Looking for total isolation, full connection with wild, ancient nature, and a very hot soak to ease away the dust of your last adventure? Look no further than Alvord Hot Springs, a desert gem boasting camping spots, fire pits, and basic bunkhouse rentals. Soak, stay, stargaze.
|36095 E. Steens Road, Princeton, OR 97721
|8 am – 8 pm, year-round
|Flat but unpaved road
|$20/person (day-use and camping)
What To Expect
You can find the desert oasis of Alvord Hot Springs between Steens Mountain (a mile below the peak) and the Alvord Desert, 4,080 feet above sea level. The hot mineral pools offer a respite from a dusty day exploring, as well as wilderness camping at its best, on private, protected property on an ancient dry lakebed, being unique among the many in the state worth exploring – check out our comprehensive list of the best hot springs in Oregon for ideas…
The hot springs themselves look like little more than concrete pools in a rusty metal shack, giving no indication of the soothing power of the hot water within. One large pool has been divided into two, with a metal divide wrapping around one half to give soaking privacy and protection from the winds which can kick up. Both parts of the pool are open-air and ideal for star-gazing if you’re staying overnight. Behind the shack is an open but sheltered changing area, and in front of the open pool is a wooden deck and seating for those needing to take a break from the heat. And all around you are those spectacular views of the desert- the only green to be found growing along the steaming stretch of hot springs runoff.
Alvord Hot Springs is a clothing-optional soaking site, though out of respect for the families who come with their kids, the unspoken rule is “keep it covered until after dark.”
The geothermal sulfur springwater collects in Alvord Hot Springs surfaces at about 184°F, cooling naturally before it gets into the pools, and cooling further over the day. NOTE – there is no cold water here to balance the temperature. Turn on the tap and fresh hot mineral water will pour out to warm up your surroundings; switch it off, and the water will gradually cool and settle to a more bearable temperature. Both pools tend to fluctuate between 100-110°F.
Overnight guests can use the pool 24/7, while day-use visitors are welcome from 8 am to 8 pm. The cost for a day soak is the same as the cost for staying over, so if you have the time, you might as well soak up some of the nature as well as the minerals.
There is one pit-toilet restroom onsite for both day visitors and overnight campers, admittedly not ideal on a busy day, and there’s no fresh water for bathing, cleaning, or cooking other than that running in the wash basin in the restroom. Bring in everything you’ll need for your time there – including drinking water. The nearest towns for gas, water, and other supplies are Fields and Burns. In summer, there’s also a gas station in Frenchglen, though in any case, if you plan on exploring the area, we advise you to bring along a full spare gasoline canister, just in case. NOTE- There is little to no cell service out there, so come prepared for the true wilderness.
Did you know?… The Alvord Desert is one of the largest playa lakes in Oregon. A Playa is formed when rainwater fills a shallow depression in the landscape. When the rainwater evaporates, it leaves behind salt minerals on the surface. This gives the dry lake bed that cracked look and that crunch when you walk on it.
If you decide to stay, there is plenty of space to pitch your tent or park your vehicle (no hookups). Alvord Ranch also offers access to the dry lakebed for a more surreal experience and vista, though beware of the unpredictable weather – we suggest you check before you go! Also, be sure to check in before you pitch a tent- they’ll not only give you the gate code so you can come and go, but they’ll also give you advice on how to camp safely on the lakebed without disturbing the fragile environment.
Alternatively, stay in one of the basic open-plan bunkhouses (known as MASH- Mobile Alvord Sleeping Huts), each accommodating up to four people (children 12 and under are free) and boasting an outdoor picnic table and fire ring, electricity, light, and heating. NOTE- You have to bring your own linen!
Soaking is included in the price of your stay.
For reservations or for any questions, call the site at (541) 589-2282.
Dogs are welcome at Alvord Hot Springs but should be kept on a leash and picked up after.
The Alvord Hot Springs General Store sells beer and wine, snacks, bags of ice, bath towels, clothing and souvenirs, propane, firewood bundles, and other little things you might have forgotten to pick up on your way in. A beefy bonus – For those staying over, why not go “cowboy” and grab some locally sourced Alvord Ranch Beef steaks or burgers from the general store and cook them on a ranch grill?
A promise from the Davis family (owners):
“Our main goal at Alvord Hot Springs is to keep a modest profile while still being able to provide impeccable services. Whether it’s the stars, the soak, the open space, or the seemingly unpopulated area that guests come here for, we aim to facilitate unmatched & authentic experiences. We attempt to provide that low key, get-out-of-town feel where guests can feel safe and at one with the awe-inspiring land we fell in love with.”
The Davis family have owned the springs property since 1970, and until 2013, it was freely open to visitors. That year, they commercialized it, tidied it up a little, added a general store, and took to employing a 24/7 caretaker for the springs and campsite.
No one knows the exact date the hot springs pools were built and opened to the public, but it is estimated to have been in the 1940s, though doubtless the hot springs were used long before that.
Due to the vast, flat landscape (12 miles long by 7 miles wide), numerous official and unofficial land speed races have been held here. The women’s world land speed record was set in 1976 by Kitty O’Neil at 512 miles per hour, later surpassed in 2019 by Jessi Combs at 522.783 mph, although she died in the process in a crash.
For more facts and figures on the Alvord Desert, see here.
