Is it safe to visit Bagby Hot Springs?
June 7, 2013 1:13 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend and I are going to Portland next week for the first time, and had been planning to take a day to drive out to the Bagby Hot Springs (she was thrilled when she found out they're the springs featured in Old Joy). Upon researching further, I discovered that it doesn't have the greatest reputation in terms of safety. But, much of what I read was from years ago, and it's difficult to an find up-to-date state of things. For those who have been there recently, is it a reasonably safe trip?

My strategy for minimizing the chance of trouble is to go during a non-peak time: early in the morning, on a weekday. I've read about cars being vandalized and/or broken into in the parking lot, so clearly I will leave no valuables there, will leave the empty glovebox open, etc. Any other info would be appreciated. Thanks!
posted by (lambda (x) x) to Travel & Transportation around Portland, OR (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think your precautions sound adequate and fine, especially going first thing in the morning.

I haven't been out there since it started being managed by a private company, but I understand there is greater ranger presence now.

Be prepared to pay $5, and to be asked to cover up in the communal tubs if kids are present.
posted by ottereroticist at 1:35 PM on June 7, 2013

I went with a friend (and my 12 year old and her 9 year old) last year on a weekend and it was fine. I didn't like the vibe (people in the communal tubs did not seem to want to be communal and there were unleashed dogs) and the non-communal tubs are too small for 4 people (especially a wiggly little kid)! So it was a bit of a meh trip for me. But, I didn't feel unsafe. And the hike up is pretty nice.
posted by vespabelle at 1:43 PM on June 7, 2013

Best answer: I go out there at least a couple times a year. I've become pretty familiar with it and the laws because my friend produces an overnight Midsummer Night's Dream production there in the summer at the hot springs.

It's completely safe. I wouldn't worry about that. It was recently sold to a private company, which has it's ups and downs, but two of the ups are 1) it's cleaner and 2) there's a ranger there everyday (he's really nice, btw, brings his cute dog and mostly just feeds birds and stuff). You have to pay$5 now, but totally worth it. He hangs out in the parking lot, so your car will be totally fine. Most of the problems they used to have were folks having bit parties out there on weekend nights and leaving all their beer cans everywhere. There is still some of that, but much less, and really is only an issue after dark. Even then, it's not as scary as it is just not as much fun.

The only thing is you may have to wait a bit for a tub. I recommend using one of the more private, two person tubs if it's just you and your girlfriend. The communal area is fun, but it's, you know, communal. Yes, there are unleashed dogs. Yes, there is nudity (the "no more nudity" thing that went into effect with the private management company is not really enforced). Yes, you may get all sorts of folks up there, but it's an outdoor, hippie hot spring place, so, you know, you gotta roll with it.

The hike is lovely. The tubs are fantastic. It's a great spot. I highly recommend doing the short hike past the springs as well to check out the waterfall. Also, you will need to put more buckets of the cold water in your tub than you think.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:13 PM on June 7, 2013

I went there before the sale to a private company and personally, I'd welcome that.

Here's my summation:
The "hike" is 1 mile almost exactly to the inch on a path that is nearly ADA accessible. It's super easy.

Sometimes it can be nice and relaxing, getting a private room if they aren't all taken. But they are were dirty, covered in graffiti and some of the log tubs have holes that have been plugged up with an old T-shirt (gross). The communal tubs are either ok or filled with dirty crusties punks having an orgy and letting their dogs off-leash run around. It got kind of trashy at times because there was no ranger/park service to clean up irresponsible people (it was run by volunteers at the time). On the other end you get middle-aged Oregonians that look like college professors naked.

I've never heard anyone "cover up" when kids were around. It was usually pretty accepted that this is a nudity zone, so if you bring kids deal with it. Oregon has no laws preventing public nudity, even in Portland there's a city owned public beach that is fully nude that entire nudist families will go to.

It was totally safe and I wouldn't worry about it, even back then. Probably much nicer now that it costs $5 and is run by a company.

The hot spring is actually a tiny trickle. It's aquaducted down to the private rooms and the communal tubs that fill up. You go to the creek down the way and get an a few empty buckets to add cold water to balance it out.
posted by wcfields at 4:20 PM on June 7, 2013

I love it there! Both recent times I've gone at an off time on a day during the week, so I think that helped. It can be kind of annoying when it's crowded and you have to wait for a tub. If you are just going with your girlfriend try and get one of the private stall tubs. I think they beefed up parking lot security or something recently, but it's always a good idea not to leave valuables in plain sight in your car, wherever you might be.
posted by medeine at 6:50 PM on June 7, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you all for your great answers!
posted by (lambda (x) x) at 3:17 AM on June 8, 2013

Response by poster: Just a follow-up for posterity. We went on Thursday morning and it was great, actually better than I expected. If you're at all worried like I was, don't be!
posted by (lambda (x) x) at 6:27 PM on June 16, 2013

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