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.
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.
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.
The Hot Springs
I 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!
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.
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.