Four levels of hot springs magic cascade down the gorge in this wooded wonderland. Get there early to grab your spot – each pool offers a different temperature as you move downhill from the source. Forget civilization for a while- soak in the blue depths surrounded by the green of nature, totally off the grid. We would ask “where better to relax and rewind?” but actually, this is just one of many hot springs in Oregon worth taking the time to explore!
|Address||Terwilliger Hot Springs Trailhead, Cougar Dam Rd, Blue River, OR 97413|
|Location||Cougar Dam, west bank, Willamette National Forest, Oregon|
|Open||7 am – 9 pm, year-round. CLOSED Thursdays from 8 am-12 noon for cleaning|
|Road Acces||All vehicles, weather-permitting|
|Water Temperature||85 to 112°F|
|Admission||$10 / 2 hours|
What To Expect
The stunning Terwilliger Hot Springs (also known as the Cougar Hot Springs) offers four beautiful cascading pools, separated by rock walls, in the depths of the Willamette National Forest, with springs that drain into Rider Creek and range from 85°F to 112°F in temperature (the hottest being closest to the source at the top). The 1 to 3-feet deep pools can fit around 50 people total, and as they are only open until sunset, and your $10 pass only allows a two-hour soak, it’s best to aim to get there for opening time to get the maximum out of your visit. The top pool is the largest and warmest, and usually the busiest.
NOTE: This is a well-loved and well-kept hot springs. It is CLOSED Thursdays from 8 am – 12 noon for cleaning. The money you pay at the trailhead goes towards the maintenance needed to make these hot springs so special. If no one is there when you arrive, put the exact change in an envelope provided at the pay booth, fill in your license plate number on the front of the envelope, and put the envelope in the box.
The 0.4-mile dirt trail from the parking lot to the Terwilliger Hot Springs is easy to navigate but can be muddy after rain. Be sure to take the right shoes. Also, be sure to take water sandals with you to make it easier to get over the rocks and into the hot springs.
These springs are clothing optional, so you can feel equally free to go in a bathing suit or your birthday suit. Just be sure to respect others’ choices. Also, note that pets and alcohol are not allowed.
We recommend that if you can, go on a weekday so as to avoid the worst of the crowds, and somewhere from April to September. This is an isolated off-the-grid location, some 40 minutes from even the nearest gas station, and while going there is totally worth it, you should go prepared with food and water.
At any time of year, you should be weather-wise in Oregon. You can end up in the middle of a rain- or snowstorm, snowmelt, or wildfire, which can see the roads closed without warning. Check the conditions before you go.
If you need the bathroom, there are pit toilets in the parking lot 0.4 miles from the springs.
On August 19, 2018, a wildfire swept through 11,555 acres of the Terwilliger area east of Eugene along Cougar Reservoir and the Aufderheide Scenic Highway, cost $40 million in damage and closed the hot springs for 10 months. A father and son who had stopped at Terwilliger for a soak were at the hot springs when the fire blew up but escaped unhurt. The firefighting crews, engines, and aircraft that responded to the fire put it out without anyone being injured. Fire investigators later reported that the fire started at a popular party spot that escaped attempts to put it out with a fire extinguisher and bottled water, and eventually roared out of control. Damage was done to some of the Terwilliger Hot Springs trails and nearby areas, and the hot springs were closed until July 2019. You might still see some of the fire damage near the trail and pools.
How To Get There
Getting to Terwilliger (Cougar) Hot Springs is easy enough, but we highly recommend you check the road conditions before you travel as this is definitely an area of the country that suffers from heavy weather at times!
From Eugene, Oregon, take the OR-126 E (Mckenzie Highway) 52 minutes (46 miles) to the National Forest Service Route 19 (Cougar Dam Road), turn right onto the NF-410, and cross the iron Cougar Dam bridge over the McKenzie River. A few miles further along, turn right onto Aufderheide Drive. Travel on this road toward the Cougar Dam and Cougar Falls (4 miles). Take a break and enjoy the views, then head most of the way along the western bank of the dam until you get to the Terwilliger (Cougar) Hot Springs pay station and small parking lot.
