Backpack to the Ventana Wilderness' Sykes Hot Springs

20 Miles Round Trip - 5600 ft gain - Out-and-Back Trail

Pine Ridge Trailhead - Search Nearby - Added by Blake Maitoza

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.


Hot Springs


20 Miles
5600 ft elevation gain
Out-and-Back Trail

Stay Nearby

Big Sur, California

Big Sur Lodge

From $199/night

Pacific Grove, California

Asilomar Hotel and Conference Grounds

From $176/night

Prunedale, California

Salinas / Monterey KOA

Moss Landing, California

Moss Landing KOA Express


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Overall rating: 

Annual Trek...

We try to do this hike every year. It's been a constant favorite as it's just far enough from the bay area but not far enough that we can do it over 3 days, not to mention it differs every year due to weather, water levels and trail conditions. This said, it used to be a gorgeous and easily hikable trail. Since the Santa Cruz fires there's a few trees to hop over and the path to the actual springs are now obscured. We still go as often as we can and leave the place a bit better than we find it. If you're considering - go early. As in go early in the year, we try to go as soon as the rain stops. Also start-early, because we go in a group with new people nearly every year it takes us anywhere from 4-8 hours to reach camp, I recommend starting no later than 8 or 9am if you want a decent camp site.

popular trail + soak-able springs

In late August the trail was hot, dusty and covered in poison oak. We did the 10-miles in, camped at Sykes, then did 10 miles out the next day. It's a good slog out there - with some nice views of the mountains (but no coastal views). The hot springs were a little "meh" -- but lazying in the river after the sun-exposed hike was nice. Because of the popularity, it can get busy...and we had a variety of neighbors that kept things interesting. There are semi-designated camp spots along the river. I'd recommend going further along the river to find more private camping locations. Definitely bring a filtration system for water.

Let's keep this place clean! It was a beautiful hike in, but the hot springs were littered with beer cans and there was toilet paper strewn about just up the hill from where we camped. This is especially ridiculous considering there is a pit toilet provided less than a mile away. Pack it in, pack it out!