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Bagby Hot Springs, Oregon

You could pay a lot for the "spa experience" of Bagby, but you don't need to (other than a $5 day use fee at the parking lot) because Bagby is in the National Forest and overseen by the Forest Service and the volunteer group Friends of Bagby Hot Springs.

This spot has all the trappings of a developed site but retains the rustic charm of a natural hot spring. Two sources feed two separate soaking areas. The higher one has a large wooden tub suitable for groups of eight or ten people. A second area has a building enclosing several private rooms each with a soaking tub and another communal building having a group tub and three hollowed-out logs for individual soaking. Since all the walkways are planked and all the tubs are wood, there is no dirt or mud to deal with in the tubs. And the spring water is virtually odor-free!

The Forest Service has a station building on site and there is a volunteers' cabin for the Friends of Bagby. There are several storage buildings and two outhouses to complete the installation. Don't neglect to see the enormous hollow-out tree stump below the Forest Service building.

Getting there is a piece of cake. From the trail head parking area it is a very gently 1.5 mile hike. Much of the trail is macadamized, the bridges have concrete piers (!), and the final climb to the springs is easily negotiated. I lugged in 40 pounds of camera gear and still made it in 34 minutes.

On the far northern end of the parking area is a Forest Service camping area (you must have a permit to camp), but use extreme caution whether parking overnight or just for the day. Car break-ins are a pretty regular occurance and there is nothing like returning from a soak in a hot spring and finding your car vandalized to jolt you back to reality.