Girl in Umpqua Hot Springs in Oregon

Oregon

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One could spend months traversing the mountain lakes, river gorges and lush forest trails of Oregon, and still not scratch the surface. Having never been to Oregon and with a layover in nearby Seattle, I decided to make lemonade out of lemons and take in as much evergreen as possible over a one-day road trip through the state. I spent the next 24 hours driving, hiking and swimming through Willamette National Forest and Umpqua National Forest. With gray skies and the temperatures of early spring still frigid, I chose to forego the coast in pursuit of two of my favorite things: waterfalls and hot springs.

Willamette National Forest

Girl hiking waterfall trail in Oregon
Koosah Falls

Deep within Willamette National Forest is a hot spring I had dreamt of visiting ever since dozens of photos made their way onto my Instagram feed. My excitement was quelled, however, when I arrived at a road blockade. Apparently, the road (and the hot spring), had been closed for the past several months due to landslides. In my hasty planning, I had forgotten to check. Luckily, I knew of a nearby hiking trail that ran along dozens of scenic waterfalls. I spent the morning hiking deep in the woods on the McKenzie River Trail, which stretches for 26 miles in its entirety. There are a multitude of natural gems within Willamette National Forest; including Tamolitch Falls (Blue Pool) and Clear Lake. These were sights saved for another trip, in my case. In order to make my final stop before sundown, I had to hit the road.

Toketee Falls

Waterfall
Toketee from below
Girl looks up at Toketee Falls
chasing waterfalls

A 113 foot waterfall on the North Umpqua river left me with little doubt as to why it is one of Oregon’s most famous. Toketee Falls’ overlook is less than a one mile hike from the trailhead and offers a birds-eye view of the 2-tier natural beauty. Beyond the overlook, a makeshift trail of ropes draped over steep drops of dirt and rock lead me to the bottom of the falls. I found myself saturated by a cold mist as the water careened from above the moss covered-basalt cliffs and crashed violently into the pool at my feet. As I hiked out, I eagerly anticipated the relaxing serenity of my final stop of the day, which happened to be just up the road.

Umpqua Hot Springs

Mystical hot spring in the woods in Oregon
Fern Gully

Umpqua Hot Springs is a fairytale collection of geothermal pools situated in the middle of the forest. The warm bluish-green waters spill over the rock face into the North Umpqua River below. Getting to this woodsy oasis was no easy task. During the summer months, the springs sit only a short stroll from the parking lot. In the off season, however, the road is blocked by snow and a 2 mile hike both in and out is required. I found this ideal as it meant the springs were free of other visitors during my time there.

Girl in a hot spring river in Oregon
A hidden spring

With the help of an anchored rope, a climb down the slippery rock face led me to a little pool tucked away next to the river. I spent an hour soaking in the thermal waters and relishing the peaceful atmosphere until the sun began to set. With no ambient light, I quickly found myself in complete darkness as I rushed to climb back up the rocks. Luckily, I brought a headlamp to complete the 2 mile hike out in the dark.

Goodbye Oregon

Upon reaching my car I pushed through exhaustion and began the 7 hour drive back up to Seattle. I left Oregon with a handful of memories and a whole new checklist for another visit. My time spent in solitude at Umpqua Hot Springs was absolutely magical; while I would most likely forgo the springs to the crowds of summer, I would embrace the trek in the off season again without hesitation.

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    • genesis
    • October 7, 2019
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    Wow how lovely I feel like taking a trip there now! ❤️

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