Backpack to the Ventana Wilderness' Sykes Hot Springs

Pine Ridge Trailhead

Take a scenic 20 mile hike (roundtrip) along the Pine Ridge Trail to 3 hot springs sitting next to the Big Sur River.

The trek to Sykes Hot Springs is about 10-miles one way along the Pine Ridge Trail. This is a great backpacking trip, but can be done as an out-and-back hike from the campgrounds at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park if you're really moving.

The trail is moderately challenging, you'll cross the river twice - be careful in the winter and spring months, when the water runs fast. If it looks too fast, we don't recommend trying to cross. In the last 0.5 miles, you'll have to scramble down rocks to get to the hot springs. If you're reading this and thinking that 20 miles in one day isn't for you, it's cool, there are 3 hike in campgrounds, which are closer to the hot springs: Terrace Creek (about 5 miles in), Barlow Flat (3 miles from the hot springs and the largest campground on the trail), and Sykes Campground (right near the springs). Fires are not allowed in these campgrounds during the summer months. There is one toilet along the route, and by toilet, we mean an exposed wooden box with a hole in it. Pro Tip: the hot springs only comfortably seat 4-5 people. It's best to go during the off-season (not summer) and to get on the trail as early as possible.

Pack List

  • Stove Permit - Print it and bring it with you
  • Pack
  • 1-2 Liters of water depending on if you're round-tripping it
  • Waterproof hiking boots
  • Water purifier (optional)
  • Tent (optional)
  • Sleeping bag (optional)
Show More
RT Distance 20 Miles
Elevation Gain 5600 Feet
Activities Chillin, Camping, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Year Round
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Hot Springs
River
Scenic

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

CLOSED due to Storm Damage - No timetable to re-open the lower Pine Ridge Trail

First there was the 2016 Soberanes Wildland Fire (caused by an abandoned illegal campfire). Then there were the historic winter storms of 2017 which caused widespread damage to trails and roads in the region. The lower Pine Ridge Trail from Big Sur Station to Sykes is CLOSED for safety reasons. Honestly. Don't think you can get there. Washouts abound. Whole sections of trail are gone or covered by deadfalls. See photos here:http://www.wildventana.org/why-cant-i-go-to-sykes-the-state-of-the-pine-ridge-trail-in-big-sur/ Even if you do make it without killing yourself, you will cause erosion which will further complicate repairs. That is why it is illegal to go there until repairs are complete. This is a US Forest Service decision and responsibility. Call 831-385-5434 for more information or see this link. http://www.ventanawild.org/plan-a-trip/sykes-camp-sykes-hot-springs Note: The hot springs are inappropriate structures in designated Wilderness and the Big Sur River is designated as Wild & Scenic by the US Congress which adds further protections. So do not expect dammed up hot springs and tubs when the trail is re-opened. Sorry to provide bummer information about this so-called "bucket list" destination.

Perfect Overnight Trip

Went on a short backpacking trip here at the end of summer. My friend and I left early in the morning to beat the heat, which was a great call because parts of the trail have no shade and it gets hot! Through the 10 miles in, it was constant uphill and downhill. Once we arrived to Sykes it was so hot so we took a dip in the river. It felt amazing but I made the mistake of not packing sandals/ water shoes because it was real rocky. After we cooled off we finally made our way down the river to the springs. We picked a great weekend and there were only a few other people there, so plenty of room with there being 3 separate springs. Beautiful trip. Overall, Sykes was rad!

Serene and beautiful ... if you go at the right time

My wife and I have done this hike 3 times with our dog and we absolutely love it. Every time we've purposely gone right BEFORE a major holiday weekend (4th of July, Memorial Day, etc.) and have had the hot springs and adjacent river all to ourselves for at least a few hours. If you can manage it, we highly recommend going during a weekday. The peace and and forest sounds you get are perfect. The hike is nicely paced, flattening out or descending whenever the ascends seem to get a little old, and other than an exposed rocky first part, most of the trail has cooling shade cover and the smell of TREES! When you get to the river at the end, we recommend crossing to the other side to avoid campers coming through your site. There are a few fallen logs to cross and there is a particularly pristine sandy riverside spot just past the largest and longest fallen redwood if you have the fortune to get there first. Good luck and have fun!


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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