Volcanoes do more than spruce up our natural skyline—all that geothermic activity underground also produces the hot springs that feed rustic pools of river rock or the facilities of sleek resorts. Access issues, natural disasters, and Covid have closed a number of hot springs across the Northwest, but here's where you can still soak in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia.
Goldmyer Hot Springs
It's a long way to Seattle's closest hot springs—including six miles of rough, potholed, unpaved road in the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River east of North Bend, then more than four miles by foot into the forest. Not to mention that soakers must score a hard-to-get $20 reservation via a monthly lottery. But those who make it find a cluster of stone pools straight out of a fairy tale, the mineral waters emerging from an old mine shaft at 125 degrees. The soaking pools themselves linger closer to 100, a comfortable temperature in the damp Cascades, with a nearby waterfall in Burnt Book Creek providing a soothing soundtrack.
Sol Duc Hot Springs
Not all springs demand an arduous journey; the Olympic National Park's developed resort pumps hot water into three swimming pools of cement and tile near Port Angeles. The forested foothills of the Olympics tower above a spot first used by the Quileute Tribe. A series of short hikes from the area pair well with a swim; this is the very damp, very green part of the Northwest. The resort is closed in winter, but from spring through fall visitors can buy daily access (though overnight visitors to the cabins get in free).
Olympic Hot Springs
Picture the opposite of Sol Duc: a natural pool far in the Olympic evergreens, water unfiltered and uncontrolled. Washouts mean that the only access comes with a hike from a trailhead near the Elwha River west of Port Angeles, currently more than 10 miles each way due. The back-to-nature vibe contrasts with the possibility of bad bacteria in the waters, but intrepid adventurers can get the spot to themselves.
Carson Hot Springs
The soaking process in the historic Carson Hot Springs Resort near the Columbia River has a nineteenth century sanatorium feel. Visitors get a clawfoot tub to themselves in a 1930s bathhouse and are then wrapped in linen meant to warm and soothe. A more modern mineral therapy pool sits at 104 degrees (too hot for kids) with a touch of chlorine.
Harrison Hot Springs
Harrison Hot Springs, BC
The history of the warm waters east of Vancouver, British Columbia, is long and colorful—gold miners, First Nations people, and a poker winner under pressure. Only guests of the lakefront Harrison Hot Springs Resort can use the five pools on the property, filled with water from the underground spring, but a public pool is open to all (though temporarily shut for pandemic reasons). Harrison Lake itself provides boating and bird watching aplenty, and Sasquatch is rumored to wander the region.
Breitenbush Hot Springs
Hot springs are famous for their free-love vibe, exemplified by Breitenbush Hot Springs, both posh and unapologetically hippie and once home to seven pools. Dramatically impacted by 2020 wildfires—more than 70 buildings burned down—it has re-emerged with new offerings, including outdoor clawfoot soaking tubs. Some of the original pools remain, with fewer guests using them. The resort still serves vegetarian meals, and a few yurt and rustic shelter accommodations remain. A rebuilding effort will take awhile but Breitenbush hopes to make a full recovery.