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(Last Updated On: October 28, 2021)

Visiting the Alvord Hot Springs in Oregon had been on my bucketlist for a while. There is something intriguing yet calming about large vast areas, and the Alvord Desert Camping experience is one you don’t want to miss. Plan your next Oregon road trip! In this post I’ll cover everything you need to know about getting to the Alvord Desert Hot Springs, Alvord Desert weather, time of year, camping locations, tips, fees, and more!

Alvord Hot Springs and Alvord Desert Camping is something you don't want to miss. Vast desert and rustic pools make this a great road trip

Land Acknowledgement: Numu (Northern Paiute) Find what Native Land you are visiting by using the app Native Land! I encourage you to read the history and culture of the Indigenous people who’s land you are visiting! Consider visiting nearby cultural centers and seeking out other ways to financially support Indigenous People.

Photography in Collaboration with Johnathon DeSoto

Know Before You Go: Hot Springs Etiquette

Alvord Hot Springs and Alvord Desert Camping is something you don't want to miss. Vast desert and rustic pools make this a great road trip

First, have you read my Hot Spring etiquette guide? Maybe you’ve been to a few hot springs, but you might learn something new that can help keep these hot springs around longer for everyone to enjoy!

The Alvord Hot Springs are regulated and managed by the Davis family, but it is still important to learn and do your part!

In summary:

  • Leave No Trace
  • Clothing Optional
  • No Glass
  • What goes in a pool, stays in a pool (so, DON’T bathe or urinate in these)
  • Watch out for trash/glass (wear protective footwear down to the pools) not really an issue at this hot spring
  • Be polite and keep your noise to a normal level.

About Alvord Desert Hot Springs

The Alvord Desert is located near the base of the Steens Mountain and really gives you the feeling like you are “in the middle of nowhere.” There is a surprising amount to do here and I will be covering all of it!

The Alvord Playa

As you’re approaching the Hot Springs, you’ll notice a large dried out looking desert area (well, depending on what time of year). This is the Alvord Desert Playa. The Alvord is one of the largest playa lakes in Oregon!

A Playa is formed when rainwater fills shallow depression in a landscape, leaving behind salt minerals on the surface when the rainwater evaporates. This gives the dry lake bed that crunchy, cracked look.

Land Speed Racing

Because of how flat and vast this area is, many official and unofficial land speed races have happened here. The area is 12 miles long by 7 miles wide, giving a large area for this. An unofficial women’s world land speed record was set in the Alvord Desert by Kitty O’Neil at 512 miles/hour (843 km/hour) in 1976.

Alvord Hot Springs

The Alvord Desert Hot Springs are privately owned by the Davis Family. The hot springs themselves consist of 2 medium-sized concrete pools, with history going back to the 1940’s.

Getting to these Desert Hot Springs

Despite being “out there”, these desert hot springs are not that challenging to get to. I used google maps that I programmed while I had cell service and had no issues finding the hot springs.

Tip: download offline maps, or screenshot the directions in case your GPS disconnects.

GPS Coordinates: 42.544, 118.533

Alvord Hot Springs are located in Harney County in Southeastern Oregon. To get here, you will need to travel 30 miles on a maintained gravel road. Luckily the road only has minimal washboard areas and was really quite smooth.

Directions to Eastern Oregon Alvord Desert:

From the North: On the Steens Mountain Highway, turn onto Folly Farm Road at Mile Marker 65. There is only one way to turn. Stay on Folly Farm Road for 40 miles. You’ll see Alvord Desert Hot Spring on your left, and it is well marked.

From the South: On US-395 North near Lakeview, Oregon, continue for 5 miles before turning right onto OR-140 E/Warner Hwy. You will continue onto this for 109 miles and even dip into Nevada for a brief time. Turn Left onto NV-292 N and in 25 miles take a slight right onto East Steens Road or Fields-Denio Road. Continue for 22 miles and the Hot Springs will be on your right.

TIP: There are not many gas stations near Alvord Desert. I recommend filling up at Denio Junction if coming from the South. Burns, Oregon (coming from the North) is the closest full-service town to Alvord.

Alvord Hot Spring Use Information

When you pull into the short driveway at the Hot Springs sign, you’ll come to a small parking area with an office, general store, campsites, and bunkhouses.

Go into the office to pay (come prepared with Cash! They do have a card reader, but it seems like it doesn’t always work).

