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A great place in rural central Oregon for a weekend trip to relax and let your worries float away in a hot spring tub

Driving through the dusty and austere landscape of Central Oregon is one of those surreal experiences where time just seems to stop still. We have covered a lot of distance across these deserts of the western United States and have grown quite fond of them. But on the whole they are sparsely populated and you get quite excited when you happen upon a small town, despite there is often not much more there than a handful of houses, a garage and if you are lucky a small store.

Our travels have taken us across this part of Oregon – known as the ‘Oregon Outback’ – along Route 31 a few times en route to northern California or Nevada and we have not taken the time to stop anywhere along the way. There is a place out there called Summer Lake. It is not much of a lake, there are some areas of water but it is hardly lake-like. Global warming has pushed it back to a shadow of its former self- Many, many moons ago this area was very lush and covered in lakes and swamps, but not today and I am sure in the future this will join the rest of the desert as an arid waste land. Indeed when the wind gets up in this area large dust storms are not uncommon

On the banks of this ‘lake” is a small resort known as Summer Lake Hot Springs. This area does not look much like a volcano but beneath it’s flat surface lies a hot spot that heats the water as it rises to the surface.

Summer Lake
View across Summer Lake

The Summer Lake Hot Springs resort is nothing fancy, indeed you might call it primitive. There is no stylish clubhouse or golf course. You just come here to escape all that! The nearest town is Paisley which has a population of fewer than 400 people. Anywhere larger is at least 90 minutes to 2 hours away.

You can tent camp here or bring your motorhome. We chose to stay in one of the cabins they have on-site. There are a handful of guesthouses and cabins, some of which have full bathrooms and can accommodate larger groups.

We decided on one of the cabins with a shower in the bathroom. Our cabin was quite basic with a bedroom, bathroom and main room with included a small kitchen. Don’t expect to get Wi-Fi out here or even cell phone service!

Our cabin at Summer Lake Hot Springs

The main draw of coming here is the hot springs. A short distance from the cabins and campsites is a bathhouse that has a good-sized bathhouse with a pool. When we went, during the Covid-19 pandemic the pool was sadly empty. Just outside the bathhouse of three good-sized pools, and the water is nice and warm. We’re a bit wimpy when it comes to hot springs, we only usually last about 15 minutes before having to get out. Luckily being so close we could go have a few times a day.

Younger children have to be supervised and you will need to wear your bathing suit from 7 am until 9 pm.

Looking across at the bathhouse - Summer Lake Hot Springs
The bathhouse
The hot spring pools

Beyond the pools, there is not much to do here apart from relaxing. You can take hikes right from the resort, which we did. There are some longer hikes in the area and we are told the mountain biking here is reall good too.

Sunrise
A stone maze on the public lands adjacent to the resort
Taking a hike or stroll is a great thing to do
It can get windy here and you might get a dust storm
Taking a rest
Someone bought this all the way from South East Asia!

In summary …

  • Summer Lake Hot Springs is remote but in a beautiful location and worth the effort to go
  • There is a variety of accommodation options, but these are basic so don’t expect luxury.
  • There is not much to do here apart from relax – soak in the pools, take a walk, read a book or just contemplate life.

Visiting Summer Lake Hot Springs

Location:41777 Oregon 31, Mile Marker 92, Paisley, OR
Websitehttps://summerlakehotsprings.com/
Telephone:+1 (541) 943-3931
Type:Tent and RV Camping and Cabins and Guesthouses
Prices:

 2-day minimum on stays in the cabins and guesthouses. Rates range from $110 to $300 per night.

RV & camping sites no minimum stay. $25 per night. $10 extra for RV sites with hookups.

Best time to visit Summer Lake

The best time to visit Summer Lake depends on what you want to see. In summer, temperatures can be blistering, but there are the guided tours. Spring is also an attractive time to visit, with wildflowers in bloom.

If you are looking for clear skies and some solitude, late autumn and the early winter might be for you. 

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