Sykes Hot Springs

Big Sur Coastline, California

Start Exploring
Sykes Hot Springs


  • Beginning the trek to Sykes. - Sykes Hot Springs
  • View of the Pacific.- Sykes Hot Springs
  • Sections of the trail are steep and exposed.- Sykes Hot Springs
  • Canyon views from the trail to Sykes Hot Springs.- Sykes Hot Springs
  • Poison oak is ubiquitous in the area. Be sure to watch carefully and stay on the trail.- Sykes Hot Springs
  • View of the Big Sur River. - Sykes Hot Springs
  • The trail proceeds through formations that dwarf hikers.- Sykes Hot Springs
  • - Sykes Hot Springs
  • A burned-out tree on the trail to Sykes Hot Springs.- Sykes Hot Springs
  • In contrast to the segments of exposed climbing, other sections proceed through verdant growth.- Sykes Hot Springs
  • The trail near Barlow Flat Camp.- Sykes Hot Springs
  • - Sykes Hot Springs
  • The view from camp.- Sykes Hot Springs
  • Large flat campsites.- Sykes Hot Springs
  • Walking the half mile to the springs.- Sykes Hot Springs
  • Bring water shoes or sandals for the hike to the hot springs.- Sykes Hot Springs
  • The springs are in this photo directly across the river from the camp.- Sykes Hot Springs
  • There are two lower springs and one further up the hill.- Sykes Hot Springs
  • Expect bathtub temperatures.- Sykes Hot Springs
  • View from the upper spring.- Sykes Hot Springs
  • Sykes Hot Springs.- Sykes Hot Springs
  • The spring and river.- Sykes Hot Springs
  • Heading back through the redwood forest.- Sykes Hot Springs
  • Break at Terrace Creek Camp.- Sykes Hot Springs
  • Flock at sunset.- Sykes Hot Springs
  • - Sykes Hot Springs
Overview + Weather
Beautiful canyons and forests. Relaxing hot springs. Good introductory backpacking.
Can be extremely crowded. Trash is an issue. No group restrictions.
Big Sur Coastline, CA
Pets allowed: 
Net Elevation Gain: 
1,391.00 ft (423.98 m)
Parking Pass: 
General Day Use Fee
Permit required: 
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
20.80 mi (33.47 km)
Trail type: 
Trailhead Elevation: 
309.00 ft (94.18 m)
Typically multi-day: 
Current Local Weather:
Hike Description

Hike Description



What better way to relax after a strenuous 10-mile hike than to take a dip in a soothing hot spring? Sykes Hot Springs in Big Sur is one of the most famous and popular backcountry hot springs in California, and it is easy to understand why. Sykes in nestled deep in the Ventana Wilderness, a 234,000-acre protected area that was first established in 1969. Sykes became popular during the counter-culture movement of the 1960s, and it has since has become a favorite destination for backpackers and locals alike.

Unfortunately, recent popularity has been working against it. Although there are only seven official campsites by the springs, holidays and summer weekends can bring hundreds of campers, and many do not respect the natural beauty of the Big Sur River. Trash and erosion has become a big problem. However, if you pick your departure dates well, you can find yourself mostly alone at the springs.

You will begin your 10-mile trek at the Big Sur Ranger Station, starting on a relatively easy path that parallels the highway. After about a mile you will begin a 1,200 foot ascent, climbing above a massive and awe-inspiring canyon eroded by the Big Sur River. As you climb, you will be rewarded with incredible views of the Pacific Ocean to the west and rocky peaks to the east. For the next 7 miles the trail traverses along the cliff edge. If you are looking to stay in a less crowded campground, there are a few along this path. At approximately 8 miles into the hike the trail climbs again to reach a height of 1,700 feet. The last mile to the river is all downhill. Once you reach the Big Sur River, don't expect to see any signs for Sykes. They are often removed by locals who want the springs kept a secret. You can find campsites both upstream and downstream. For more secluded sites, follow the river upstream. 

The hot springs themselves are located downstream about a half mile. You will need to walk through the river in places, so bring sandals or water shoes. Keep walking, you can't miss the springs. There are two lower springs. If you climb 20 feet up the hill, there is one more spring that is often clothing-optional. Take your pick and enjoy the natural spa!

Note that poison oak is ubiquitous in the area. Please do not camp directly across from the springs out of common courtesy, and use only the backcountry toilet at Sykes. Campfire and camp stove permits are free and required.

Updates, Tips + Comments

Updates, Tips + Comments

Field Guide + Trail Map

Field Guide + Trail Map

Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(5 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(47 within a 30 mile radius)

Related Content

Related Content

Adventure Community

Adventure Community

Who Wants To Do It
296 Members
Who's Done It
56 Members
Submission by
62 Adventures Explored
61 Adventures Published

Newsletter Signup

Join the Outdoor Project Community

Get access to essential planning materials and information for your next adventure. Take a few seconds to join the community. It’s FREE!

Free Field Guides + Maps

Post Updates, Tips + Comments

Organize + Track Your Adventures

Insider Detailed Info, News + Benefits

Custom Driving Directions

Recommended Campsites, Photos + Reservation Info