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Breitenbush Hot Springs
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img 5254.thumbnail Breitenbush Hot SpringsWhat’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.

img 7063.thumbnail Breitenbush Hot SpringsThere 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.

img 7109.thumbnail Breitenbush Hot SpringsOn 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.

img 5247.thumbnail Breitenbush Hot SpringsThere 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.

img 5245.thumbnail Breitenbush Hot SpringsCaveats: Put away your cell phone and know that you will miss your favorite television shows, but you won’t care one bit.

img 7122.thumbnail Breitenbush Hot SpringsThere 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.).

img 7120.thumbnail Breitenbush Hot SpringsThe beds are high for kids, which can be a problem in the middle of the night. The food/drink options are limited for kids (see “parental stress factor”).

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.

Website: Breitenbush Hot Springs – Retreat& Conference Center

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!

img 7107.thumbnail Breitenbush Hot SpringsRecommended 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.

img 7111.thumbnail Breitenbush Hot SpringsParental 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.

img 7116.thumbnail Breitenbush Hot SpringsInsider Info: Please note that one of the healing pools is a “silent pool.” This is probably not a good pool for kids and/or family fun.

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.

img 5211.thumbnail Breitenbush Hot SpringsWhile 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.

img 5255.thumbnail Breitenbush Hot SpringsFamily Tips: Bring pillows, blankets, sleeping bags, or a bedspread for each member of the family. Also, if you want to stay out after dark (tubs are open 24 hours a day), bring a flashlight!

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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5 Comments


  1. Breitenbush is a really exquisite and beautiful place. The staff are great. It has something for everyone. However, there is a caveat – the food. I don't mind vegetarian in general, but the quality was sketchy and, at times, extreme. For many people, this can be a problem. For those people, come prepared to supplement your meals with a well stocked, good sized cooler. It might also be a good idea to bring a thermous for hot water for very early or late drinks – especially if you don't feel like leaving your cabin and walking .3 miles one way to the lodge. Oh, also bring your own coffee and caffeinated tea. Remember, there are no outside electrical appliances allowed; so, no hairdryers, coffee pots, hot pots, etc. On a different note. The cabins are very warm and comfortable.

  2. I realize this is several years old, but after my recent trip I thought I would put in my two (or twenty) cents.
    I am the farthest thing from a vegetarian…. really. I basically consume meat with every meal. I found the food to be unbelievably tasty, with the perfect balance of spice and very filling. I felt great while I was there as well. I came prepared with my cooler of lunchmeat, cottage cheese, jerky, etc. and didn't touch any of it.
    The rest of the space is so sacred and wonderful. If your intention is to unplug and relax and recharge this is the place for you.

  3. I love Breitenbush! I have visited five times and I will keep going back. It is one of the most relaxing and restorative places I've ever been to. I personally love the food. I am a vegetarian and for me and my family, we can taste how fresh and healthful the food is, how prepared with love it is. On one visit, I was poking around asking questions and received an impromptu tour of the kitchen and gardens, learning their system of meal duties and preparation. They certainly labor with love there! I see families every time I visit, and it is usually families of younger children. I have yet to see a teenager though! I want to add that the oval lawn area in front of the main lodge is a great place for children. I typically see kids there engaged in all sorts of activities, often ones facilitated by Breitenbush staff themselves. From hula-hooping or dancing to running around chasing butterflies, this seems to be the spot for kids and their families to congregate. I personally love to sit back in one of the old adirondack chairs and read/nap in the sun. And yes, the families tend to stick to the first and middle pool and avoid the silent pool and circular tubs altogether. Overall, Breitenbush is wonderful – so peaceful and lovely. I can't imagine anyone who would be be 100% immune to its wondrous effects! :)

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