Big Caliente Spring Trail

Santa Barbara, California 93116

Big Caliente Spring Trail

Big Caliente Spring Trail Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"Big Caliente and Little Caliente Springs are natural hot springs, located a short distance apart in beautiful natural settings. The springs, which are suitable for bathing, are reached by a long and winding ridge top road that travels along the Santa Ynez Mountains. There are plenty of interesting things along the way. Near the start of the trail is Chumash Painted Cave, a rock shelter lavishly decorated with rock art. A small sign on a tree points to the cave; the state historic park sign is farther along and hard to see in the forward direction of this trail. There is limited parking alongside the road, which is narrow and twisting at this point. Special Attractions: Painted Cave State Historic Park; Natural hot springs for soaking at Big and Little Caliente Hot Springs; Long ridge top trail above Santa Barbara; Access to Divide Peak OHV Trail; Birding along the Santa Ynez River. High-clearance vehicles are preferred, but not necessary. This trail is dirt roads, but may have rocks, grades, water crossings, or ruts that make clearance a concern in a normal passenger vehicle. The trail is fairly wide, so that passing is possible at almost any point along the trail. Mud is not a concern under normal weather conditions."

Big Caliente Spring Trail Reviews

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I had a great time driving this trail. 2 miles into the trail I visited the Painted Cave site. It is protected by a metal gate but you can fit you camera between the bars. The trail then followed a paved road that followed the tops of the mountains above Santa Barbara. The highest point was about 3,500 ft. The views on both sides of the mountains was outstanding. The paved road ends about 3/4 of the way and turns into a dirt road. The road descends into the bottom of the valley. The road was rough at times but easily navigated. I would not recommend taking a passenger car on the dirt road.I arrived at the hot springs where the road ended. The hot springs area was quite a contrast from the foggy coastal side of the mountains. There was lots of sunshine, nice breeze and comfortable temperatures. There were other folks there enjoying the spring.
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Went on a clear day after a few days of light rain. there is a long winding paved road for the first 3/5 of the trip. Then the road suddenly ends, turning into a gravel road that is travel able by any stock 4x4 (my 2001 Mitsubishi Montero did just fine). Favorite part were the 5-6in puddles that extended for about 20-30ft = lots of mud. once we arrived at the hot spring I really wished i had brought a swimsuit as the water was bath tub temp. we exited the trail by finding our way to Mission St in downtown Santa Barbara.
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Very fun weekend drive! Although the trip did not really require 4 wheel drive it was a very beautiful. Close to the end you will cross over a waterpassing that was my favorite part. Plan to take you time and enjoy the mellow drive.

Big Caliente Spring Trail Photos

Trail Information

Santa Barbara
Nearby City
Trail Type
2.5 hours
400 feet
Trailhead Elevation
3,600 feet
Top Elevation
Los Padres National Forest
Local Contacts
USGS Goleta, San Marcos Pass, Little Pine Mt., Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, White Ledge Peak, Hildreth Peak, Santa Barbara, Cuyama
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Dec 2018