A stay at Central Oregon’s Kah-Nee-Ta Resort and Spa

Located on the Warm Springs reservation (home of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs) in the high desert of Central Oregon, Kah-Nee-Ta Resort and Spa offers a blend of tribal culture and family fun. This is not a luxury resort, but rather a family-friendly getaway that delivers on the simple pleasures of sunny skies, hot springs-fed swimming, outdoor recreation, and camping. There’s lodging for every budget at Kah-Nee-Ta, and varied vacation experiences can be had. Families can opt to simply play the days away in the sunshine, or, with the inclusion of an excellent museum, tribal dances, and seasonal tribal events, the culture of the Warm Springs, Wasco, and Paiute people can be felt here.

kahneeta swimming

We opted for a combination of both playtime and cultural education when we visited on a spring weekend in May. (Central Oregon is known for their 300+ days of sunshine, but we landed one of the few rainy ones…clearly drew the short straw.) Even so, we spent hours at a time swimming in the hot-springs fed pool, hiked several on-site trails, golfed, enjoyed a spa treatment, and tasted authentically cooked salmon…all in two days. Had we more time, we could have rented kayaks, taken a whitewater rafting tour, or ridden bikes around the resort. Families can certainly make Kah-Nee-Ta a day trip from Portland or Bend, but an overnight is well-justified, especially during the warmer summer months when camping is most comfortable.

On-site recreation and activities:

The pool: The biggest draw at Kah-Nee-Ta is the hot springs-fed pool system. The Village Pool includes what amounts to three pools in one: a shallow end with small slide, room for inflatables and water sprays, a middle pool into which the larger slides feed, and a very large deep end. Adjacent are a kiddie pool and two hot tubs (one of which is adults-only). Hot springs water is piped into all pools, and while the resort varies the temperature by season, it’s decidedly warm. On our  cool May visit, jumping into the main pool felt like jumping into a warm tub. The water is so comfortable, in fact, that we swam for hours without getting out. The two larger tube slides are several stories high (if not higher) and have a height restriction of 48″ and up. Note: guests of Kah-Nee-Ta receive Village pool passes for the length of their stay, but this does not include access to the slides. Slide passes are $4 extra. This fact is a negative in our book: it felt like nickel-and-diming resort guests. Our advice: buy slide passes for the kids, but skip them for yourselves.

Horseback riding: The Kah-Nee-Ta stables are adjacent to the Village, and offer trail rides multiple times per day. We opted for a one hour ride, which we enjoyed with one guide and one assistant. The stables are owned by a local tribal family, and their horses are broken mustangs from the region (fun fact: wild horses still roam here). Our ride took us along the Kah-Nee-Ta trail system along the bluffs overlooking the resort and surrounding plateaus. The experience was more casual than most resort trail riding tours, but priced very reasonably.

kahneeta horseback riding

Golf: The Kah-Nee-Ta 18-hole golf course is well-maintained and challenging (without being impossible for families). The course is visually appealing, and even on a busy weekend, it was not crowded. We rented a cart and played just the back nine for an afternoon activity.

Hiking trails: Kah-Nee-Ta maintains a series of three trails starting from the property (grab a color-coded trail map when you check in), which guests can hike. If up for adventure, an unmarked but worn trail from the road across from the Village takes hikers up to a large cave in the nearby bluff. We accessed the cave from the bluff overhead during a longer hike, but it can be more easily accessed directly from below as described.

Spa Wanapine: The Village spa is the place to slip away from the family for a massage or treatment. While not as posh as high-end resort spas, it’s certain relaxing, quiet, and comfortable. Unique to Kah-Nee-Ta is the addition of a 20 minute mineral soak with treatment (for a fee). Guests are led pre-treatment to a private jacuzzi tub filled with hot mineral water from the adjacent hot springs. (Despite loving hot water, I did cool mine down considerably.) 20 minutes proved enough time to soak before treatment.

Museum at Warm Springs: On the way in or out of Kah-Nee-Ta if traveling through Madras and Bend (and only 11 miles out of your way if traveling to and from Portland), the Museum at Warm Springs is a must-do. This award-winning museum takes visitors through the history of the tribes at Warm Springs, from early days to present day. Most interesting for kids are the videos and explanations behind tribal dances still danced today, and the hands-on displays within the museum, including a place to play with hoops used in the dances. Most interesting for adults may be the history of how three distinct Native American tribes came to be located together at the reservation at Warm Springs, and the history of the museum itself, which was built with intertribal cooperation and great grassroots effort nearby 20 years ago.

