Alvord Hot Springs: How to Get There & What to Expect

Alvord Hot Springs offers an unforgettable soaking experience tucked in southeastern Oregon at the base of Steens Mountain and the Alvord Desert. This guide tells you exactly what to expect, how to get there, what to bring, and more. 

Alvord Hot Springs Oregon (website)
Image source: Alvord Hot Springs

Perched on the edge of the otherworldly Alvord Desert in eastern Oregon, Alvord Hot Springs offers a unique, tranquil soaking experience surrounded by nothing but unspoiled nature. The middle-of-nowhere location feels a bit like you’re on the set of Mad Max, but in a good way!

If you’re up for the adventure (the hot springs are at least three hours from just about anywhere), your efforts will be richly rewarded. 

Alvord Hot Springs has two pools, plus direct access to the famed Alvord Desert playa. There are also a handful of campsites and bunkhouses, which are converted former military bunkers

Alvord Hot Springs Guide

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Alvord Hot Springs overview

Alvord Hot Springs Oregon (website)
Image source: Alvord Hot Springs

For hot springs enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers, it doesn’t get much better than Alvord Hot Springs. These springs are WAY off the beaten path, adjacent to the Alvord Desert playa and Steens Mountain, with near-360 views and hardly anyone around for miles. 

Camp overnight or book one of the former military bunkers, which have heat and electricity. The truly adventurous can even camp directly on the playa!

Day-use visitors are also welcome, although it’s such a trek that most people spend the night. Plus, overnight guests get 24-hour, unrestricted access to the hot springs. 

Alvord Hot Springs stats

Alvord Hot Springs Oregon (website)
Image source: Alvord Hot Springs

Here are all the important things to know about Alvord Hot Springs: 

  • Location: Princeton, Oregon, on the edge of the Alvord Desert
  • Exact Location:
  • Nearest moderately-sized town: Burns, Oregon, 105 miles north, or teeny-tiny Fields (one service station with gas, necessities, and great milkshakes), 23 miles south
  • Access: Drive-up
  • Time of year: Accessible year-round
  • Lodging: 19 campsites and 13 bunkers
  • Type of hot spring: Developed, but extremely rustic
  • Number of pools: 2
  • Water clarity: Extremely clear
  • Temperature (at source): 170 degrees
  • Depth: A few feet; waist-deep for average adults
  • Clothing: Unspecified, but we got the vibe that everyone here wears swimsuits
  • Suitable for children? Yes 

Alvord Hot Springs rates

  • Adults: $20 per person 
  • Children 4-11: Free
  • Children 0-3: Free
  • Seniors 62+, military, & disabled: $20 per person
  • Towel rental: BYO

Quick note: Alvord Hot Springs doesn’t post its pricing online, so this information is based on our personal experience. 

When we were researching our trip, we came across several people who said the rates jumped a lot in the last year — so understand that it may change at any time. 

Book your Alvord Hot Springs experience by filling out the contact form on their official website.

How to get to Alvord Hot Springs

Alvord Hot Springs Oregon

Alvord Hot Springs is truly in the middle of nowhere. It’s 3.5 hours (195 miles) from Boise and four hours (240 miles) from Bend. Despite its remote location, though, the hot springs are fairly easy to reach. 

Coming from either Boise or Bend, you’ll approach the springs from the north. The drive mostly follows highways from either direction, but you will travel nearly 30 miles down a gravel road. It’s well-maintained and manageable for most vehicles, but is VERY slow-going.

Anyone coming from Nevada or northern California will approach from the south, with a much shorter 12-mile stretch of gravel road. 

Due to its remoteness, there are no services anywhere near Alvord Hot Springs — including gas. 

Burns is the closest “big” town (that’s actually very small!), and even that is over 100 miles away. Fields, 23 miles south of the hot springs, has the closest gas and services.

