4 miles and turn right onto Aufderheide Drive. Drive south for another 7.5 miles and find the trailhead parking area on the left.
Trailhead address: Aufderheide Drive, Blue River, OR 97413
Trailhead coordinates: 44.082, -122.2319 (44° 04′ 55.2″N 122° 13′ 54.83″W)
You may also view a regional map of surrounding Oregon trails and campgrounds.
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