Dogs are welcome here!


Every blog I’ve read mentioned $5-$8 for day use. We were charged $20 per person. I’m not sure if the price fluctuates or if things have changed since COVID-19, but come prepared for $20 for day use and $40 to camp.


The hot springs are open 24/7 year round for overnight guests. Day use stops at sunset. We arrived just prior to sunset, and the owner was kind enough to let us stay a little longer.


The front office also doubles as a general store, carrying water, beverages, propane, snacks and souvenirs. There is a bathroom attached to the outside of the office space as well when you first pull up.

Hot Springs Details

There are two pools made out of concrete with pipes funneling the 170 degree Fahrenheit water from the ground into the pools. The water mixes with water in the pools and temperature can be controlled (SLOWLY) with valve shut offs.

TIP: Always test the water before getting in. The outdoor pool was SCALDING hot when we arrived. Some other visitors helped us dump buckets of cooler water from the other pool to cool it down. Eventually it became bearable.

One pool is outside with no wind protection, and the other is right next to it with some reclaimed metal wall structures around it. Both pools are about the same size and could fit 4-6 people each comfortably.

Best Time for Alvord Desert Camping

Alvord Hot Springs and Alvord Desert Camping is something you don't want to miss. Vast desert and rustic pools make this a great road trip

The hot springs would be enjoyable year-round, but the camping is what I was most excited about. Here are some important things to keep in mind when deciding on when you want to plan your Oregon Road Trip here.

Alvord Desert Weather

If you are wanting the best time to camp on the Alvord Playa, plan your visit between July-November.

Summer at Alvord Hot Springs

I went in August. It was hot as hell driving in with no Air Conditioning in my work-in-progress-van. But the temperature at night was so ideal.

Average Summer Weather:

  • June 79° / 53°F
  • July 88° / 61°F
  • August 87° / 61°F

Summer is the start of the dry season here, which means the playa will most likely not have water on it. It is recommended you do NOT drive on the playa if it has rained recently as it can turn to mud and quickly make your vehicle stuck.


Fall is reported as the driest time of year at the Alvord Desert. This would be a really idea time to go as there would be less crowds than the summer.

Average Fall Weather:

  • September 76° / 52°F
  • October 64° / 43°F
  • November 48° / 33°F


This is known as the rainiest time of year here. Although it’s not much rain at around 7 inches of rainfall per year. But this will significantly lower your chances of being able to drive on the Playa if that is something you’re interested in.

Average Spring Alvord Desert Weather:

  • March 51° / 33°F
  • April 59° / 38°F
  • May 67° / 45°F


I’m sure the hot springs would feel great in the winter and you’d be avoiding the majority of crowds, but it definitely gets chilly in the desert. There may be a decent amount of snow in surrounding areas that could make it challenging to get here.

Average Winter Alvord Desert Weather:

  • December 40° / 26°F
  • January 39° / 24°F
  • February 45° / 29°F

Alvord Desert Camping

This was my favorite part. Honestly way more fun than the hot spring in my opinion!

Camping Options

Alvord Hot Springs Camping

This option would allow you camping and 24/7 access to the hot springs. This honestly seems like the best deal at $40 for 2 people. The best part is you’ll have options of camping up at the hot springs OR camping down on the Playa.

To camp at the Playa through Alvord Hot Springs, you will be provided a gate code and have easy access to the Alvord Desert Playa.

Free Camping on Alvord Desert Playa

We didn’t think about the fact that we’d be paying the same amount to camp and enjoy the hot springs as we would to both enjoy day passes to the hot springs. Camping on the Playa is free! It’s just a matter of finding an access road to get there.

There are 2+ access roads that are not gated. I used both. Both will be taking a left out of the hot springs driveway. Drive less than 1 mile while looking for a dirt road to the left. It is definitely a doable road for any standard SUV. It is not the easiest to spot at night, but if you drive slow, you’ll see it.

If that makes you nervous, download maps for Frog Spring-Alvord Desert Access on Google maps. It has a more established road and has a pit toilet and dumpster.

Alvord Desert Camping Details and Tips.

Check out my guide for film photography

Campfires are NOT allowed on the playa. If camping at the hot springs, fire pits are provided and fires are allowed if there are no current fire restrictions.

