Nestled in the forest canyon of the Willamette National Forest, Terwilliger (Cougar) Hot Springs is a popular destination for all who enjoy soaking in the beautiful scenery amongst shady old-growth trees, a hot water waterfall, and a cold stream running over mossy rocks.
There is a series of cascading soaking pools, built up from the rocks and logs. Thermal water flows out of a small cove at 116-degree Fahrenheit directly into the upper hottest pool and then cascading down to the other five pools. Each descending pool is a few degrees cooler than the one above. The hot springs with blue crystal-clear water create a gorgeous contrast with the deep green color of the forest.
The hot springs can be accessible by an easy quarter-mile trail from a trailhead behind a small kiosk. Pay a fee (only cash) and start your way to the natural hot springs.
No services are available, no drinking water. There are two compost toilets and changing shelter near the pools. Also, there is a vault toilet at the parking area.
This is a day-use site, open from sunrise to sunset during the week. Every Thursday from 8 am to 12 pm pools are closed for cleaning and maintenance. It is crowded on weekends and holidays.
Brief History of Cougar Hot Springs
Officially the hot springs are called Terwilliger by the Forest Service, after one of the first settlers Hiram Terwilliger who found this site in the 1860s and used the hot mineral water benefits for decades. In 1906, he filed a mineral-rights claim but it was denied by the Forest Service.
Because of its proximity to the Cougar Reservoir, the hot springs are also known as Cougar Hot Springs.
The hot springs were an isolated area until the 1960s. Built by the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Cougar Dam and paved roads made the hot springs more accessible and, eventually, it becomes extremely popular.
Between the 1960s and 1990s, there were hundreds of people bathing and camping at the hot springs. In the summer months, it could be over a thousand people at the same time in this area.
The growth of visitors led to a number of problems and violence including loud night parties, littering, drug dealing and alcohol, loitering and panhandling by hippies, and, finally, a murder that occurred in 1996.
In 1998 the Forest Service decided to charge a fee for a day-use and prohibited camping within 9 miles of the hot springs. The fee system, a night-closure policy, and alcohol ban helped to make Cougar Hot Springs cleaner, safer, and more attractive for hot springs lovers.
Cougar Hot Springs | Facts
Location: 55 miles east of Eugene • Cascade Mountains • Oregon • USA
Open: 365 days a year from sunrise to sunset
Service: No services are available; compost toilets
Accommodations: No camping nearby
The closest campground - 7.5 miles north
Hotels in Blue River - 12.2 miles northwest
Hiking distance: 0.25 miles
Road Access: Any vehicle
Day-use: Yes with fees
Elevation: 1,700 ft (518 m)
Trailhead coordinates (DDM/DD):
N 44°4.860' W 122°13.794' | 44.081, -122.2299
Hot Springs coordinates (DDM/DD):
N 44°4.986' W 122°14.336' | 44.0831,-122.2389
From the interstate Highway I-5,
- Take exit 194 A in Eugene for Highway OR 126 E
- Drive on OR 126 for about 47 miles to Cougar Dam Road
- Turn right onto Cougar Dam Road and continue to Aufderheide Drive
- Turn right and then stay on the Aufderheide Drive
- The Cougar (Terwilliger) Hot Springs parking area will be on the left in 7 miles.