San Marcos, CA
Pathfinder | 140 pts
My boyfriend and I hiked this route in March of 2004. The trail is one of those grueling up-and-down routes so you actually gain and lose quite a bit of elevation. The scenery is similar from start to finish, but gets a little wilder and more interested when the trail dips down near the river. The last up-and-down is the hardest and biggest. Were I to repeat this hike, I'd probably camp halfway to the springs and dayhike the rest, as there really was no point in camping right by the hotsprings, other campsites along the way are just as nice. Also, the stream crossing at the end, just before camp, was fast, hip deep, and cold when we were there, so not recommended for novices or folks with heavy packs. There were also a surprising number of hikers "squatting" the best hot pools (which were smaller than I expected) so it was hard to enjoy the lesser pools that were open. Nobody wanted to share and they were surprisingly unfriendly given the location. We met lots of interesting, fun people on the trail though, including a tribe of dauntless "shoeless" hikers., some poor guy who had lost his girlfriend a couple of days ago (ulp!), a fellow who was hiking all the way back to Big Sur to dump trash and resupply (no water or food on him!), and a couple adorable bands of hippies with facepaint, John Fleuvog shoes (!!) and doggies. Lots of poison oak and purple irises too. Hiking out was almost as toilsome as the hike in.