Located approximately 10 miles from the Big Sur Park Trailhead and along the Pine Ridge Trail in the scenic Ventana Wilderness in California is the soothing and relaxing Sykes Hot Springs. Sykes Hot Springs is one of the foremost geothermal springs in California and is a major attraction for people who just want to get away and enjoy nature at its finest. If you desire to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and go hiking and camping for a few days in an unspoiled environment, the Pine Ridge Trail in the Big Sur Park is the place to visit! If you do, you will get to experience the wonders of the Sykes Hot Springs.
Sykes Hot Springs Pool Information
Sykes Hot Springs includes three pools, two are downhill, and one is about 30 feet up the hill, each pool can accommodate a maximum of 4-5 people at any particular time. Clothing is optional at the uppermost pool. So, if you enjoy taking a dip in 102-degree water in the nude, there is an option for you at Sykes Hot Springs. You are encouraged to enjoy the pools and try your best not to leave any trace in this delicate environment to preserve it for the future. There are no restrooms close to the hot springs; these facilities are however available at the Big Sur Trailhead.
Sykes Hot Springs has been around for centuries but was used largely by locals. However, the onset of the hippie culture in the 1960s resulted in more people beginning to explore natural attractions as a part of a more laidback lifestyle that valued living in one with nature. After been discovered by hippies the hot pools quickly became popular due to factors such as the purported health benefits that geothermal springs are believed to have and also because of the accessibility of the Sykes Hot Springs. The hot springs are accessible after ten miles of hiking from the Pine Ridge Trail, which starts just behind the Big Sur Forest Station and three miles out of the town of Big Sur. The ease of accessing the Sykes Hot Springs has been a major reason for its popularity among people from all over the world.
Access and Usage Fees
There are no fees to use the hot springs. However, you will be required to pay for parking at the parking lot near the Big Sur Trail Head. The daily fee for parking is $10, and parking is limited to 65 slots at any given time. Also, you will need to secure a campfire permit to use a gas stove while camping in the area. There are no fees to use the campsites; they are available on a first-come-first-serve basis. Weekends, especially during the summer are hectic, so it is advisable to visit during the week when there is less traffic to secure one of the limited campsites around the geothermal springs.
One of the reasons why visiting Sykes Hot Springs is popular apart from it being one of the premier thermal springs in California is the fact that there are available campsites for visitors to utilize if they want to stay overnight. The trek from the Big Sur Trail Head to and from the Sykes Hot Springs is a twenty mile round trip via the Pine Ridge Trail. To enjoy the complete experience of the picturesque trail and the hot springs, it is recommended that you spend the night at one of the camps in the vicinity of the hot pools. There are six campsites for you to choose from, all within thirty minutes of the hot springs. So, go ahead and plan that trek to Sykes Hot Springs, you will have all the time in the world to enjoy this beautiful wonder of nature if you make it an overnight trip! Please also remember not to leave any trace behind when you visit.
Seasonal Access Restrictions
Sykes Hot Springs are available throughout the year. It is a very popular attraction and is generally busy on weekends-especially summer weekends. The best time to visit to avoid the crowds is during the week and outside the summer season. The hot springs are however currently closed due to extensive damage to the trail leading to the springs by a wildfire in 2017. The famous hot springs should be reopened to the public as soon as the damaged trails are restored.
Sykes Hot Springs Driving and Hiking Directions
Driving Directions to Big Sur Trailhead
The population center that is closest to the Big Sur State Park is the town of Monterey located about 23 miles away. To get to the Big Sur State Park from Monterey, you will drive south on Highway 1 for 23 miles, when you get to the Big Sur Station, make a left turn and look for the signs that will direct you to the parking area. The entire journey should take no more than thirty minutes, and you can stop at the Big Sur Station visitor’s desk and grab your campfire permits and any other details such as maps and general information about hiking to the fascinating Sykes Hot Springs. The information desk is opened from 9 am – 4 pm Sundays through Thursdays and 8 am – 5 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
Hiking Directions from Big Sur Trailhead
To get to Sykes Hot Springs, you will start your hike at the Big Sur Trailhead located just half of a mile south of the main Big Sur State Park entrance. When you park at the Big Sur parking lot, you will clearly see the Pine Ridge Trail since it is the only trail that leaves directly from the parking lot. You will see signage showing three different campsites that are ahead of the Sykes site on the Pine Ridge Trail and the mileage to get to them.
The Ventana Camp is the closest to the Trailhead, located approximately five miles away, Terrace Creek and Barlow Flat Camp are about six miles of hiking from the Big Sur Trailhead to reach the campsite which is ten miles up the Pine Ridge Trail. The Pine Ridge Trail is regarded as difficult, and there is an elevation gain or loss of over 5000 feet during the ten-mile trek to the campsite. When you get to the Sykes campsite, you should see the serene Big Sur River, to get to the renowned hot springs, you will make a left turn along the banks of the Big Sur River and continue downstream for approximately 500 meters. This downstream trek should take no more than 15 minutes to get to the Sykes Hot Springs.
Sykes Hot Springs Soak Stats:
Type: Hike or Backpack (20-mile round trip hike)
GPS: 36.2515153 -121.6899884
Map Quad: Partington Ridge
Elevation: 1,080 ft
Land: Ventana Wilderness
Fee: Parking $10/day
Restrictions: Currently closed
Water Clarity: Moderate
Area Features: Ventana Wilderness, Los Padres National Forest
Closest Food/Gas: Monterey
Camping: 6 primitive sites within 30 minutes of the hot pools
Clothing Optional: Yes
Pit Toilet: Yes, in the Big Sir Trailhead parking area