Can anyone really claim to have soaked in every Oregon hot spring? I keep trying, but there’s always one more spot that crops up on my must-visit list. Granted, it takes an adventurer with fortitude to make the trek across the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge and soak in the natural hot springs there.
The Hart Mountain Hot Springs are tucked away deep in Central Oregon on a high desert plateau. They’re semi-developed, comfortably rustic, and are partly rimmed and lined with barriers of rock and concrete. You can try out the different pools, but all hang out at roughly 100 – 105 degrees. Water bubbles float up from cracks at the bottom of the pools, adding a fun texture to the water. Note that in some areas the pools are between five to six feet deep, so swim around with caution.
There are no strict rules about soaking without clothing, and folks definitely show up with that in mind. The area is somewhat sheltered from view, but is by no means private. However, the trade-off is a beautiful, unhindered view of the horizon. And if you don’t want to share the main pool – which can accommodate up to six or so people – there are smaller, less-developed pools nearby for solo soaking.
The pools are open year-round, although wintertime travel to the area can be rough after snowfall builds up. Late summer soaking comes with the risk of mosquito clouds, so you’ll want to time you visit carefully. The area is also frequented by hunters and campers, so don’t expect the area to be completely uninhabited.
Directions: From Lakeview, take Highway 140 north and head north, and then follow the road through a junction where it turns east. About 4.6 miles down, turn right and drive to the turnoff for Hart Mountain and Plush. Another 15.8 miles down turn left onto Country Road 313, and then drive to a crossroads in Plush, 18.8 miles farther. Turn left here and continue to Country Road 3-12. Turn right and drive another 13.4 miles as the road turns to gravel. You’ll come across the refuge headquarters, at which you’ll take a right and drive to the turnoff for the bathhouse at the hot springs, 4.1 miles down. Turn right and drive on a rough dirt road to parking lot by the springs.