Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
1,000.00 ft (304.80 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
10.40 mi (16.74 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The 10.4 mile out and back San Juan Creek Trail may be one of the less spectacular hiking options inside Caspers Wilderness Park, however on this one it's the destination that creates the appeal for the hike. 

From the late 1800's through the mid 1930's, and again from the 1980's to the early 1990's, this area near the base of Hot Springs Canyon contained a commercial hot springs resort, at times with a dancehall, hotel, bath houses, cabins and a large swimming pool. Reconstruction of the Ortega Highway in the 1990's ran right through the middle of the hot springs property, leading to its closure and the eventual razing of the structures. Today only a couple empty structures and foundations remain, along with a couple of those smaller hillside pools. The only legal way to reach the old property is via the trails inside the wilderness park, with the San Juan Creek Trail being the most direct trail.

Accessed from the trailhead lying behind Site 8 inside the Ortega Campground, the San Juan Creek Trail follows a dirt access road that parallels the Ortega Highway for the first four miles. The route remains primarily straight, with several dips and short steep hills. At a couple points it dips down to cross the streambed, but for the most part the course is dusty, shadeless and within earshot of the traffic passing by just a few yards away.

At about four miles, the trail climbs up a steep hillside before turning into a single track a couple hundred feet above the road. This perspective offers views of the surrounding Santa Ana Mountains, and the twists and turns along the landscape adds a bit of interesting change to the until-now straight ahead walk. After dropping to a shady creekbed, the trail continues on its path along the roadside. There are several forks and intersections - some signed, some not - however, following the path paralleling the roadway will lead to the old resort site.

Following one more climb, a small palm oasis along with several signs informing hikers that the water is closed reveals the old pools and some stone steps slightly downslope from the trail. While the area is closed, the sound of trickling water is a welcome change to the sound of traffic which dominates the hike up until this point.

Continuing past the springs, the trail soon comes to an intersection, where forking right will lead to glimpses of some of the old structures before quickly reaching a dead end at a gate to the highway. Forking left will lead about a quarter mile further to a shaded picnic area with outhouses and the relocated wooden hot springs resort signage.

The hike is through a dry chaparral landscape, with the steeper climb toward the springs offering the only real scenic views of the surrounding area.

From the picnic grounds, you can trace your route back to the trailhead. For hikers looking to add some additional distance or climbing, it's possible to combine the San Juan Creek Trail with the Juaneno Trail or several trails that climb the ridgelines and peaks within the park.

Water and bathrooms are available at Ortega Campground. There is no water along the hike. The route is almost entirely exposed to sun. Mountain lion attacks have occurred inside the park, hikers should be aware of how to respond in the event of a sighting. Poison oak is present along the hike, particularly along the shaded streambed at about mile 4.5. All springs are located in a closed area where accessing the pools and wading is not allowed.

As of 2022, low well levels had made all water inside the park unavailable. Park visitors can check the Caspers Wilderness Park website for the most up to date information.

 

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

Park entrance fee

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Unique destination.

Cons

Runs adjacent to highway. Poison oak.

Trailhead Elevation

380.00 ft (115.82 m)

Highest point

815.00 ft (248.41 m)

Features

Vault toilet
Historically significant
Big vistas
Potable water

Typically multi-day

No

Suitable for

Biking
Horseback

Permit required

No

Location

Nearby Adventures

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