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, also called Hart Mountain Hot Springs, are tucked away deep in Central / Southeastern 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 hot spring 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.
Created by president Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1936 to protect endangered pronghorn antelope--the fastest land animal in the Americas, Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge is a unique environment of wide-open expanses of the sagebrush ecosystem that over 350 fascinating species call home, including nearly 250 species of birds. Pronghorn evolved to run 60 mph when their predator the cheetah once stalked the grasslands of North America. Our local cheetahs went extinct long ago, but they had migrated to Africa thousands of years ago, and to this day are the only land animals that can (just barely) outrun a pronghorn, with top speeds of about 65 - 75 miles per hour. This is only in short bursts, however, whereas pronghorn can run at near top speed for long distances--truly an amazing adaptation that can still be viewed in Central and Eastern Oregon.
Click here for more details about wildlife viewing and other types of recreation at Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that manages it. They can be reached in Plush, Oregon at 541-947-2731.
- 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 a parking lot by the springs.
Checkout this short video of the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge area and hot springs: