Bagby Hot Springs
3 miles round trip
200 feet elevation gain
Open all year
Cedar logs have been hollowed to create 8-foot-long bathtubs at this rustic, free hot springs. Even if you don’t plan to soak, the trail here is a delight, leading through a towering old-growth forest along a fork of the Collawash River. Just don’t expect solitude. On weekends and all through summer the trail is heavily used and there’s a long waiting line at the bath house.
Parking and hiking are free, but a private concessionaire charges $5 per person to use the hot springs. Kids under 13 are free. The required wristbands can be bought at the store in Ripplebrook or from a uniformed employee at the trailhead. This system has reduced the trailhead’s notorious vandalism problem. The concessionaire also operates a car campground at the trailhead with $16 tent sites.
From Interstate 205 near Oregon City, take exit 12 and follow signs east 18 miles to Estacada. Go straight through town, continuing 26 miles on Highway 224 to the bridge at Ripplebrook. Then, following signs for Bagby Hot Springs, keep straight on paved Road 46 for 3.6 miles, turn right onto paved Road 63 for 3.5 miles, and turn right onto paved Road 70 for 6 miles to the trailhead parking lot on the left (GPS location N44°57.129’ W122°09.931’). Pets must be on leash.
The trail crosses a footbridge over Nohorn Creek and launches into a magnificent ancient forest of big Douglas firs and red cedars. In April and May look here for yellow clusters of Oregon grape blossoms and a variety of white blossoms: vanilla leaf, 3-petaled trillium, and bunchberry. In autumn, vine maple leaves become red pinwheels.
At the 1-mile mark pass an overlook of a 10-foot slide falls in the Hot Springs Fork. In another 0.2 mile cross the green-pooled river on a long bridge and climb to a signboard at the hot springs. The log cabin behind the signboard is the original Forest Service guard station. To the left is the bath house, with long benches outside for the waiting line. The old bath house burned in 1979 when nighttime bathers carelessly used candles for light. A non-profit group rebuilt the structure to include five private rooms and an annex with four additional tubs. To fill a tub, unplug a bunghole in the hot water trough. To adjust the temperature, use one of the plastic buckets to dip cold water from a vat outside. Remember the area’s rules: no unleashed dogs, no music, no baths longer than 1 hour, and no soap—it pollutes the creek and harms the tubs. Swimsuits are rare.
If you keep right at the log cabin, you’ll follow the Bagby Trail through a meadowed picnic area. After 0.2 mile, a side trail to the right descends to eight riverside campsites. Shortly thereafter the Bagby Trail passes Shower Creek Falls—a thin, 50-foot cascade that some people use for a quick cold shower after their hot bath.
If you continue up the Bagby Trail you’ll enter the Bull of the Woods Wilderness, leave the river, and cross eight small side creeks. After hiking 6 miles from the hot springs (and gaining 1800 feet), you can take a spur trail to the right, climbing 0.2 mile to a campsite at forest-rimmed Silver King Lake.
This chapter taken from the book 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington.