The Pacific Northwest is a geothermic wonderland, home to dozens of natural hot springs. While summer draws the largest crowds to these mineral-rich pools, autumn and winter months are my family’s favorite time to stop in for a hot, restorative soak or swim. Even with a serious chill in the air, these mineral pools stay nice and steamy. And at the end of a brisk autumn hike in the Cascadia backcountry there are few things more satisfying than dipping into warm water under a ceiling of fir trees.
Northwest hot springs come in many varieties. Some are scenic, natural basins set deep in the woods. Trails to primitive hot springs are usually short in length and well-trodden, as thousands come in search of their relaxing minerals and rumored curative powers.
On the other end of the geothermal spectrum are traditional in-ground swimming pools filled with hot mineral water piped in from a nearby source, often with onsite lodging and restaurants that add up to an easy family getaway. Still, as appealing as the hot spring swimming pools are to families, there’s a special “wow” factor for kids who have the opportunity to hike into natural hot springs.
We recommend you try both to see for yourself. Here are six hot-springs getaways in the Pacific Northwest to get you started. (Note: Sol Duc closes for the winter season.)
Safety tip: Always supervise children very closely when they are in and around hot springs pools. Some kids need to be reminded to step out of the pool every once in awhile to cool off . Check in that they are not getting over-heated, and push water to keep them hydrated.
Browse all the springs or skip to your favorite:
Harrison Hot Springs Resort, British Columbia
Bonneville Hot Springs Resort, Washington Goldmyer Hot Springs, Washington Terwilliger Hot Springs, Oregon Breitenbush Hot Springs, Oregon
Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, Washington
MOST FAMILY-FRIENDLY: Harrison Hot Springs Resort, British Columbia
Harrison Hot Springs by Diane Worth on flickr CC
Harrison Hot Springs is about three hours from Seattle, set on the eastern slope of the Coast Mountains on Harrison Lake. It’s one of a small handful of family-friendly hot springs resorts in the Northwest, and probably the best.
Guests of the resort (from C$115 per night) have exclusive access to five unique pools both indoor and outdoor, all of them fed with water piped from the nearby natural hot springs. There’s an outdoor family pool, and kids are welcome in all but one adults-only pool. A sixth pool is public and accepts day visitors. Rooms are somewhat small, but the resort has many comfortable common areas for reading books or playing board games. The restaurants are fine, though the town of Harrison Hot Springs has more interesting options. Village Pizzeria makes several popular specialty pizzas and pasta dishes.
Location: Okanagan, B.C., on Harrison Lake
Info and reservations: , 604-796-2244 harrisonresort.com
MOST DELUXE: Bonneville Hot Springs Resort, Washington
Courtesy Bonneville Hot Springs
Bonneville Hot Springs Resort & Spa, Washington Want fluffy white robes with your mineral soak? Bonneville Hot Springs in southern Washington near Stevenson is one of the most luxury-oriented hot springs lodges in the Northwest and boasts a full day spa. The only drawback for kids is the restricted pool hours — all the pools are for adults only after 7:30 p.m.
Surrounded by pretty forest, Bonneville has a Northwest lodge vibe. Visitors are greeted with gardens and cascading waterfalls, and just inside the classic lodge lobby is a 30-foot-high river rock fireplace, waiting for when you’re ready to curl up with a post-soak book. But it’s the spa-soaking bliss that really draws you in: The pools and balcony hot tubs are all filled with mineral water from the nearby hot springs.
Ask for a room in the kid-friendly wing, as the resort aims to separate families from couples and honeymooners. Spa services include massages, facials and manicures. Rooms start at $185 and include full use of the pool facilities. Kids 12 and under stay free. Day use of the pools is $15–$25 per person for a three-hour session. If the resort’s fine dining isn’t what your kids had in mind, head east to Carson for the Backwoods Brewing Company and its menu of burgers and pizzas.
Location: Columbia River Gorge near Carson
Info and reservations: bonnevilleresort.com , 866-459-1678
MOST REMOTE: Goldmyer Hot Springs, Washington
Goldmyer hot springs by hundertmorgan, flickr CC
Descend stone steps into these beautiful hot springs pools fed from a waterfall that springs from the ground and tops 110 degrees. You’ll need reservations Friday to Sunday for the popular Goldmyer Hot Springs near North Bend, as this geothermal utopia up the Middle Fork Road is on private land. (On other days of the week, walk-in visitors are welcome though reservations are recommended and road work may limit weekday access.)
