The Sespe Hot Springs is a rural soaking area located deep in the Los Padres Forest wilderness. These springs are some of the hottest on the California coast, and there are several places to bathe with varying temperatures.
Water flows down rocky ledges, cascading into a large pool and many other sites creating numerous options for getting in the water. The source of the springs can reach over 190℉, so the soaking spots further up the river are gradually hotter than those in the lower parts.
The trek to the water is an outdoor enthusiasts’ paradise, as the trails to get there follow along the Sespe Creek and make this a pretty extensive journey. Travelers to these springs need to remember that cell phone service is limited, and there are many wild animals in the area. Biking on the paths isn’t allowed. The only way to access the springs is strictly limited to hiking and horseback riding.
Spring, fall, and winter months are the best times of year to visit the Sespe Hot Springs. The summertime gets incredibly hot and can dry up the water in some places. Hiking in the winter can be fun as long as there aren’t road closures due to snow. Leashed dogs are allowed on the trail.
Hiking Trails to Sespe Hot Spring Pools
There are three path options for reaching the hot springs.
Sespe River Trail
The Sespe River Trail is the most popular way to go and is 16.8 miles each way. Getting to the springs involves going over eight river crossings, but the water might be shallow or dry during the hot summer months. There are also many camping areas along the way, making this trail ideal for multi-day trips. To access this route, start at the Piedra Blanca Trailhead.
Alder Creek Trail
This is a moderately difficult 7.5-mile each-way hike on a rough, narrow road towards the Sespe Oil Fields. During the summer, the water closest to the trailhead might be dried up near the Alder Camp area. However, campers that want to spend the night by the Shady Camp will find water year-round. From Shady Camp, the hot springs are an additional 5.2 miles.
Johnson Ridge Trail
The Johnson Ridge Trail is a very challenging path that’s 9.5 miles long and is a steep route with limited shade and no water. The trailhead begins in Mutau Flat by Mt. Pinos Ranger District.
Since these hot springs are in the wilderness, the only option for overnight stays in the area is camping. Depending on which hiking path you take to the springs will determine the closest campgrounds for on-trail sites.
Hikers can also camp right at the upper part of the hot springs, which have four or five spots to use. Nearby the water is also the Sespe Hot Springs Palm Camp, situated about 900 feet south of the springs.
Address: Los Padres Forest, Maricopa, California 93252
Season: Year-round, but the best times of year include spring, fall, and winter