Sykes Hot Springs

Big Sur, California 93922

Sykes Hot Springs

Sykes Hot Springs Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"A trip to Sykes Hot Springs is unquestionably the most popular route into the Ventana Wilderness. The trek leads to three rock-lined 100°F hot springs along the crystalline waters of the Big Sur River. Just 4 miles into this trip, you can also take a side excursion to one of Ventana’s finest swimming holes, at Ventana Camp. Beyond this junction, the trail leads you high above the Big Sur River and the canyon floor, linking spacious riverside camps, refreshing swimming holes, and sought-after thermal pools at Sykes Camp."

More Sykes Hot Springs Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

100 Hikes in California's Central Sierra & Coast Range (The Mountaineers Books)
Vicky Spring & Tom Kirkendall
View more trails from this guide book
"The Pine Ridge Trail from Big Sur to Sykes Camp is the most popular hike in the Ventana Wilderness. Its popularity has nothing to do with the excellent trail, views of the forest and ocean, the Big Sur River with its deep pools of clear water, or the towering groves of redwoods—although these things help. The reason so many people make the long trek to Sykes Camp is to soak in the famous natural hot springs. With endless streams of people trekking in to bathe in the pools, this is not the place to go if you are looking for solitude. However, if you are looking for a good introduction to the spectacular variety of flora and fauna of the Ventana Wilderness, this place is hard to beat."

Sykes Hot Springs Trip Reports

4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars
icon7 Total
4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars
Pretty tough trail. Very hot and dry this time of year. Nice camp 5 miles and and the springs are amazing. Totally worth it!
5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars
Nice trail. The hike to Sykes is provides some nice vistas but the true reward is once you get to the Big Sur River. The hot springs were an ideal temp and the campsites along the river were well worth the hike.
4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars
This is a fantastic outing! The winding trail treats hikers to various terrain including Redwoods, tree tunnels, and canyon views. Make sure you bring a head light a water filter. You will most likely arrive in the dark unless you leave before 10am so you'll need a good light.
Be sure to check with the rangers about fires before you go. There was a total fire ban in the valley when we arrived, but found most of the campers still cooking with small cook stoves. Better to err on the safe side, but I don't see any problem with responsible cooking on small burners.
Finding the spring is a bit tricky as is camping, especially if you arrive in the dark. When you get to the river, there is camping either across and up the river to the right, or down not crossing the river (towards the springs) to your left. No need to cross the river. DONT expect a big dedicated camp area. Camping is more like one tent here, 3 there, and some hippy bivy looking guy down there, style. Find a spot and get ready to dip.
To find the springs, you must follow the river down to your left about .3 of a mile (from the trail). It feels like forever. You will follow the river till you get to a large steep side trail that will take you up over the river about 25 meters. Go over it and you will descend back down to the river about 100 feet from the hot springs. You can also go through the river and avoid going over the steep trail- but you'll get wet.
There are THREE springs that you can soak your tired bones in. Small one on the approach 5 people can fit, Larger pool 4 meters up the hill- 10 fit- and lastly another down by the river, 4 people. All dope.
Enjoy the trip. Hike takes a solid 5-6 hours on the way out. It will turn a 6 hour hike into forever....
I do recommend some box wine for the hike. It’s really nice to have a bit of white wine to take the edge off.
4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars
this was a wonderful welcome to california -- just one thing, once you make it down to the river the hot springs are to your LEFT -- go down only about .25 mi and you will see them. enjoy

4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars
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.
4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars
The trail was really nice, but I made a mistake. This was my first trip and I carried all my camera equipment up there! Up there I noticed that we will have only an hour sunshine and I did not find any extra subjects for photography. I took some pictures of birds (Lot of birds up there!) but I only used one lens and I carried seven!

The hot spings are amazing, they are kept in pretty good condition by the hikers. The only bad thing is all the dogs up there.. they been barking all day, at each other, at passing hikers, maybe at birds too....

I will try this hike on a weekday!!
3 out of 5 stars3 out of 5 stars3 out of 5 stars3 out of 5 stars3 out of 5 stars
The pointer on the map is off by about 12 miles.The springs and campsite is well inland. This location is currently closed because the trail is blocked by significant downfall resulting from the Basin Complex Fire. When open, the site can be very crowded especially on holiday weekends and the campsite can get very dirty with 100+ visitors. Don't go there then. It's a bit of a challenging hike, gaining about 2000 feet in altitude from the coast.

Sykes Hot Springs Photos

Show off your photography skills ... post your pics of this trail!

Trail Information

Big Sur
Nearby City
2,380 feet
Elevation Gain
Trail Type
Skill Level
2-3 days
Late spring through early fall
Additional Use
Hot Springs
Ventana Wilderness, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Los Padres National Forest
Local Contacts
USGS 7.5-min. Big Sur and Ventana Cones; Big Sur and Ventana Wilderness by Wilderness Press
Local Maps

Trail Log