Casino: Yes, there is a casino associated with the resort; however, it’s located 11 miles away on Highway 26. Because we are not casino-goers, and actually dislike casinos, this was a plus in our book. However, the casino used to be on-site, and website advertising still lists it as such. If you’re planning to patronize the casino, be advised.

kahneeta lodging

Lodging options:

Kah-Nee-Ta is divided into two distinct sections 1/2 mile apart, so pay attention to which you book. The Village is where the kid-centric action is based. The Village rooms, teepees, and RV sites are located here, along with the larger Village pool and water slides, miniature golf course, basketball and volleyball courts, snack bar, store, and spa. The Lodge overlooks the Village from up the highway, and includes tennis courts, the golf course, an additional spa, the only on-site finer dining, and a smaller Lodge Pool (open to Lodge guests only). Where to stay? This depends on what you’re looking for, but a few things to note: 1. due to the RV sites being located at the far end of the Village and the motel-style Village rooms sitting back from the teepee area, we did not find it to be very noisy or overly crowded (on a somewhat busy May weekend) 2. the Village pool and miniature golf course open as late as 10 am, whereas the lodge pool is open by 8 am, so if you have kids who get up early, it may be nice to have the earlier-opening pool at your disposal.

Village rooms: These motel-style rooms are spacious, can include kitchens in some units (we got a Murphy Village Queen with kitchenette adjoined to a standard double queen room for our family of five), and have large enclosed decks/balconies. They are located against the base of the hill within easy walking distance of all Village recreation. While we were perfectly comfortable in our Village rooms during spring, we’d recommend camping during the warmer summer months for a more economical option. (For what you get, Village rooms are overpriced.) Tip: if you want the comfort of a room but don’t want to reserve more than one per night, bring camping pads and sleeping bags and set the kids up outside on the patio…it’s big enough for 2-3 people!

Teepees: Teepees book up fast, so reserve early in summer months! These canvas teepees are large, have a concrete floor, and include an indoor cooking/fireplace space. Families bring their own bedding, mattresses, and other camping gear. Teepees are set fairly close together (not as much room as with traditional camping sites) and are adjacent to the pool.

RV camping: RV camping is furthest out, but still in walking distance of all Village fun. There are 51 sites in grassy, shaded areas.

Lodge rooms: Located in the lodge, lodge rooms vary from standard rooms to suites with kitchens.

kah-nee-ta salmon bake

Dining options:

If teepee camping, RV camping, or staying in kitchen-equipped Village rooms, families will largely want to bring their own food to cook. Do your grocery shopping before you arrive, but note that necessities can be bought at the store next to the pool. The counter-service cafe adjacent to the Village Pool serves burgers, salads, hot dogs, and fries for around $8 per plate. The food is good, and there are BBQ pits and picnic tables in the Village area for additional picnicking. The Lodge offers sit-down dining at Chinook NW Grille, open seasonally. If your visit coincides with one of Kah-Nee-Ta’s Salmon Bakes, it’s well worth the $20 ticket price. Arrive early to watch the salmon cooked in the traditional way outside (at the Lodge), then stay for a full buffet and tribal dancing. We learned more about drum circles and the various tribal dances here than at any other time during our stay or before. The dancing team and drumming circle take the time to educate and include the audience.

kahneeta pool

Room rates:

At the time of our visit, Village double rooms cost $225 per night on weekends, and $155 on weeknights. Teepees started at $69, and RV sites $49. Standard lodge rooms started at $149 on weeknights.

Directions:

Kah-Nee-Ta is located at 6823 Highway 8 on the Warm Springs reservation in Central Oregon. From Portland, travel I-5 to I-84 to Hwy 8. From Bend, take Highway 97 to Highway 138 through Madras to South Warm Springs. Turn right at the Kah-Nee-Tah sign.

Disclaimer: We experienced Kah-Nee-Ta as guests of the resort, for the purpose of review. While appreciated, this generosity came with no expectation of a positive review.

About the author

Amy Whitley AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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  1. Great review, Amy! I like how you talked about both positives and negatives. I remember going to Kah-Nee-Ta as a kid on a day pass — do they still offer day passes (pool and resort facilities, no hotel room)?

  2. Lora, yes, day passes for the pool are available. They are $15 for adults, $10 for kids. We saw many families doing day trips.

  3. Elizabeth McNally says:

    I remember Kah-Nee-Ta when I was young — I loved it! Thanks for your article. It not only brought back memories, but is helpful for planning. Thanks!!

  4. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for the helpful information! We are planning our teepee camping trip. Do you know if there are electrical outlets in or near the teepees?

    Thanks!

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