As soon as we heard about Terwilliger Hot Springs we knew we had to visit! A magical lava-fed hot spring in the middle of the Cascade Mountains? Uh, hell yes! This spring is all-natural and hasn’t been commercialized or boxed into a cement pool like other hot springs we had heard about which was a huge draw!
When we were doing our research on the location, we found out that Terwilliger Hot Springs was clothing-optional and visitors were cautioned that nude bathers may be present. Now, nudity, especially in a non-sexualized way, doesn’t bother us. Victoria grew up in a family of nurses and stage performance so body parts are essentially dinner conversation. Terrence has done more than a few nude photoshoots and working with naked people is simply another outlet of artistic expression.
That being said, neither of us have really “hung out” with people in the nude aside from a strictly work or stage perspective. We were intrigued and a little bit tentative. Before we arrived, we both decided that we would be more comfortable if we kept out swimsuits on. We also discussed that this was a Friday afternoon in the “low” season….how many naked people could there possibly be? Man were we wrong!
After a long but scenic drive through the boonies, we arrived at a parking lot overlooking a massive gorge. We walked along the highway for 1/4 of a mile and arrived at a trailhead and fee station. The fee was $6 per person and they are very specific about you having exact change.
During the 10-minute hike to Terwilliger Hot Springs, we walked through a gorgeous old-growth forest and saw some of the largest fallen trees we have ever laid eyes on. The trail was easy and well-worn so walking in flip flops isn’t a problem.
Before we entered the hot spring area, Victoria visited the “restroom” area which was essentially a shack over a dump toilet. Hey, it was better than nothing! While she was in there, Terrence surveyed the hot spring from above. Nothing seemed abnormal, but then he saw it….his first nude man. Then another, then another! It turns out, Friday afternoon was a pretty popular time to hang out in the nude in the middle of the woods.
We were the only clothed people for a good 45 minutes. It actually felt a little strange being the only people in clothes and we didn’t want the nude bathers to feel uncomfortable by our presence. Terwilliger Hot Springs hosted many nude bathers that day, from young male hippies, punk girls, older women, couples, and of course, plenty of old men. There was even a family there with kids ranging from newborn to 16 years old who kept their clothes on but had no problem with exposing their kids to nudity in a non-sexual setting.
While the nude bathers added an interesting dimension to the day, we cannot overstate the natural beauty of the hot springs. These crystal blue pools hung off the side of the mountain in a stair step pattern. The warmest of the five pools was a nice and toasty 110 degrees Faherenheight while the coolest was just 90 degrees. Water cascaded via waterfalls from the source, down to the bottom pool, and then out through streams and waterfalls.
We got in at the second coolest pool. It was most likely around 98* and we got used to the water pretty quickly. After all, the Gulf of Mexico can hit 90 degrees in some summers! The middle pool was full of bathers so we headed to the second hottest pool. This one was the ultimate mixture a hot but comfortable temperature.
While we were sitting in this pool, a good looking young man decided he would sit on the edge, right near our heads, and perform various yoga poses in the nude. Again, we have no problem with nudity, but we weren’t sure we needed to see his junk right at eye level as he performed lotus poses and meditated with legs spread.
After spending 10 minutes with yoga man, we decided to try out our luck with the hottest pool. When they say it is the hottest pool, they weren’t kidding! It was HOT! We were only able to get in waist deep and couldn’t spend more than a few minutes in the pool. An older lady took time to show us a small glacial stream outside the hot spring and the benefits it would provide.
We learned that in order to feel rejuvenated instead of dehydrated after our stay at the springs, it is advised to douse ourselves in a bucket of completely freezing water. This shocks your body temperature back to a normal level and allows you to continue to enjoy the benefits of the hot water. We tried this method out and that water was cold but it totally worked! The springs were far more enjoyable now that our body temperatures were reset!
After about two hours, we decided it was time to say goodbye. During our time at Terwilliger Hot Springs, we only saw one “creepy” guy who seemed to stare at other naked bathers. Other than that, everyone was totally comfortable in their own skin. While the lack of clothing was very noticeable at the beginning of our soak, by the time we left we barely noticed the difference between clothed/nude people. We loved that people could be comfortable in their own skin without nudity being made into something immediately sexual!
If you want to relax naked, this is the place. If you want to enjoy a lava fed hot spring but don’t want the exposure, this is also the place! Soaking at the hot springs will also provide everyday Americans with the important lesson that nudity isn’t always sexual…something many people should desperately learn [breastfeeding shamers…looking at you!] Terwilliger Hot Springs was a magical and memorable adventure that we suggest to everyone!
Would you visit a clothing-optional hot spring? Would you swim in the nude or keep your clothes on?
Special thanks to Eugene, Cascades, and Coast for providing us with a wealth of information on Lane County during our stay and to Travel Oregon for aiding us during our entire trip!
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