Top 5 Public Hot Springs in California

There are hundreds of hot springs in California, most of which are on private land and cost a pretty penny to access. There are also a bunch of springs on public land that are either free or have a nominal fee to soak your bones in. Some are better than others though and it takes time to find the diamonds in the rough. But heck, there’s no time to waste when you’re hot tub searching, so we’ve done all the hard work for you in compiling this list of the top thermal oases in California.

 

1. Sykes Hot Springs

Big Sur, Los Padres National Forest

Photo via AllTrails.

The Hot Spring:
In the valley down by the river is where you’ll find these steaming springs. With two main pools, and a couple of other smaller ones, you’ll enjoy the warmth of the hot springs along with the body heat of other bathers in these tightly-packed quarters. Averaging nearly 102 degrees but varying between seasons, the hot springs are particularly crowded on weekends and can usually hold between 4-6 people. Best to bring something warm and be prepared to wait your turn. Careful when crossing the frigid rush of the Big Sur River, which can be nearly impassible due to strong currents in winter and spring months.

 

How To Get There:
A 10-mile one-way trek is what separates hikers from this sweet reward. The trailhead for this path, known as Pine Ridge Trail, begins at the ranger station located a half a mile past the entrance to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. After enjoying the warmth and relaxation, don’t forget to save some energy for the 10-mile return hike. Find Sykes Hot Springs on Google Maps.

 

Camping Nearby:
The springs are actually located within the bounds of Sykes Campground, or perhaps it might be more fair to say that the campground is located around the springs. Sprinkled among the banks of the Big Sur River are an array of primitive campsites. Should you decide to endure the entire 20 mile trek in one day, camping is also available at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park only about a mile from the Pine Ridge Trailhead. Looking for something a bit more private? There’s a place to stay a bit further south if you’re willing to take the trek.

 

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2. Deep Creek Hot Springs

Northern Mojave, San Bernardino National Forest

Photo via AdventuresInSouthernCalifornia.com

 

The Hot Spring:
A desert oasis in the San Bernardino foothills, these bubbling hot basins are situated next to the refreshing currents of Deep Creek, providing enjoyment for warm and cold water bathers alike. As with most hot springs, be prepared to encounter some soaking companions who are of the less-clothed and often fully-nude variety. Relatively big, the main basin can hold as many as 12-14 people.

 

How To Get There:
The three primary hikes that provide access to the springs are Bradford Ridge Trail (3 miles), Pacific Crest Trail (6 miles & free) and our suggestion and the most common and simple at roughly 2 miles, the Bowen Ranch Trail. The cost is $5 per person. Find Deep Creek Hot Springs on Google Maps.

 

Camping Nearby:

Though you can camp on the Bowen Ranch for $10 per person, we would also suggest the nearby at Silverwood Lake about an hour’s drive away. For year-round accommodation, check out this nearby cute cabin in the woods!

 

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3. Crowley (Wild Willy’s) Hot Springs

Mammoth Lakes, Long Valley

Photo via BackcountryCow.com

The Hot Spring:
Located nearby the equally popular Hilltop Hot Springs, Wild Willy’s has garnered quite the reputation as a partying destination due to its large area and ability to accommodate a bountiful number of boisterous bathers. Hence the nickname. With two large main pools and a gorgeous overlook of the Sierras, these hot springs make for a great weekend getaway. The larger pool averages a temperature of about 95 degrees, while the smaller one is around 105.

How To Get There:
The hardest part of the arrival is the drive, as the trail itself is only about 200 yards on a wooden boardwalk. Arriving by car, you’ll have to take US-395 near Mammoth Yosemite Airport, turning at Benton Crossing Road. After three miles and two cattle guards, turn right and take all the left forks the remaining 1.4 miles to the trailhead. Find Wild Willy’s Hot Springs on Google Maps.


Camping Nearby:
Your best bet for camping will be at Devil’s Postpile about an hour west of Lake Crowley and the hot springs.

 

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4. Sespe Hot Springs

Sespe Wilderness, Los Padres National Forest

Photo via Tumblr

The Hot Spring:
The hottest hot springs in California at a blistering 194 degrees at their origin, thankfully there are numerous sources which runoff into the Sespe river for you to find your perfect Goldilocks bathing temperature. Thanks to their seclusion these are also one of the most private spots to take a soak. Bear, mountain lion and snake sightings are not uncommon in this area so come prepared and make sure to keep food in a safe place.

How To Get There:
Though there are several ways to access the springs, we will recommend to you our favorite, the 18-mile Piedra Blanca Trail (one way). Mind you that most of the trails to this spring will require a backpacking trip of multiple days. Find Sespe Hot Springs on Google Maps!


Camping Nearby:
For the Piedra Blanca Trail there is a campsite near the Willett Hot Springs 8.5 miles in. There is also primitive camping allowed close to the springs but make sure to bring plenty of water. Should you like to try to make it a day hike, you can stay at the beautiful Castaic Lake about an hour away and then hike the 15-mile Alder Creek Trail (both ways). Or, make it an easy trip and crash in this beautifully secluded cabin on the northern edge of the forest.

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5. Travertine Hot Springs

Bridgeport Valley, Eastern Sierras

The 5 Best Hot Springs (That You Can Camp At) in Northern California

The Hot Spring:
A five-tub conglomeration, the water source drains into the first pool at a sweltering 105 degrees from a limestone rock formation known as a tufa. From there the water filters down into the lower basins, getting progressively cooler along the way. Be prepared for both birthday-suit bathers and crowds, as the spring has gained notoriety following its mentioning by Lonely Planet as one of the top US destinations for 2013. A quick health tip – the sulfuric mud at the bottom of these pools is great for the skin.

How To Get There:
The springs are very easy to get to off US-395 near Bridgeport on Jack Sawyer Road. Once you park, the hot springs are just a short walk away. Feel free to stop by the upper spring, which is bathtub shaped and made of concrete. Make sure to continue on a bit further though and visit the lower pools which have a more authentic, natural feel. Find Travertine Hot Springs on Google Maps!


Camping Nearby:
Some of the closet camping can be found at Paradise Shores Camp—a mom and pop campground with epic mountain backdrops, tent sitesRV hook-upscolorful baja campers and more. Only about an hour away from Yosemite National Park, these hot springs make an excellent and relaxing finale to a long weekend of adventuring in the park. Don’t feel like fighting for a first-come, first-serve spot? Be sure to check out our favorite Hipcamps just outside of the National Park.

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Discover Hipcamps near hot springs.

California Hipcamps with Private Hot Springs

Wild Palms Sustainable Oasis

Imperial County, CA

Top 5 Public Hot Springs in California
Top 5 Public Hot Springs in California

“We are a 100% sustainable community that values lifestyle over luxury.”

 

Flanklin Hot Springs

Paso Robles, CA