Things to know about visiting Alvord Hot Springs

Alvord Hot Springs Oregon (website)
Image source: Alvord Hot Springs
  • There is (ironically) no running water. With the extremely remote location, plus the fact that soaking in hot springs can dehydrate you, it’s crucial to bring plenty of drinking water.
  • The onsite camp store sells essentials. You’ll find camp necessities and luxuries alike, including firewood, ice, eggs, beer, and fresh local beef from Alvord Ranch.
  • Day-use rates and overnight rates differ. Campsites are $40 per night and bunkhouses are $100, and hot springs access is included in those rates. Again, keep in mind that these rates aren’t posted anywhere and may change at any time.
    • You can also camp directly on the playa. Check in at Alvord Hot Springs and pay the nightly camping fee to get the gate access code. Note that the only time it’s safe to do this is when the playa is totally dry, usually in the summer and fall. 
  • The owners limit day-use when the campgrounds are full. To prevent crowding, day-use visitors could be turned away if the property is booked. Call ahead if you don’t plan to spend the night!
  • The outside pool is significantly hotter than the sheltered one. There are hot and cold water valves to control it, but the process is painstakingly slow, so you can also bring buckets of cooler water from the covered pool.
  • BYOB (bedding). If you book a bunkhouse, bring your own bedding, as it isn’t provided.
  • If you plan to drive on the playa, you need an SUV or truck. The gravel road to the springs is safe for any vehicles, but the playa is a different story. Cars get stuck fairly regularly, but trucks and SUVs with higher clearance fare just fine. 
  • Alvord Hot Springs is dog-friendly. They’re not allowed in the pools, but dogs are welcome everywhere else, including the bunkhouses. 

Alvord Hot Springs FAQs

These are common questions asked about visiting Alvord Hot Springs.

How many pools are there?

Alvord Hot Springs Oregon (website)
Image source: Alvord Hot Springs

There are two pools at Alvord Hot Springs. They’re right next to one another, one completely out in the open and the other enclosed by four metal walls with an open-air roof. 

The outdoor pool is almost unbearably hot, while the semi-enclosed “indoor” pool is significantly cooler. Thankfully, you can (slightly) cool down the outdoor pool by bringing buckets of water over from the other one. 

Each pool seats up to six adults comfortably. And yes, we do mean “seats” — both pools have stools submerged underwater! 

How crowded is Alvord Hot Springs?

Alvord Hot Springs is very literally never crowded. In fact, there’s a chance you’ll have the entire place all to yourself! 

The bunkers and campsites probably fill up on summer weekends and during holidays, but on most nights, there are just a handful of campers. Many past reviews even indicate that people enjoyed the entire property without seeing another soul!

When all the accommodations are booked solid, the owners limit day-use availability, keeping any ‘crowds’ to a minimum. With that said, you may meet other people in the pools themselves, or have to wait a short while to take a private soak. 

Alvord Hot Springs Oregon (website)
Image source: Alvord Hot Springs

When’s the best time of year to visit?

Alvord Hot Springs is open and accessible year-round, but the best time to visit depends on the experience you’re looking for. 

If you’re strictly wanting to soak in the hot springs and get away from the daily grind, we recommend going in the winter or spring. The sky is especially clear, and there’s just nothing quite like soaking outdoors under the stars. 

If you plan to drive or camp on the playa, avoid winter and go during the fall or late spring. Winter is the rainiest month in this part of Oregon (though it still only gets 5-7 inches of rain a year!), and vehicles DO get stuck in the playa. Just ask all the people at Burning Man last year!

Summer is the driest season, but it also gets brutally hot. Combined with the lack of services nearby, and we’d just avoid camping here in the summer to be safe.

Regardless of when you plan your visit, if the playa is on your itinerary, check the forecast for rain before heading out. 

Is Alvord Hot Springs worth visiting?

