Post Summary: Visiting Willow Creek Hot Springs In Eastern Oregon (And What To Expect)
A hidden gem is waiting for you in Southeast Oregon, and it’s tucked away deep in the wilderness of Oregon’s high desert. Willow Creek Hot Springs is in an isolated part of the state, which is perfect if you’re looking to escape the crowds and experience the quiet solitude of nature.
This single pool has hosted many – from hot spring seekers to antelope hunters to desert-loving campers. It’s truly a treasure, and we want to share it all with you, here!
If you are planning an Eastern Oregon road trip, don’t skip out on this amazing Oregon hot springs! In this post, we’re sharing what to expect at Willow Creek Hot Springs, how to get there, and tips on getting the most out of your trip to the desert.
Experience Willow Creek Hot Springs In Eastern Oregon
Tell Me More About Willow Creek Hot Springs…
Willow Creek Hot Springs is a natural spring, located in the very southeastern part of Oregon. It consists of one large pool, split into two separate sides by a manmade concrete wall. One side is warmer and cleaner, and the other side is cooler and has cloudier water.
Occasionally, you can also hear this Oregon hot springs referred to as Whitehorse Ranch Hot Springs. Whitehorse Ranch is the name of the historic cattle ranch in the area, and this is likely what locals began to call it in the beginning. Before the ranchers settled in the area, the land was inhabited by the indigenous Northern Paiute of the high desert.
The pool is about waist-deep (30 inches) and has a sandy bottom. There are several large boulders immersed in the pool, at the ideal height for sitting. The rocks can be slippery from the algae lining some rocks, so always take caution getting in and out of the pools.
What To Pack For A Desert Hot Springs Trip
Packing for a hot springs trip often tends to include the same things – towel, sandals…you get the gist. However, this pool is unique in a lot of ways, so we’re sharing what you need to bring to have a safe and fun trip!
Garmin inReach, or satellite communicator: A communicator isn’t a necessity, but rather a really great ‘just-in-case’ for emergency situations. There isn’t any cell service at Willow Creek!
Hat and Shade Source: The pool provides ZERO shade. There are no nearby trees in the area either, so it’s very important that you have some kind of way to provide an escape from the sun. Bring a wide-brimmed hat to wear in the pool, and some sort of umbrella or lean-to to sit under when you get out.
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! You can also bring electrolyte packets, but make sure to pack out your trash if you do so.
Slip-On/Off Shoes: Willow Creek Hot Springs is easily accessible from the main BLM roads, but you may have to take a short walk from your campsite. 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!
Dry Bag: Because of the easy accessibility of Willow Creek, there isn’t a necessity for a dry bag, but we suggest using one to have peace of mind. There is always a risk for items rolling into the water! 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 or extra clothes.
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 Willow Creek Hot Springs
Just imagine the polar opposite location of Portland, Oregon, and that’s where Willow Creek Hot Springs is located. It’s deep in the Oregon High Desert, with miles and miles of sagebrush, bluebunch wheatgrass, and beautiful Oregon Sunshine flowers.
This Eastern Oregon hot spring is located in the dead center of Whitehorse Ranch Lane, about 26 miles west from Highway 95 and 26 miles east from the Highway 205 junction. This road is completely dirt and gravel, but is well maintained year-round.
The biggest challenge is the last bit of road, 2.5 miles on soft dirt, which can be impassable after a heavy rain or wet weather.
Winter Travel: We do not recommend visiting Willow Creek Hot Springs in the winter, or the rainy season. Whitehorse Ranch Lane is maintained year-round, but the final 2.5 mile stretch of road to the springs is often filled with potholes, and soft mud – the perfect trap for cars. There is no cell service for miles, so it’s not worth the risk.
Distance to Willow Creek Hot Springs:
- Boise, Idaho to Willow Creek Hot Springs: 175 miles – 3-hour 25-minute drive
- Distance From Bend, Oregon: 269 miles – 4-hour 30-minute drive
- Portland, Oregon to Willow Creek Hot Springs: 423 miles – 7-hour 30-minute drive
The hot springs turnoff road is very easy to miss as you drive by because there is no signage. To make sure you reach Willow Creek Hot Springs, we recommend saving these coordinates on Google Maps and downloading an offline map of the area (directions on how to do that in this post) to assist in locating it.
If you are simply coming for a day soak, the ‘parking lot’ is just a wide gravel area next to the pit toilet. You will pass the hot springs (it’s located on the edge of the road) before reaching the parking lot.
Enjoying Willow Creek Hot Springs
Before visiting Willow Creek, it’s really important to brush up on your hot springs etiquette. These are simple and easy to follow tips for keeping the area clean, and respecting other visitors and they enjoy the pools too! Thank you for being a good steward of these natural resources!
Okay, now back to the pool descriptions…
Like stated above, Willow Creek Hot Springs is one pool, split into two separate sections. One side is warmer (102 degrees) and clearer, and the other side is a bit cooler (between 85 and 95 degrees) and cloudier. There are plenty of ways to enjoy this high desert treat, so we’re highlighting some of our favorite things to do below:
Go During the Weekdays
Like any good Oregon hot springs, you are likely to see fewer people visiting pools during the weekdays. At Willow Creek hot springs, you definitely won’t see the volume of visitors like at the popular Umpqua Hot Springs. However, expect to see at least one of two adventurous soakers, and that will make it even sweeter when you end up being the only ones here!
Bring Drinks in Cans, Not Bottles
No matter your choice libations, make sure it’s in a reusable cup/mug or in a can. Absolutely DO NOT bring any glass bottles near the pool. Broken glass is very difficult to clean up completely, and can be a danger to future visitors if left behind.
For us, we woke up early to brew some coffee at our campsite to enjoy in the pools. It was really fun to sip, chat, and watch the sunrise with the pool all to ourselves!
Get Up Early For a Sunrise Soak
And that brings us to the best times to soak…we think morning soaks are the best! Morning temperatures are often cool in the desert (even in the summer months) so a nice warm dip in the pool is refreshing and relaxing.
We stayed long enough to watch the sunrise and then went back to our campsite to cook breakfast. Sunset is also a great time to visit Willow Creek Hot Springs. Later in the evening is generally a more popular time to soak, so you can expect to meet some new friends sharing the pool with you.
Camp In The Area
While it’s totally possible to come to visit Willow Creek Hot Springs for the day, we would recommend staying overnight in the nearby campsites! These are free camping sites (you can stay here for up to 14 days) so it’s very easy to make a fun weekend trip of your visit. Staying overnight will give you extra time to soak in the pool, so you don’t have to worry about driving home in the dark.
Other Things To Do Near Willow Creek Hot Springs
Is Willow Creek Hot Springs just one of many stops on an Eastern Oregon road trip? No matter what your reason is for visiting, here are some other cool things to do in the desert:
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. Alternatively, you can 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! 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. It’s located about a 2-hour drive from the nearest city of Boise, Idaho. This isolated spot is a great stop for photography lovers, desert trails, and boating around the Owyhee Reservoir.
Boise, Idaho: The closest big city to Willow Creek 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!
Hart Mountain Hot Springs: Hart Mountain Hot Springs is another Eastern Oregon hot springs in the high desert. Located on an antelope refuge, the area consists of two pools. One with high stone walls and the other 100 yards away in the ground. Here, you can enjoy free camping, gorgeous wildflowers, and other ways to explore the high desert landscapes nearby.