What’s to Love: Breitenbush Hot Springs: Retreat and Conference Center, located a mere 85 miles from downtown Portland, bills itself as “A Place to Bring Life into Balance,” and it delivers with lovingly maintained hot springs, lodging facilities, hiking trails, enrichment programs, and much more. Put aside all judgments you may have about the term “intentional community,” and know this is an ideal destination for a couple’s getaway or a whole-family-vacation. If you have not made your way to Breitenbush, hopefully this article will inspire you to make a reservation very soon.
There are so many amazing things about Breitenbush. Did you know that it is a “…worker-owned cooperative and intentional community on 154 acres of wildlife sanctuary in the Willamette National Forest of the Oregon Cascades?” Better yet, did you know they generate their own power, build their own cabins, serve organically-grown, vegetarian meals to their guests, and heat their cabins using geothermal energy generated by the natural hot springs?
These incredibly creative and self-sufficient folks have literally built their own hydroelectric plant! Plus, they’ve done everything while keeping a careful eye on making the environment stronger by using sustainable practices and learning to live without many of the excesses and/or traps of modern-day society.
On your visit, you’ll stay in rustically-beautiful-cabins. If you’re coming with kids, make sure to reserve the cabins with sinks and toilets. There is also a communal bathouse (showers and tub – great for kids!) nearby. The word “rustic” is just a way of describing the look and feel of the cabin. You will be comfortable and cozy with heat that is easily regulated.
There are 154 acres of wildlife sanctuary, and you’re very close to the Mt. Jefferson wilderness. There are plenty of hiking options, and cross country skiing/snowshoeing in the winter! The hot springs are in 7 total pools with the healing pools all offering their own unique experience. Based on atmosphere, temperature, size and depth, the first healing pool is the best for families.
There are no specific provisions and/or activities just for kids (e.g., no jungle gym or swings). Don’t let this deter you from bringing the whole family – you’ll just have to be more creative with your kids (i.e., more hikes, walks, community interaction, exploration, etc.).
This may be seen as a caveat for some and not for others: all tubs are “clothing optional” at all times. If you want to enjoy Breitenbush’s hot springs without the nudity, this may not be the best option for your family. Of course, you and your kids can wear suits in any tub; however, there will be adults in and around the water nude.
Distance from Portland: Between 80 and 90 miles. Google Map! It’s a quick drive once you get out outer southeast Portland. The drive along the Clackamas River is one of the prettiest drives you’ll ever take. Here is an article about a family who biked to Breitenbush from Portland and back!
Recommended Ages: The whole family can certainly enjoy this resort, but kids who are 5 and younger would be most appropriate. At that age, kids are not self-conscious of their bodies, and often enjoy being naked outside. However, there is a certain age where kids will feel uncomfortable being nude and/or around nudity. As a parent, you’re the best judge of that for your kids. Also, it’s important to remember that the hot spring pools are clothing-optional, not the entire resort.
Parental Stress Factor: If you’re not stressed out by nudity in general, you’ll probably be so relaxed that stress is a non-issue. Where stress might occur is around the options for food and drinks. We recommend bringing your own drinks and snacks for your kids. You can store them in a cooler (you bring) in your cabin, or a refrigerator in the main lodge.
All the food is vegetarian, which is fine for most kids. However, I can’t think of many toddlers who enjoy a fresh salad. Come prepared with a few of your kids’ favorite food/snack items, or you may get stressed out about mealtime. See “insider info” for more information about lunch options.
Physical Difficulty: There are a very limited number of wheelchair accessible rooms and cabins. The workshop spaces in the lodge are accessible by ramp. However, the unpaved paths are narrow and sometimes steep. Access to bathing areas requires mobility. An assistant or companion is highly recommended.
Family Fun Factor: All children must be accompanied by an adult while at Breitenbush. Improve the family fun factor by staying at least 2 nights. That way, you’ll have plenty of time to explore the surrounding trails and wilderness.
Pet Friendly: No pets.
The folks at Breitenbush will make you a sack lunch (if requested the night before), we had a vegetarian calzone, trail mix and some fruit, which was ready for pickup in the morning! Your kids might enjoy this option better than eating at the lodge.
While staying at Breitenbush, all daily enrichment programs (e.g., yoga, movement classes, meditation, guided hikes, etc.) are free and open to guests. Therefore, it might be a good idea to trade-off on the parenting duties.
The main lodge has a refrigerator where you can put milk, juice and/or snacks. It’s also possible to bring your own cooler, which can be stored in your cabin.
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Visiting The Dalles, OR on April 21st, 2009