Alvord Hot Springs Oregon (website)
Image source: Alvord Hot Springs

YES! If you’re someone who likes camping and unique, off-the-beaten path experiences, and you can “rough it” for a night or two, you will absolutely love Alvord Hot Springs. 

The remote setting is an adventure in and of itself, and the utter lack of people is a rarity, particularly among hot springs in the Pacific Northwest. 

The not-so-great parts about Alvord Hot Springs: 

  • It’s a whole new level of remote. Some people, like us, view this as a good thing, but it does come with some drawbacks. There are no services anywhere close in case of an emergency, and visiting requires serious advance planning. 
  • You need to bring everything you’ll want. Where some hot springs have towels and traditional hotel rooms, Alvord Hot Springs provides literally nothing. 
  • There’s no running water. You also need to bring all your own water, factoring in enough for drinking, cooking, and washing up. There is a pit toilet and a cowboy shower, using a bucket filled with water from the hot springs. 
  • There are few rules. RVs can run their generators at all hours and since everyone staying overnight has 24-hour access to the springs, you might not get the private midnight soak you’re hoping for. 

The good parts about Alvord Hot Springs: 

  • Direct access to the playa. The Alvord Desert playa is a major destination on its own, and having direct private access is a huge perk.
  • 24-hour access to the pools. This is a relatively rare perk, even for overnight guests.
  • Incredible stargazing. With NOTHING around for miles and miles, the skies out here are dark and clear.
  • Unique accommodations. How many places can you sleep in a former military bunker or pitch a tent directly on a dry lake bed?!
  • Dog-friendly. If you enjoy road-tripping with your pup, this is a great destination!
  • Decent cell service. Although we recommend unplugging as much as possible, it’s nice to have cell service in such a remote location. 

How much time should you spend at Alvord Hot Springs?

Alvord Hot Springs Oregon (website)
Image source: Alvord Hot Springs

We highly recommend spending at least one night at Alvord Hot Springs, and ideally a whole weekend. It’s a serious trek to get there, regardless of where you’re coming from, and once you do get there, you’re not going to want to leave for awhile. 

Overnight guests also have unrestricted 24-hour access to the pools (another reason to stay!). Day-use visitors don’t have a time limit, but are required to leave at sunset. 

If you’re not staying overnight, plan for a full day with driving back and forth, plus an hour or two in the pools. 

What to pack for Alvord Hot Springs

  • Tons of drinking water (plus extra if you’re staying overnight, for washing and cooking)
  • A full gas can, just in case
  • Swimsuit
  • Towel
  • Closed-toed shoes for walking to and from the pools
  • A headlamp or flashlight for walking around the property at night
  • Bed linens and extra blankets if you book a bunkhouse 

Things to do nearby

Alvord Desert Oregon

For such a remote, desolate-seeming area, there’s a surprising amount of exploring to do in the area around the hot springs.

  • Drive on the playa: This is a highlight for many people, the opportunity to drive on a huge, wide-open dry lake bed. In fact, multiple land speed records have been set here! People do race and drive recklessly, so be extremely careful, especially in the middle.
    • Do not drive on the playa after recent rain, or if rain is in the forecast. We can’t emphasize this enough — you WILL get stuck, and it could take several days to recover your vehicle.
  • Camp on the playa: If you’re comfortable boondocking, this is an unforgettable experience. Again, avoid any chance of rain, and know that it’s almost always very windy. Camp along the edges to reduce the wind, plus avoid anyone racing.
  • Visit other hot springs. Southeastern Oregon is a literal bed of geothermal activity, so there are other springs (somewhat) nearby. Check out undeveloped Mickey Springs 30 minutes south or Crystal Crane Hot Springs, near Burns.
  • Hike Pike Creek Trail: This 5.6-mile out-and-back trail, just two miles from the hot springs, goes up a box canyon and shows off panoramic views of Steens Mountain. Stop by the office to get a wilderness permit before heading out.
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Alvord Hot Springs | Go Wander Wild
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