The ever-so-popular Umpqua Hot Springs are one of Southern Oregon’s main natural attractions. Located in the middle of Umpqua National Forest, these natural hot springs are a welcome stop on the 79-mile North Umpqua Trail, which is open to hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riding. Day visitors, too, can access the springs via the 0.3-mile trail from the day use parking lot.
A hot bath can work wonders on the body and soul. Especially when you can soak in a natural pool, surrounded by forest — you’ll emerge from the water revitalized and re-energized. In theory, that is.
In practice, it’s a different story. Umpqua Hot Springs’ several pools, terraced down toward the river and filled with naturally hot water (up to 108 degrees Fahrenheit), are no secret anymore. In fact, the area is so overused that the U.S. Forest Service had to ban overnight Umpqua Hot Springs camping and even closed the area altogether, temporarily.
This is a remarkable place, but as campers we have a responsibility to keep it that way. It’s still a great destination for an afternoon visit, but there’s room for improvement. Therefore, here are some tips for responsible visits to Umpqua Hot Springs and camping nearby.
7 Visitor Tips for Responsible Umpqua Hot Springs Camping
While the views are nothing short of amazing and the hot pools soothing and relaxing, there have been serious problems with trash, drug use, waste and the overall behavior of some visitors. These tips will help future visitors to improve the overall appearance of the hot springs, hopefully restoring it to the pristine condition in which it deserves to be.
Responsible camping (and tourism in general) are more important than ever in our increasingly hectic modern world. It ensures that we, our children, and their children will have beautiful, natural places to enjoy.
Here is some helpful advice for your own Umpqua Hot Springs camping trip:
1. Carry out whatever you carry in
You should always follow the carry-in, carry-out principle when you go camping and hiking. Whatever you bring with you, make sure to take it back out as well. Don’t leave wraps, cans, containers or food waste—not even an apple core or banana peel. It should be obvious that this potentially spoils an entire area and, not less importantly, it may also attract (unwanted) wildlife such as raccoons or bears.
2. Camp at a nearby campground
Due to people previously camping at the hot springs for weeks on end, partying, cutting down trees for firewood and leaving trash, the U.S. Forest Service has now banned all overnight camping and made Umpqua Hot Springs a day use area. Although some people still appear to ignore this regulation.
“It seems the new rules that have designated Umpqua Hot Springs Trailhead as “day-use only” aren’t quite being listened to by some determined hot springs-loving campers,” reports The Dyrt Camper Megan O. “When I pulled up early on a Friday morning there were several established looking RVs in addition to campers and cars. That took up quite a bit of the parking lot.”
Camping was closed in this area to protect the natural beauty of the hot springs, and it’s important to respect that. Luckily, the excellent Toketee Lake Campground lies just four miles down the road.
The Dyrt Camper Sophie S. found Toketee Lake Campground quiet and pleasant. “I enjoyed the Toketee Lake Campground because it was away from everything and the employees and people were very kind. Our camp spot was very nice, quite, and relaxing. The camp ground wasn’t very full and there were plenty of activities around the area to enjoy.”
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3. Bring a Trash Bag
In addition to carrying out all your own trash, you can help improve the overall look of the area by picking up the trash left by others. Bring an extra trash bag and pick up left-behind trash as you hike in and out. It’s a simple good deed, but if enough people do it, the Umpqua Hot Springs will be back to their original state in no time.
4. Use the Available Vault Toilet
One of the biggest, and arguably grossest, problems at Umpqua Hot Springs apparently was human waste. This was among the main reasons why the U.S. Forest Service decided to ban all camping near Umpqua Hot Springs. There are vault toilets available, so please use them.
5. Pay the $5 Parking Fee
There isn’t always going to be someone checking to make sure visitors have paid their parking fee. But that isn’t a reason to not pay it. Remember that fees in parks are used for trail maintenance, research, and providing services and facilities. It’s a mere $5 anyway—where else could you soak in natural hot springs for that price?
6. Bring a bathing suit — or don’t
Soaking up the Earth’s heat in these cerulean pools is the highlight of a visit to Umpqua Hot Springs. You can choose to embrace the all-natural vibe by soaking in the nude, or wear a suit — either are acceptable so go with whichever makes you comfortable.
The Dyrt Camper Meghan O. writes,”While nudity is definitely on the menu all of the other bathers were quiet courteous and respectful.”
7. Just Be Considerate
Lastly, just be a considerate visitor. You don’t own these hot springs, so don’t act like you do. This beautiful area is meant to be shared by all visitors. So, do your part and keep things clean, be nice to other people, and pay for parking. If the area is used by attentive and thoughtful bathers, it will make the Umpqua Hot Springs even more attractive than they already are.