Alternatively called Las Cruces Hot Springs after the small town that once existed along the junction of Highways 1 and 101, Gaviota Hot Springs are two stone mud-bottomed pools set in a palm-lined grotto a steep. Access to these springs is via a 0.7-mile long trail that climbs 400 feet from the trailhead elevation.
From the parking area, a wide fire road begins the climb. The route initially takes a left at a signed fork, and then, at the 0.5-mile mark, it follows a smaller right fork up a footpath to the springs. (The left fork here continues up the fire road to Gaviota Peak.)
The springs flow from the source at about 96 degrees into a large mineral-colored pool, which is sizeable enough to fit around eight people. From here, slightly cooler runoff slides behind the a large shady palm and into a lower pool built of New Deal-era stone masonry.
Though the setting itself is serene and the sound of wind through the palm fronds and the whir of hummingbirds abounds, the trail can also be crowded and littered. Though the area itself is great for soaking, the water has a strong sulfur odor that you'll likely detect before you actually see the pools.
The hot springs are subject to Gaviota Park hours and rules. Open hours are 8 a.m. to sunset, and swimsuits are required. A $2 daily parking fee is required at the self-pay station at the trailhead. Note that there is a considerable amount of poison oak along this trail. Wear long pants, and note that dogs are not permitted here.