In McKenzie Bridge, Oregon along the McKenzie River is the Belknap Hot Springs, a natural wonder turned into a peaceful get-a-way. It was established in 1869 and today has two modern hot spring pools surrounded by beautifully landscaped lush gardens that can be enjoyed by a wheelchair traveler.

The Lodge

The lodge is equipped with wheelchair accessible dressing rooms for the hot spring mineral pools as well as restrooms. In the dressing room is a roll-in shower with a hand-held shower nozzle and bench. Just to the left of the lodge are a few picnic tables in case you want to bring something to eat. This wheelchair-friendly destination is a hidden gem of Oregon. In front of the main entrance is a wheelchair accessible parking spot. 

The lodge also offers a few “Yale Mountain Homes” to stay in, and #17 is accessible. It sleeps six people and has two stories; wheelchair access is only on the first floor and comes with a king-sized bed. Whether the shower setup is a roll-in or a bathtub is still unknown. Upstairs there is a king-sized bed and a queen-sized bed along with one bathroom.  

The Gardens

To access the various gardens take the bridge over the hot springs river and follow the path that’s surrounded by vines to the right. Though the bridge is sturdy, there are a couple of large cracks that a small wheel could get stuck in, so cross carefully. Besides many pools and water features, a special area is known as the “Secret Garden” with stone walls and columns. This is a very popular spot that people rent out for wedding ceremonies. A few areas use the plants, flowers, and accessories found in traditional Japanese gardens.


There are many different types of surfaces that make up the paths meandering through the many gardens, but none are difficult if using a power wheelchair. With a manual wheelchair, the gravel on the path may be too big or thick in some areas, and thus, doing a wheelie is the best way to maneuver. Most paths are this thick gravel but not all.

After the bridge over McKenzie River, there is a small-medium hill that goes down to the gardens; a couple of other small hills are in the garden but many level areas are a part of the trail too. Some areas might take a little more planning and precaution but are well worth it in order to dazzle your eyes with the variety of plant life and color reflecting off pools of water. A few short bridges are along the path and do not have sides, so wheel slowly and precisely. Some paths lead to staircases, but there is a lovely barrier-free loop and side trails that someone in a wheelchair can enjoy.   

Getting Here

The drive to the Belknap Hot Springs is a destination in itself. Alongside the road most of the time you can see or hear the Mckenzie River. Since it rains a lot in Oregon, the surroundings are always a bright green and every so often you can see an old-fashioned covered bridge still in use, like the Belknap Bridge. Also on the way is the town of Sisters and the Sisters Mountains. The Sahale-Sahalie Waterfall is another attraction that’s worth exploring.

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