Sykes Hot Springs via Pine Ridge Trail

Big Sur, California

based on 18 reviews



18.96 miles

Elevation Gain

7339 ft

Route Type



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.

Be sure to check the Forest Service site for fire restrictions and necessary permits. 

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Hot Springs

Sykes Hot Springs via Pine Ridge Trail Reviews

Trash or no trash, people or no people, backpacking to Sykes Hot Spring is something you should definitely take part in if you have the opportunity. It truly is a unique nook of the forest; a gift to those who travel there, and thus it should be taken care of and not abused, as it so often is. But if you are reading this-you already know that. My usual plan is to drive down to Big Sur at night and hike the first stretch of trail to the Ventana Camp, at the crest of the initial long and arduous uphill section of the Pine Ridge Trail. You will wake up to views of the distant ocean to the west, and to the east upcanyon you will see the Double Cone. You will also be miles ahead of anyone starting from the trailhead that morning. As you up-and-down your way through old growth trees, keep an eye out for those in which the acorn woodpeckers have made their home. You are sure to see a few of these rare and beautiful birds. At this point, you will have begun to cross paths with those on their way back out to civilization, knowing that the more you encounter, the fewer there will be when you reach your destination. It is rare that people spend more than one night at Sykes. Stop and fill your bottle at Terrace Creek, a low elevation point where you may see a tent or two. You'll know that you are nearly to the springs when you begin a long descent, and the welcome sound of the Big Sur River visits your ears once more. You will most likely get your feet wet as you head north (left) up the river. The springs will be on the bank to the left. There could be anywhere from 3 to 5 tubs depending on what state things are in. They are usually very well kempt. The water is clear and less odoriferous than most hot springs. Camping is available across from the springs and the best spots are a bit further past them. I don't recommend proceeding on up to Redwood Camp-the trail is way less traveled and you are sure to bring home ticks and some of that poison oak everyone is talking about. I find that Sykes is a nice with a group or as a solo hike. You are sure to find plenty of people to talk to; I've passed as many as 65 people coming out. Many of them are large groups of college students. Therefore, weekdays are always better if you can swing it. Have a great trip.

The hike itself is beautiful, winding along the ridge. The first 2 miles are the most difficult but once you conquer the incline, the rest is a nice balance of up and down til you reach the springs. The trail is lined with all sorts of foliage and has a decent amount of coverage winding into the Redwoods. Started the hike on Sunday and many folks were heading out. Hit the springs on Monday and had it almost entirely to ourselves! Since it's a popular trail, try to plan for a weekday if you have the flexibility. If you have trouble finding the springs when you reach Sykes, head downstream and cross the river a few times. You'll find the beautiful stone springs perched on the side of the river.

The hikes is worth the reward once you get here...simply amazing.

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.

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!

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


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Hike to Pfeiffer Falls

Big Sur River Gorge

Pfeiffer Beach

Camp at Ventana Campground, Big Sur