Post Summary: Visiting Hart Mountain Hot Springs In Eastern Oregon
Did you know there is a place called the Oregon Outback? This high desert area in southern Oregon is known for expansive views, epic summer thunderstorms, and the refuge brimming with native wildlife.
One of the coolest adventures you can take in this outback area is a visit to the rustic Hart Mountain Hot Springs. This historic, natural pool consists of not one, but TWO pools – each with its own very unique features. Both are worth a visit, and we’re sharing photos from each pool (keep scrolling!).
In this post, we’re sharing everything you need to know about Hart Mountain Hot Springs – from camping nearby, when to visit the pools, and the amazing features of each. Let’s get soaking!
Experience Hart Mountain Hot Springs In Oregon
Tell Me More About Hart Mountain Hot Springs..
Hart Mountain Hot Springs is located within the Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge. It can also be referred to by its infrequently used name, Antelope Hot Springs. Often, visitors come to the refuge for excellent hunting and fishing opportunities. You can also take several scenic open-air hiking trails, and of course, partake in wildlife observation! No matter what brings you to the refuge, you can almost always find groups winding down from the evening’s activities, soaking in the pools.
So, how did Hart Mountain Hot Springs come about? The story goes that a rancher spotted a bubbling spring of water, threw a stick of dynamite on it, and thus, Hart Mountain Hot Springs was created. A little outlandish, but it gets the job done we guess!
What To Pack For An Oregon Hot Springs Trip
Slip-On/Off Shoes: Hart Mountain Hot Springs is easily accessible (no more than a 100-yard walk to the natural pool) but the road and trails are made up of gravel and loose rock. Pack and wear shoes you can easily slip on and off for minimal fussing and maximum soaking. Grab yourself a pair of Teva Universal sandals to wear in and out of the water, or our reader-favorite Ember Mocs for easy outdoor slippers in the winter!
Water Bottle: Water is essential when soaking in hot springs! The temperature of the pools can potentially bring negative effects, so make sure to hydrate often.
Dry Bag: There isn’t a real risk of your items rolling into the pools, but accidents can happen and rain can happen any time of the year! Pack a dry bag to stow away your important items like keys, cell phones, and cameras. You can also bring a big canvas tote, to hold bulky items like towels and coats.
Snacks: Bring easy-to-eat snacks to keep up your energy when soaking. Remember to pack out all your trash, including orange peels and apple cores!
Directions to Hart Mountain Hot Springs
The easiest way to reach Hart Mountain Hot Springs is from Plush, Oregon.
Drive north of Plush and turn right onto Hart Mountain Road (Lake Country Road 3-12) towards Hart Lake. Drive past Hart Lake and continue on the road for 23 miles to the Refuge Headquarters. Between the lake and the headquarters, you will climb up the side of the mountain with incredible views of the wetlands below.
After the headquarters, pass the buildings and follow signs right to Hot Springs Road. Drive 4.4 miles and turn into Hart Mountain Hot Springs, where you will almost immediately see the developed springs on your left. Pass the informational sign and continue right to find free campsites among the trees at Hart Mountain Campground.
You will NOT have any cell service around Hart Mountain, so make sure to download your map before you head out.
Want to get more navigation tools for your road trip? Download These 15 Essential Road Trip Planning Apps Before Your Next Adventure
Hart Mountain Hot Springs Distances:
- Distance from Medford, Oregon: 241 miles, 5-hour drive
- Distance from Bend, Oregon: 232 miles, 5-hour drive
- Eugene, Oregon to Hart Mountain Hot Springs: 308 miles, 6-hour drive
When Is The Best Time To Visit Hart Mountain Hot Springs?
Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge is open year-round. Frenchglen Road, Hart Mountain Road, Blue Sky Road, and Hot Springs Road are maintained in all seasons, and 4-wheel drive is not required, but strongly recommended.
Personally, we think late summer and fall are the best times to visit Hart Mountain Hot Springs. This is when the temperature can drop pretty low in the evenings, making your hot dips even cozier! Keep in mind that while this is a year-round accessible Oregon hot springs, but each season brings its challenges. Heavy snowfall in winter can make the road impossible, and similarly, heavy rain can compromise the gravel road.
Weather, storms, and snowpack can affect road safety, so it’s important to always check road conditions and the forecast before you head out. Click here to stay updated on the most current road conditions.
Planning a Winter Road Trip? Pack These 12 Essentials In Your Winter Car Emergency Kit
Enjoying Hart Mountain Hot Springs
This Oregon refuge hosts two unique pools, each with their own cool features! Below, we’re breaking down both pools do you can decide which one is best for you.
The Stone-Wall Pool
The walled pool is the developed hot springs, with 4-foot tall stone walls surrounding the pool. There is a concrete area surrounding the pool’s edge, with two wooden benches to place your items.
This 8 by 11-foot pool is large enough for a small group of people, and is VERY deep! Being 5’2″, I had to make sure to hang on to the edge, or stretch my feet on carefully placed rocks on the bottom to keep from going into a full water tread.
It’s said that some areas are up to 6-7 feet deep, so keep an eye on any children you bring. There aren’t any places to sit down, so your options are standing, sitting on the edge with your feet in the water, or hanging on to the ladder!
