Long Weekends: Soak It Up

Carson Hot Springs Is Basically a Hot Tub Time Machine

An hour east of Portland, rustic relaxation awaits.

By Heather Arndt Anderson September 11, 2018 Published in the October 2018 issue of Portland Monthly

About an hour east of Portland—across the Bridge of the Gods in Carson, Washington—hides a passage into another era. “Take a trip back to simpler times,” implores the Carson Hot Springs Resort (rooms from $179/night). If the early 20th century is your idea of a simpler time, you won’t be disappointed. The place serves up Battle Creek Sanitarium realness with a side of Road to Wellville.

Opened as a bathhouse in the 1930s, the Wind River–fed springs have served generations of Gorge goers. Forget hip city spots like Knot Springs. For a subset of hardy Portlander, this rustic complex is what true relaxation looks like. Picture a row of simple clawfoot tubs separated by cloth shower curtains, each plumbed with piping-hot, sulfur-fuming spring water, juxtaposed by fluffy towels and pink satin robes. A basket of catalogs for nurse uniforms and Range Writer magazine is available for your perusal, and vases of fake peonies decorate the vanity. Day-trippers are welcome; a $35 spa fee scores you a 25-minute soak, followed by a 25-minute linen and wool wrap—the next best thing to traveling to the Ukraine to get pummeled by a burly masseuse wielding a birch branch.

Post treatment, the resort’s Elk Ridge Clubhouse delivers perfectly serviceable fish and chips and a generous pour of Yakima Valley rosé. It’s best to go to Carson in the fall, after playing hide and seek for mushrooms in the crisp splendor of the Gorge—or working your quads on a challenging but rewarding 2,800-foot climb up nearby Dog Mountain—but, honestly, there’s no bad time to immerse yourself in these healing waters. Sure, you’ll emerge smelling like an overcooked egg yolk, but you’ll feel like a new (old) soul.

Travel Time: 1-hour drive from Portland

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