Hiking Hot Springs in the Pacific Northwest
by Evie Litton (Falcon Guides)
© Evie Litton/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.
The parking lot is closed now. To access the hot springs, you have to park at the hot springs resort, on the west side of the river, then walk behind the hotel up the trail, keeping right at the intersections, until you get to the sketchy suspension bridge 100 feet over the raging river and dam. The bridge has a soft metal floor and chain link fence on the sides, about 3 feet high. It sways a lot, and there are signs that say Danger Keep Out. You have to cross the bridge and then follow the trail downstream along the cliffs to get to the hot springs now. You should have a tarp or something to get the water flow right for the big pool, it was cold when we got there, there were some nice hot pools, but there were some clear water worms in there. The best pool we found was this little thing next to the river, with enough room to stick our butts in, with a nice flat rock for a back rest, with a good view of the river and this bird that was fishing by flying with its head in the water, creating a water bubble around it. One of our party tried to swim across the river on the way back, and she almost got swept away. The current is strong. It was an adventure.
Actually, the trail is now private property and you have to make arrangements with the Gundersons in the green house at the top of the drive to purchase a day pass. I didn't learn this until after giving up (called a number on the trail and got a response afterwards).
The views of the Columbia gorge are excellent from most parts of this trail. You can see Beacon Rock and parts of Eastern Oregon on a clear day. Even though the trail is well-maintained, expect a lot of steep switchbacks. The trail is in the forest canopy for most of the hike but in the last .5-.75 miles the trail will follow along the grassy southern side of Dog Mountain. Be prepared for sudden storms and very high winds (passing hikers warned me not to be blown off the mountain, seriously!) This trail has the potential of being 5-9 miles long depending if you take the loop route (using both new and old Dog Mountain trails or if you use the oneway in/oneway out path on only new Dog Mountain trail. It's definitely worth the hike!
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