While this pool is often labeled as ‘developed,” it’s really only talking about the surrounding stone structure. The pool is very much natural, so you will get the full Oregon hot springs experience – just with a little more privacy! (This reminded me of the private but natural pool at Alvord Hot springs, too!) The heat source is from the bottom, with a steady stream of minerals and oxygen bubbling to the surface.
If you are visiting in the winter months, this pool is a great option to keep you away from the wind chill.
Hart Mountain Hot Springs Photo Tip: Want to capture the entire pool with your camera? Make sure to choose a wide lens – we prefer our 16-35mm lens. Go Pro cameras are also a great option, and significantly cheaper than a new camera lens. They are small and compact, and also have a very wide lens to capture the entire pool.
The Natural Pool
Looking for a more passive relaxing experience? The natural pool at Hart Mountain is much more shallow than the stone-walled one! It’s big enough to fit about 3-4 people comfortably and has a sandy gravel bottom. This primitive pool is warmer than the developed one, with bubbles coming from the floor of the pool.
The pool may not be easily seen from the road, but if you walk from the stone-walled pool towards the meadow, you will quickly be able to find the small trail. The pool is about 100 yards from the road.
It’s important to keep to the small trail, and not veer off into the meadows. The ground is uneven, sometimes with pockets of hot water. In the early morning, you can look over the surrounding meadows to see steam rising around you!
We loved this pool for its incredible views of Hart Mountain and the surrounding landscape. The wildflowers and low brush filled the field with color, completely immersing yourself in the natural landscape of the Oregon desert.
Camping at Hart Mountain Hot Springs
There are plenty of opportunities to camp around Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge, and best of all, they are free! The best time to plan a camping trip here is between summer and fall, ideally between June and October to get the best weather.
Hart Mountain Campground is a first-come-first-serve campground. There is no reservation system, so if you are coming during a busy time of year (summer), come early to get a higher chance of securing a spot! These are primitive spots, with one vault toilet and NO water available.
Because Hart Mountain is a high desert area, temperatures and weather can sometimes be extreme. If you are visiting Hart Mountain Hot Springs in the shoulder season, be prepared for warm days, but very cold nights (freezing night temperatures can happen any time of the year!).
There are vaulted toilets in the area, so you don’t have to worry about doing your business in the woods. It’s always a good idea to pack extra toilet paper though – these bathrooms can sometimes be maintained infrequently.
What Else Is There To Do Around Hart Mountain?
The hot springs may be the most well-known of the things to do in Hart Mountain, but there is still so much to do and see in the area. Here are some tips on visiting Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge to get the most out of your trip to this amazing Oregon outback!
Hart Lake – Hart Lake is a stable and shallow lake, popular for boating and fishing. You can easily access the water at the day-use recreation site at the north end of Hart Lake at Hart Bar.
Warner Wetlands –The Warner Wetlands are a unique feature in Eastern Oregon, home to diverse wildlife, including birds like the Sandhill cranes, Tundra Swans, and White-Faced Ibis.
Hart Mountain Hiking Trails – Hiking trails in Hart Mountain include some of the most secluded but scenic trail systems in Eastern Oregon. Some of the most accessible include Lynch’s Rim Hike, Poker Jim Ridge Hike, Willow Creek Hike, and DeGarmo Canyon Hike.
Wildlife Viewing – The most popular wildlife to view in Hart Mountain is the pronghorns and birds, but there are over 300 species to find in the refuge! Use this road map system to plan your route, and find more animals to view, including bighorn sheep, snakes, mule deep, and burrowing owls, and sage grouse.
Canoeing – During years with high water levels, you can actually take the canoe trip of a lifetime – The Ten Mile Warner Valley Canoe Trail. This trail connects several pothole lakes and the Warner Wetlands for a truly incredible experience in Hart Mountain.
Other Things To Do In Eastern Oregon
Is Hart Mountain Hot Springs just one of many stops on your Eastern Oregon road trip? (Or are you planning your own epic Oregon road trip around the whole state?) No matter what your reason is for visiting, here are some other cool things to do around Eastern Oregon:
Alvord Hot Springs: Alvord Hot Springs is a natural pool, hosted on private land. You can visit for the day and soak for $8 a person, or stay overnight and have 24-hour access to the pools.
Crater Lake National Park: Crater Lake National Park is Oregon’s only national park, located west in the Southern Cascade Mountains. This is a great stop for family trips, where you can take the scenic Rim drive, take short hikes, and stop at incredible viewpoints.
Leslie Gulch: Leslie Gulch is a fragile and beautiful area of the Owyhee Canyonlands, located about a 2-hour drive from the nearest city. This isolated spot is a great stop for photography lovers, desert trails, and boating around the Owyhee Reservoir.
Boise, Idaho: An easy nearby city to travel to from Hart Mountain Hot Springs is Boise, Idaho. Here, you can enjoy incredible restaurants, hiking trails around the city, and amazing events year-round. Use the city as a launching pad to explore more amazing weekend getaways from Boise!
Willow Creek Hot Springs: Willow Creek Hot Springs is another Eastern Oregon hot springs located in the high desert. Its isolated location and long drive mean that only the dedicated get to experience it! It is one of the least visited springs in Oregon, and the best time to visit is between March and October.