Breitenbush Hot Springs to Open New Guestrooms

As part of its recovery from the 2020 wildfires, the wilderness resort plans to open 24 new overnight spots in January 2023.

By Isabel Lemus Kristensen September 16, 2022

One of the Grove buildings under construction at Breitenbush Hot Springs

Amid a multiyear restoration project, Breitenbush Hot Springs has emerged from the ashes of the 2020 Lionshead Fire that devastated more than 70 buildings, including all of its guest cabins. Come January—barring any issues that may arise with the rain and snow of Oregon’s winter months—regulars and newcomers alike can look forward to new accommodations on the 154-acre site east of Salem in the Willamette National Forest.

It’s been a long road of recovery for the worker-owned cooperative. The wildfire left plenty of ash and debris behind and damaged many of Breitenbush’s off-the-grid utilities. But with the support of over $1 million in community donations, the near-century-old resort is close to completing the first stage of its rebuild, an area called the Groves.

The Groves are in an area that saw fire damage in 2020.

Each of the six buildings in the Groves includes four individual heated rooms for couples or solo travelers who can spend their mornings watching the sun rise over Mount Jefferson through east-facing windows. (They share a separate bathhouse, also new.) The structures feature exposed beams and trim made from fallen timber on the property. And though the Grove buildings are newly constructed, they maintain the rustic charm of the guest cabins that burned in the 2020 blaze, says Keith LaChappelle, the facilities director who has been leading the rebuild.

These are not the only changes happening at Breitenbush. The retreat and conference center is updating its lecture series—which brought in 150 presenters per year before the fire—with a greater focus on social justice and climate change.

“We’re on the ground floor of a post-climate-change situation,” says Olivia Fromm, the resort’s guest experience representative. “What do you learn from that? How do you adapt and what do you do starting from nothing? It’s influencing a lot of our programming and the speakers we’re going to be bringing in the next few years.”

Despite a great deal of renovations, many Breitenbush traditions remain the same. Guests can unplug, soak in the hot springs and natural pools, and indulge in three vegetarian meals a day. The hiking trails are still closed, but Fromm suggests the paths of a nearby, abandoned camping area, which is now lush with greenery, for those in the mood for a wander through nature.

The recovery and restoration projects, which have included help from guests during the resort’s “service weeks,” are not yet finished; there are 40 more cabins to be built in the coming years. But starting this winter, guests can enjoy the resort’s latest “labor of love,” as LaChappelle puts it, in the Grove.  


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