Echo Rock Hot Springs Owyhee Reservoir (Oregon)

Edit: Here is a map of the area and driving directions!  

This was the first (but certainly not the last) backpacking trip that really pushed me past what I thought I was capable of, both physically and mentally.  The lower trail was covered by water due to high snow fall levels that winter, so we ended up taking the upper trail.  The trail is well maintained and easy enough to follow, with stunning views of the reservoir along the way to the hot springs, however our lack of supplies made for a somewhat uncomfortable and stressful hike out.

Bring Enough Water

Since the trail runs the length of a reservoir, you would think there was plenty of water along the hike, but (at least in April) the water along the banks was so muddy and disgusting looking that we didn’t even touch it.  Luckily we brought some water bottles and a CamelBak with us, and were able to fill up at a stream before it hit the reservoir.  We expected there to be more streams closer to the hot springs but that turned out to be the only one that didn’t reek of sulfur, and at four miles away from our final campsite, it was too far for us go back and fill up before night.

Owyhee Reservoir trail to Echo Rock Hotsprings

We’re used to arid conditions, but  the shrubby plants that dot the rock face provide sporadic shade at best, leaving us hot and dehydrated pretty much from the get go.

Wear Proper Footwear

Oh the blisters!  My trail shoes (shoes, not boots) were no match for the slick shale slides we had to pick our way over, not to mention the hilly trail threading its way along a very steep incline.  Usually it’s my heels that get blisters but this time it was my toes and bottom of my feet that suffered the most.  I was hurting, and I felt bad for our pups and their bare paws.

Echo Rock HotSprings Owyhee Reservoir Trail

I have since discovered a multitude of paw protection solutions, sprays and creams for adventure dogs.  If your furry friend is anything like my dog Theanie, they won’t walk with hiking booties on (she will pout and absolutely refuses to budge if you try to put anything on her feet) so we make a point of keeping their paws tough with sprays.

Pro Tip: If you are serious about getting into hiking or backpacking, invest in a good pair of boots!  My ankles have been saved many times by simply wearing the proper footwear.

Echo Rock Hot Springs Owyhee Reservoir Oregon

The Hot Springs

think we made it to the right hot springs, but I’ve heard that there is a shower at the biggest pool, and there was no shower at ours.  The pool was pretty shallow but decent size for the two of us to sit in and enjoy the sunrise; hot springs are my new favorite way to begin a day of backpacking!

sunrise Echo Rock Hot Springs Owyhee Reservoir Oregon

Pay Attention to the Trail

The hike back was definitely the most taxing part of the trip.  We were already tired, sore and dehydrated and I was frustrated by my own lack of preparedness.  At one point the trail split and (being the exhausted mess of gear and blisters that we were) we took the lower trail and unwittingly ended up trying to find our way up a cliff so we wouldn’t have to backtrack.  In the end we had to turn around, and added another 2 miles to what ended up being a very miserable hike.

Echo Rock Hot Springs Owyhee Reservoir Trail Oregon

Looking back, we were lucky that blisters and dehydration was the worst thing we had to deal with.  This was Theanies first big backpacking trip, and near the end we had to carry her back to the car.  We were all pretty miserable, even I was to the point where I wanted to sit down and cry.

This backpacking trip pushed my physical and mental toughness.  It was my third big excursion and the reality is, we were not prepared for the rough terrain, the harsh desert conditions and the lack of water available to us.  Our hike yielded some of my favorite pictures I’ve ever taken, and the raw beauty of the towering desert rocks coupled with a nice soak in natural hot springs makes this hike well worth the effort, as long as you (and your companions) are well prepared.

sunset Owyhee Reservoir Echo Rock Hot springs Oregon


16 Comments on “Echo Rock Hot Springs Owyhee Reservoir (Oregon)

  1. Pingback: Alice-Toxaway Lakes Loop (Idaho) | the backpack almanac

  2. May I ask when you did this trip and where you started from? I’ve been to this springs several times in the past, but I’ve never seen another pool with a shower so I’m not sure it still exists. We are looking to hike in this weekend hopefully 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • We went the very first weekend in April, starting from the Three Forks Trailhead. When we went the lower trail was covered by water and I’ve heard that September is actually the best time to go due to lower river levels, but as long as you’re prepared with the right shoes and enough water, I think now would be the perfect time to go!


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  4. Thank you! I’ve never been when so much hiking in was required, usually you could drive at least 1/2 way in. But I’m excited because this is one of my favorite hotsprings and I don’t think we will have trouble with others being there this time of year, plus it will be the 1st time I’ve been able to take my boyfriend 🙂 I’ve been backpacking for a handful of years so I think I’m covered on the gear part. I read your Alice Lake-Toxaway loop blog, that was my 1st backpacking trip years ago! It was awesome, but we missed a trail sign towards the end and got slightly lost adding like 5 miles to our trip. Oh well, it’s all part of the adventure right?! Cheers to happiness on your next trail 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh my gosh, the exact same thing happened on our Echo Rock trip! We added about 2 miles because we tried to take a lower trail that ended up on a cliff face. Here’s to the (mis) adventures that make backpacking extra special! I hope you have a fun and safe hike!


  5. Rae Bees! Help! Where is this Three Forks Trailhead you speak of? The only one I could find was the opposite way of Echo rock and headed toward three forks hotsprings. So we went to Leslie’s gulch today which is where I’ve always known to start, but we couldn’t find a trail at all. We then went to attempt a route my GPS was pointing us towards, but it was way too muddy to move! We are determined to make it in, I’m hoping you can help lead me to the trailhead. It’s my absolute favorite spring and I just want to share it with my boyfriend, we just don’t own any watercraft to get us in 🙄


    • Oh no Amber! I’ve only gone once and the trailhead was right at the end of the parking lot. We took the upper trail which should be clearly visible from the parking left side of the parking lot


      • Thank you! It’s getting too late to try again today but we are going to give it a go again in a couple weeks 🙂


      • Right on! I have to apologise, I think I used the wrong trailhead name originally, it sounds like the way you usually go is the way we went. I thought it was Three Forks but I realize now that is in a different part of the reservoir?? I feel so bad for getting that wrong! But that link is the correct one, I hope your next trip turns out better!


  6. Anyone know if you can car camp at the end of the road at the trail head? In other words is it open, dispersed, free camping in the area? I see Leslie Gulch Campground is near by but I do not like camping in established campgrounds.


    • Leslie’s gulch is at the trailhead. If you camped outside of it you’d be camping on the boat ramp.


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  8. Rea Bees! I just wanted to let you know we finally made it in! We cheated though and paddled our kayaks in. It was my most challenging paddle yet, but I’m willing to bet not even half as challenging as this hike was for you guys! Y’all are savages! We found the trailhead when we were there this time and then attempted to watch the trail as we paddled, but it just disappeared at several points. That’s definitely some treacherous hillside hiking for quite a few miles! I give you guys props for sure! As we were leaving the boat ramp after paddling back the next day there was a guy and his dog getting ready to backpack in. I asked him if he would mind emailing me how the trip went, but I haven’t heard from him yet. Anyway I just wanted to give you a shout out for being a freaking rock star!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amber thank you so much! That hike definitely tested me but what doesn’t kill is makes us stronger right? I’m so glad you guys made it, we are planning to buy canoes and paddle our way in next time too! ❤️


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