I recommend camping near the EDGE of the playa for a couple reasons. It can become very windy at night here, and camping closer to the edge will protect you from wind. Secondly, people are known to race in this area or drive recklessly. If you are camped in the middle, it definitely puts you at greater risk of being hit.

Be mindful of private property when camping near the edge. A good rule would be to not camp too close to any access roads.

  • I had some cell reception with AT&T
  • Check the weather before you go! Don’t camp on the playa if it has just rained or is going to rain
  • Bring lots of water
  • Bring sun protection
  • Fill up your gas or bring extra fuel
  • Leave No Trace!! Please be mindful of using the bathroom here and plan to pack out human and animal feces.

Lodging Options

Alvord Hot Springs has multiple bunkers that you can stay at.

Bunkhouses are $80 a night and can sleep up to 4 people. Note it is $30 per additional adult after 2 people. Children under 12 are free.

Bunkhouses provide excellent shelter from the wind. Make sure you bring your own bedding, as this is not provided!

For more details or to make a reservation call (541) 589-2282

Things to Do at Alvord Desert

1. Drive on the Playa!

It was pretty fun to drive my van on the open stretch of vast desert!! As mentioned above, only drive on the playa if there has not been rainfall so you do not get stuck!

2. Soak in the Alvord Hot Springs

I really enjoyed the couple hours we spent at the hot springs. We watched sunset from the pool and watched as the moon rose in the sky!

3. Star Gaze!!!

This area has very little light pollution and is an excellent spot for some summer milky way gazing!

4. Camp on the Playa

Waking up to the sunrise here was incredible and I highly recommend you camp on the dry lake bed if you get the chance (see information in blog above)

5. Explore Nearby Hikes

Check in with the office at Alvord Hot Springs for hiking information and a wilderness pass!

  • Pike Creek Trail: 5.6 miles with a summit offering panoramic views of the mountains and desert.

Alvord Desert Photography Tips

  • Sunrise and Sunset offer the best light here. I personally shot all of my photos on the playa at sunrise because that is what worked out for my itinerary best! My hot springs photos are shot at sunset.
  • Use a long lens to compress and bring the mountains closer! We used our 70-200 mm lens to make the mountains appear more dramatic
  • When using a drone, be mindful of wind and other people camping!
  • Get creative!! I would love to go back with some dramatic outfits for a portrait session here.

Nearby Destinations: Oregon Road Trip

Check out some other Oregon Hot Springs and stay tuned for more blogs from this road trip!


Alvord Hot Springs and Alvord Desert camping were experiences I would absolutely do again. We ended up staying only one night, but it definitely left us wanting to come back for more. A comfortable summer night of stargazing here was a memory I won’t forget any time soon!

Let me know if you’re adding this to your bucketlist!

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Alvord Hot Springs and Alvord Desert Camping is something you don't want to miss. Vast desert and rustic pools make this a great road trip

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    • Joe Bell on August 28, 2022 at 5:18 pm

      I’ve been coming out to Alvord since 1978. It is in bad shape due to abuse. If you drive out on the playa don’t tear it up with your vehicle and spin brodies. If the lake bed gets rutted up from these type of activities others can’t enjoy it. It causes excessive dust. The dust turns into drifts/dunes on the lakebed making it unusable to drive or landsail on. This has been happening at the Blackrock dry lake bed from Burning Man type events. If you have to tear up the desert do it off the lakebed. Leave no trace!

      • Rose on September 13, 2022 at 1:55 pm

        You are so very correct about that Joe! ALSO…fireworks are NEVER allowed anytime of year at the Alvord Desert. In addition, the people visiting today are digging into the playa to have a fire! DO NOT dig into the playa to have a fire. IF it is not fire season and you do have a fire, clean up that spot before you depart!

        There are 35 miles of perimeter at the Alvord! The ONLY place there is private property is on the WEST side, therefore, if you do not know where you are, it is best not to camp near the private property. Some of the local property extends out into the playa, and we cannot fence out there. It is not the landowners responsibility to post private, it is the visitors responsibility to know that you are not trespassing. Please be respectful. Head out to the east or north or the south east side and then no one will bother you out there.

        There is also a noise ordinance out at the Alvord, you are NOT allowed to have booming music all the day and night. The property owners WILL call it in. There is a local volunteer fire group that helps the BLM in keeping visitors from burning the place down and keeping the peace at the Alvord. I’ve been coming out to the Alvord since 1980 and now live there.

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