Visitors are limited to 20 people per day to protect the fragile ecosystem and scenic beauty of these remote soaking pools, so they’re never crowded. You’ll earn all that beauty and solitude, though — it’s 4.5 miles to the hot springs via the closed Middle Fork Road. Most hike it, some bike it and in winter months you can cross-country ski it. Because of the remote location, it’s obviously most ideal for families who have older children. Access is $15 per person ($10 for seniors, kids are free). Some people soak sans clothes here.
These hot springs are a day trip and there’s no lodging in the immediate vicinity, but you can book a room in nearby North Bend if you wish to be in the area for an early start on the trail. The North Bend Motel has rooms with two beds for $75.
Location: Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River near Snoqualmie Pass
Info and reservations: , 206-789-5631 goldmyer.org
MOST BEAUTIFUL: Terwilliger Hot Springs, Oregon
Terwilliger hot springs by brooklyn, flickr CC
Set in the spectacular McKenzie River Valley, the hike to these pools is short and sweet — just .25 mile through a carpet of ferns and old-growth trees. Then comes the reward: five cascading pools that comprise Terwilliger Hot Springs, each slightly cooler than the pool above it. Over the years, visitors have built up the soaking pools out of river stones, creating a beautiful oasis best enjoyed in the off-season when the crowds have dwindled.
The piping-hot water tumbles out of a spectacular rock formation at 112 F, so the first pool is perhaps a bit too hot for soaking. Hours are sunrise to sundown only. The fee to use the hot springs is $6 per person, and you can pay on-site. These hot springs are clothing-optional. Up for camping in the autumn or winter? Set on the McKenzie River in an old-growth Douglas fir forest, Delta Campground stays open until mid-October and has its own accessible interpretive nature trail. Want a roof over your head? Book the family-size Damsel Fly room at Eagle Rock Lodge (from $185, includes breakfast).
Location: Oregon Cascades near the McKenzie River
Info: fs.usda.gov/recarea/willamette , 541-225-6300
MOST UNPLUGGED: Breitenbush Hot Springs, Oregon
Breitenbush lodge. Credit: Elisa Murray
Breitenbush sits on 154 acres of wildlife sanctuary in the Willamette National Forest of Oregon, about a five-hour drive from Seattle. Seven unique, relaxing pools with intricate stonework and nature-infused views are the star attraction, but the center offers much more — a steam sauna, yoga and meditation classes, hiking trails that wend through the woods, three vegetarian meals a day served family-style — all ensconced in a mellow, crunchy Oregon vibe.
Accommodations, ranging from dormitory-style bunks to cabins with private baths, are rustic but not uncomfortable. Daily rates are per person (adults are $59–$127, kids are $28–$40) and include all meals (organic and vegetarian), yoga and other wellness classes, and 24-hour access to the hot springs. Bring your own bedding, robes, towels and toiletries and leave pets, alcohol and video games at home. Reservations are required.
The pools here are clothing-optional, and many people choose to soak in the nude. If you prefer a bathing suit, by all means suit up. Breitenbush has a respectful atmosphere: This is not a flirty pick-up joint. It’s also an alcohol-free zone, and family-friendly, though it’s worth noting that adults must accompany children 12 years and younger at all times. Breitenbush is also a terrific place for a quick getaway or retreat with your partner or a friend, offering a robust set of workshops all year long in themes ranging from singing to yoga. The resort typically offers several family-oriented weekends a year, which may even include child care. And it’s truly unplugged — there is no Wi-Fi or cell phone service, though there is a landline on the grounds in case of an emergency.
Location: Oregon Cascades near Detroit, about a five-hour drive from Seattle
Info and reservations: breitenbush.com , 503-854-3320
MOST RUSTIC: Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, Washington
Sol Duc hot springs by mwkelly, flickr cc
Most Northwest hot springs are in the Cascade range, but the Olympics have hot springs, too! The Sol Duc hot springs are surrounded by towering conifers along the scenic Sol Duc River.
Spend the night in a charming, rustic cabin in Olympic National Park's Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, just steps away from three steaming pools but miles away from the nearest television. There’s a freshwater pool, too.
Start your day with a hike through the moss-draped rain forest of ancient trees (Sol Duc's Lover Lane is a nice 6-mile stroll for casual hikers and trail access is just behind the lodge). Then hit the pools, finding the temperature that feels just right. While your family soaks in the pools and tubs here, you’ll hear sounds of the Olympic rain forest all around you. There's no other hot springs experience quite like it.
Accommodations are cute cabins, some more rustic than others and some with kitchens, and they start around $175 a night. The resort has a poolside deli, restaurant, gift shop and convenience store. Note: this
lodge closes for the season in October, and opens again in March of next year.
Location: Olympic Peninsula near Port Angeles Info and reservations: , 866-476-5382 olympicnationalparks.com