How To Get There
Two hours outside of Burns, Alvord Hot Springs can be reached via the OR-78 E for just over 60 miles. After New Princeton, turn right off the highway onto the Fields-Denio Road (East Steens Road). The hot springs are some 40 miles (52 minutes) away on this dirt road. You see the stunning white of the desert on your left.
From the south, take the OR-205 N to Fields. Turn right onto the Fields-Denio Road. Alvord Hot Springs will be 23 miles away (28 minutes), on your right.
Make sure you fill up on gas in Burns or Fields before heading out to the Alvord Desert area.
Can I Stay There?
Yes. You can camp, stay in your vehicle, or bring an RV. NOTE- There are no hookups or dump sites.
Alvord Hot Springs (Alvord Ranch) offers exposed, unshaded campsites close to the hot springs and bathroom, as well as in the incredible, wide-open, ancient dry lakebed area (weather permitting).
Sites nearer to the bathroom and general store have picnic tables and fire rings, and you can buy firewood in the general store.
You can also stay in a pet-friendly bunkhouse (or MASH, as they call them – Mobile Alvord Sleeping Huts), each accommodating up to four people (children 12 and under free) and boasting an outdoor picnic table, and fire ring, electricity, light, and heating. NOTE- You have to bring your own linen!
Soaking is included in the price of your stay.
$20/person. Veterans and children under 12 FREE – rates may be subject to change, so check with the property before you go.
Call in advance to book – whether you’re visiting for the day or planning to stay overnight – 541-589-2282.
The laid-back Alvord Ranch has a full-time, on-site caretaker who likes to receive payment on your arrival and who most appreciates folks not bothered by the rustic decor, language, and beer drinking. Next to the small visitors’ office, there’s a general store, a restroom, and a changing room.
If you’re planning to stay for that incredible desert overnight experience, be ready for total exposure – there’s no shelter, no shade, no picnic tables, and the abovementioned limited water supply.
The Alvord Ranch isn’t the only place you can camp in the desert – while the west side of the dry lakebed is lined with mostly unmarked private property that shouldn’t be trespassed on, there are places at the edge elsewhere, and certainly toward the center, where you can set up your tent for a unique overnight experience. Be wary, though – the vast open space means there is no protection from the wind, and any moisture can turn the crunchy surface into sticky mud you might end up stuck in a while!
What Else Can I Do In The Area?
The nearby Steens Mountain Wilderness is home to a plethora of wildlife, including pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, and numerous migratory birds. Keep your eyes open for the wild horses that sometimes come down to the hot springs area to drink.
Check here for handy tips on what to see in the Steens area, how to hike it, and most importantly- how to survive it!
Borax Lake Hot Springs and the mining remnants around it are worth a visit for the adrenaline of knowing the ground could collapse under you at any time! You can’t enter this water for many reasons, though, among them the fact it can be up to 300°. It also has a dangerously high concentration of arsenic and sodium borate. Best to observe the alkaline lake from a safe distance on the designated trail!
The desert is also a popular venue for land sailing, though we couldn’t find any local clubs or rentals. Contact the North American Land Sailing Association to find out more about the sport and any upcoming events in the area.
For hot springs fans, try the Juntura Hot Springs close to the US-20, an ideal place to recharge on your drive through Oregon. It is secluded enough to relax in and offers scenic daytime views of the Malheur River and the rolling hills beyond. McCredie Hot Springs offers a different kind of soak in the forest, a perfect place to soak away your aches and stress among towering pine trees. Breitenbush Hot Springs, nestled deep in the north of Willamette National Forest, offers special hot mineral tubs taken care of by a very progressive and open-minded community. Crystal Crane Hot Springs offers a giant hot springs pool to play in, alongside a number of private hot tubs for solitary bathing. Another popular spot are the Terwilliger Hot Springs cascades near Cougar Dam. For more hot springs in Oregon, just type “Oregon” into our search bar.
The perfect destination for those seeking solitude and an immersive escape from the world – Alvord Hot Springs offers a basic soak and the perfect place to camp and star-gaze.
Be sure to check out more hot springs gems in Oregon:
The Dos And Don’ts Of Visiting A Hot Springs
Every hot springs has its own quirks. Visitors to Alvord Hot Springs, for example, should expect a “back-to-basics” vibe, and nude soakers, and should be prepared for the open conditions and remote location. For more general and very important “hot springs etiquette,” we highly recommend you take a moment to check out our carefully compiled easy-to-read list of “dos and don’ts” here. And always, always respect our nature – pack out what you pack in and LEAVE NO TRACE.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Alvord Hot Springs have been owned by the Davis family since the 1970s.
Camp on the lakebed or pay to camp on the Alvord Hot Springs property. Sites near the bathroom and general store have picnic tables and fire rings, and you can buy firewood in the store. Note, there are no RV hookups.
Mostly, yes. The water runs very hot and the tap is opened daily, then the water is left to sit in the pool and cool. Wastewater flows out into the desert oasis.
While we at Traxplorio do our very best to give you the latest information about these hot springs sites, life happens, weather happens, and property owners happen. We always recommend you go to the official hot springs’ web page and/or the relevant state authority page to check conditions, times, and prices (where relevant) before you head out. Thanks for understanding, and enjoy your soak!