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4A ❚ WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2018 ❚ APPEAL TRIBUNE
Life in the Valley
The bridge leading to Bagby Hot Springs can become snow covered in winter. PHOTOS BY HALVOR TWETO / OUTDOOR PROJECT
getting to these
Zach Urness Salem Statesman Journal
USA TODAY NETWORK
In the depths of Oregon’s chilly
and rain-soaked winter, few things
sound better than dipping into hot
springs deep in the wilderness.
The desire for that experience
brings a lot of people to Bagby and
Umpqua hot springs, two of the
most popular soaking spots in Ore-
The problem is that both can be
impacted by snowstorms during
winter, causing multiple problems
for those trying to visit and those
managing the site.
Bagby Hot Springs is a collec-
tion of wooden bathhouses and
soaking pools in a remote area of
Mount Hood National Forest be-
tween Estacada and Detroit.
Hot springs water that reaches
138 degrees rolls into both private
cedar tubs and public whiskey-
keg-style soaking tubs, all within
an idyllic old-growth forest setting.
The problem is that roads to
Bagby are not maintained through
winter, meaning that once the
snow falls, safe access is question-
able at best.
A number of people were
stranded on snow-covered roads
last winter en route to Bagby and
required assistance from the
Clackamas County Sheriff ’s Office
to get dislodged or towed.
“Last year, many people re-
quired assistance when they went
farther than they should have,”
Mount Hood National Forest
spokeswoman Laura Pramuk said.
“Visitors should be aware that even
a few inches of snow can obscure
icy roads and soft shoulders where
vehicles can become stuck.
“The forest strongly discour-
ages visitors from attempting to
drive or hike in once the roads are
snow covered,” she said.
The tricky thing is that, at an el-
evation of between 2,200 to 2,400
feet, it’s not always clear when
snow has made the roads to Bagby
inaccessible. This year, for exam-
ple, there was little snow that on
those roads until the most recent
storm. In other years, the snow can
pile up as early as late November.
Bagby Hot Springs makes an alluring but troublesome place to visit in during the colder months.
The best way to get good infor-
mation is a call to the Clackamas
Ranger Station, Pramuk said, at
Even if there is snow on the
roads, people often park at snow-
line and attempt to hike, snowshoe
or ski to the hot springs. That can
be a trip as far as 7 miles one-way
— 14 miles round trip — and there’s
no cell phone service.
“People tend to underestimate
the difficulty of the journey to the
hot springs,” Pramuk said. “We
recommend that visitors stop at or
call to ascertain if a trip to Bagby
Hot Springs is safe to undertake.”
Although the hot springs remain
open year-round, once the roads
are impassible, the concessionaire
at Bagby stops assisting visitors,
monitoring for hazards, maintain-
ing the site or monitoring the area.
“Often times people abuse the
site due to its remoteness and lack
of constant oversight,” Pramuk
said. “There are instances of mis-
behavior during the winter, and we
depend upon visitors to police
themselves so that everyone en-
If people do park on the road
and attempt to go in on foot, they
must not block the road. Finding a
good place to pull off the road far
enough can be challenging with
snow on the sides of the road.
Bagby isn’t the only place where
access can be an issue.
Umpqua Hot Springs, east of
Roseburg, is another popular spot
that is sometimes blocked by
When enough snow piles up at
2,500 feet, officials close a gate just
past the junction of Forest Roads
34 and 3401. That means people
who want to visit must hike, ski or
snowshoe 1.5 miles of road to the
trailhead and then another steep
quarter-mile of snowy trail to ac-
cess the pools.
This year, officials haven’t
closed the gate to Umpqua because
not enough snow has fallen.
To find out if the gate has been
closed or re-opened as well as local
weather and driving conditions,
call or visit the Toketee Ranger Sta-
tion at 541-498-2531 or 541-496-
4020. It is open weekdays from 8
a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Zach Urness has been an out-
doors writer, photographer and
videographer in Oregon for 10
years. He is the author of the book
“Hiking Southern Oregon” and can
be reached at zurness@Statesman-
Journal.com or (503) 399-6801.
Find him on Twitter at @ZachsO-