Bagby Hot Springs is the closest outdoor, forested, hot spring to Portland, approximately an hour and a half drive from the big city. This is a bathing suit optional hot spring.
I typically consider hot springs in two general categories, primitive and developed. Both have their place and time and both styles have degrees of success in their execution. In order for a hot spring pool to be formed there is typically some human intervention involved ranging from diversion of cold stream water with hot spring water contained by rocks and sand to form a pool to digging out a swimming pool sized hole, lining that hole with concrete.
Bagby is the most developed, primitive hot spring I have visited and it is executed beautifully. It is as if the professor from Gilligan’s Island wanted to install a spa for the Howell’s this is what it might look like.
The setting is quintessential West of the Cascades Oregon, located in the Mount Hood National Forest. The hike to the hot springs is a moderate mile and half through old growth forest. The hike is mostly level, once you get close to the end of the hike there is a decent uphill grade, so you will know you are getting close once you start climbing up hill.
Friends of Bagby accepts donations from visitors at a collection box at the entrance, it is unbelievable that there is not a fee to visit Bagby, please suck it up and donate what you can afford to help support Friends of Bagby who maintain the site as volunteers.
Driving Directions: From Estacada, drive south on Highway 224 for about forty miles. Watch for a sign indicating Bagby. The sign leads to Forest Service Road 63. Then watch for Forest Service Road 70. Turn onto Road 70 and go about ten miles to the parking area and trail-head. The last three miles are the hardest as the road turns to gravel and becomes very narrow. From the parking area, signs point to the 1.5 mile trail. The trail can be slippery in the spring, so wear shoes or boots with good traction. One additional word of guidance: Near the end of the trail you will come to an unmarked split in the trail. Go left over the bridge. The hot springs is directly ahead.