Coming from the east, heading westwards, aim for the town of McKenzie Bridge, from where it’s just a 12.5 mile, 22-minute drive to the Hot Springs pay station and parking lot (and a short and easy walk 0.4 miles west along the Cougar Hot Springs Trail).
Can I Stay There?
No. But there are a lot of options nearby for happy campers.
Try the Cougar Crossing Campground or Sunnyside Campground. Cougar Crossing is south of the reservoir and offers 11 first-come-first-served sites for both RVs or tents at $15/night. They have pit toilets but no drinking water. Sunnyside is tents-only and offers a shady area nestled among the conifers. 10 minutes from Cougar Hot Springs on the east bank of the reservoir is the popular Slide Creek Campground, open between April and September and setting you back just $18/night. It has space for tents, trailers, and RVs, and offers campfire rings and picnic tables, drinking water, pit toilets, a boat ramp, parking, and a swimming beach. Slide Creek is also open for day use ($8 per vehicle, per day) for those wanting to enjoy boating and other water activities on the reservoir.
Reserve your spot at any of the above sites here.
For those seeking more homey comfort, check out the 3-bedroom holiday home “Welcome! Colorful 50’s Ranch in the Heart of Eugene” – which truly lives up to its name and is packed full of positive vibes. You could also check in to the McKenzie Riverside Cottages, near the Belknap Covered Bridge, each boasting balconies that overhang the river.
We also like the picks here for a guaranteed relaxing getaway in the area.
What Else Can I Do In The Area?
Whether you’re looking for some alone time or a family getaway in nature, the Willamette National Forest is packed full of fun things to do and see – from hiking to the numerous waterfalls, fishing, and cycling, to horseback riding, boating on the reservoir and waterskiing.
For more hot springs, check out “nature’s own hot tub” at the beautiful Bigelow Hot Springs, just 31 miles away, or take an easier approach to your next soak and book into the Belknap Hot Springs Resort, which boasts its own hot mineral pool. Other Oregon soaks we recommend are the Jerry Johnson Hot Springs, and a hot springs which is ideal for a primitive road- and riverside break – Juntura.
Four levels of hot springs magic cascade a gorge in this wooded wonderland. Get there early to grab your spot – each pool offers a different temperature as you move downhill from the source. Forget civilization for a while- soak in the blue depths surrounded by the green of nature, totally off the grid. Where better to relax and rewind?
Don’t miss out on other Oregon hot springs well worth your visit:
The Dos And Don’ts Of Visiting A Hot Springs
Every hot springs has its own quirks. Visitors to Terwilliger Hot Springs, for example, should travel with food, water, and the right shoes for both the trail walk and some rock scrambling, and should be prepared for nudity. 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 Terwilliger Hot Springs (also known as the Cougar Hot Springs) is in the Willamette National Forest, Oregon, on the edge of the Cougar Reservoir. The nearest town is McKenzie Bridge.
The drive from Lincoln City to Terwilliger Hot Springs is around 3 hours and 15 minutes (174 miles) via Salem and Eugene.
There are four pools at Terwilliger Hot Springs, cascading down a gorge and separated by rock walls. The top pool is the biggest and has an average temperature of 112°F. The lowest pool (furthest away from the hot springs source) is around 85°F.
Yes. $7 for a two-hour soak. There is a self-pay cabin at the entrance to the trailhead. Sometimes it is manned, sometimes not, in which case you have to leave your notes in an envelope labeled with your car license number. The pools are well-maintained and popular, so you shouldn’t overstay your time.
Yes. In past years there have been landslides and a wildfire in the area. At the time of writing, the Terwilliger Hot Springs are open and the trailhead can be accessed by car and on foot.
Yes. You can take your pet on the trail on a leash, but not near or into the pools.
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!