Hot springs have long been known to have therapeutic value thanks to the complex mineral compounds they contain, but relaxation – like real estate – is all about location. These hot springs stand out not because their waters are perfectly heated or perfectly clear, but because the experience of getting to and being around the pools is soothing. The hot water is just a bonus.
Hidden in a remote Oregon forest two and a half hours southeast of Portland, Breitenbush is for those who don't like being told what to do in group classes – it lets you design your own experience around its 20 miles of trails, natural hot springs, and meditation workshops. With ancient fir trees and single-room pine cabins, Breitenbush is a low-key getaway in truly rural country (the nearest city, Salem, is approximately 65 miles away). Go for early-morning jogs and then read a book amid the solitude and natural silence of its 154-acre site, spread out across the Willamette National Forest of the Oregon Cascades. If you feel adventurous, try the 4,528-foot guided ascent to Devil's Peak or a meditative workshop like the monthly Inipi Ceremony, an hours-long traditional Lakota sweat-lodge ritual, in which participants sit among hot stones in a blanket-covered sapling dome while sharing life stories. But the main draw is the 101-degree hot springs themselves, a natural wonder. Glassy, secluded, and surrounded by wild vegetation, they attracted Pacific Northwest Indian tribes for centuries – a wintertime soak beneath a snowy sky is worth the trip alone. [From $56 a night for a dormitory-style room; breitenbush.com]