We recently took a weekend birthday trip to Belknap Hot Springs. We usually like to camp, but we had already winterized our little trailer, so we got a lodge room and brought our little 4-footed friend, Rogen along for the ride.
The reviews on the lodge and service were not so great, so we arrived with somewhat low expectations. When we pulled up, we saw huge timber beams at the front of the lodge and wood carvings of bears on the benches outside, where people were taking selfies. People were having fun, so thumbs up already. We checked in, with great, friendly service (contrary to reviews), and headed to the room. The room had a lot of potential with a huge stone fireplace on the back wall. It was not wood burning, but instead filled with a small electric heater. Its cord couldn't reach any outlets though. The bed was comfy, and the bathroom was doable, but if you're a clean-freak, like me, you'll find things to activate your OCD. It's no Hilton, just be warned. It's a spa lodge room straight from the 80's.
Because there is also a campground here, and there's not really any food close-by, we will surely opt to camp here next time (oh yes, we're going back). Bringing our own food and accommodations. The campground was fantastic looking, with some great sites. It is perched up on a hill behind the lodge and also houses many cabins (that seem to have better reviews). The upper tier has another, smaller hot pool, access to the McKenzie River trail, fields for play and a Japanese garden to explore. It would have been the perfect trip if we had the trailer. That said, it was still pretty magical. Read on.
This place is beyond-words beautiful. The grounds are so expansive and there are so many trails that it's really easy to get lost, even within the campground. We crossed the bridge to explore some of these upon arrival. We came across many hike-in campsites that were so secluded that I'm sure you'd never even know anyone else was out there next to you...even with the leaves off the trees.
There's a secret garden, which, oddly and awesomely, they tout, but don't tell you where it is, or show it on the map. With the light getting low, we headed past the camp sites and found grassy fields in the middle of no-where, and trials that split upon split upon split. It was getting darker and we weren't too sure of where we were, so we started to head back. We ran into a huge cement turret overlooking a stream, seemingly for no reason. Then I saw a cement wall, all covered with ivy and moss, and I screamed "Hang on!". I ran past the wall to reveal the beauty of the secret garden. It's so huge, you'd wonder how we (or anyone) missed it. It's truly secret, so I only shared a couple photos.
HOT SPRING POOLS
Okay, so the room was meh, but the pools are what we are here for, right? Well, the pools are magical. There are two pools. One pool is at the main lodge and the other is up the hill with the trailer sites and cabins. The lower pool is larger. We never made it up to the upper pool, but the lower pool was perfect for us. During the day, steam rose up and the rain came down, keeping us the perfect temperature. In the evening, the pool lights change color and create a really dreamy atmosphere with all the steam rising in it's varying colors. It's a bit more mellow past 8pm or so, as the kids have gone to bed, and the day users are mostly back on the road. Adults had beverages. I asked about that, because the literature stated "no alcoholic beverages at the pool", but the front desk said it's a "don't ask, don't tell" kind of thing. So red-cup it! Don't bring glass, so much stone, and bare feet.
HIKE TO THE BLUE POOL
There are quite a few trailheads around Belknap Hot Springs if you're up for some activity. The trailhead for the Blue Pool hike is just a couple of miles away, as is Tamolitch Falls. We see a lot of waterfalls being so close to the Columbia River Gorge, so, we opted for the Blue Pool. I've always wanted to see this. Check! Easy hike along the river with a little bit of scrambling over lava flows and some puddles. Like 200 feet of elevation gain. There were people running the trail, as well as mountain biking and hiking. We hit a great sunny afternoon and the view was worth it. You can hike down below, but once again, we were running low on light, so we turned around.
Hope this helps you get more familiar with just one more of Oregon's wonders. Let me know if you have any questions I can answer!