Sespe River Trail to Willett Hot Springs

MODERATE 73 reviews
#1 of 6 trails in

Sespe River Trail to Willett Hot Springs is a 19.8 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Ojai, California that features hot springs and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
19.8 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
2522 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dogs on leash

backpacking

birding

camping

hiking

nature trips

trail running

walking

forest

hot springs

river

wild flowers

wildlife

no shade

The best time to hike this trail is in the Spring or Fall. In the summer it is too hot and there may not be water in the river for parts of the year as well. Choose your timing wisely based on the time of year and weather and be aware of heat and flash flood potential. You need an Adventure Pass for overnight parking.

trail running
1 day ago

water availability makes this possible even when its warm. be aware this area is like a little oven - hotter than anywhere around it and always hotter than the forecast. also after 5 miles or so the trail meanders away from the river and water is harder to get. it was super hot when I went so I swam and chilled in the water at every chance. the big swimming hole is deep enough to stay really cool and feels amazing on the way out.

hiking
17 days ago

This trail is open again, at least for hiking! I believe the camps are also open, but I’m not sure. We went just for the day and hiked in only a few miles, and it was incredibly beautiful. Be careful if you go in the summer, it gets crazy hot and there’s very little/no shade - the river crossings help, but it’s still tough in 90+ weather. Parking at the Piedra Blanca trailhead requires a $5 recreation pass for the day, we picked ours up at the Wheeler Gorge visitors center on the way up. Everyone at the visitors center was super nice and helpful, so it was a useful stop. Overall, an awesome hike! We’re looking forward to going back in the fall.

backpacking
1 month ago

By far my most favorite trail, very strenuous and a lot of water crossings, no shade but going through the water is a great cool down. This place is very untouched by people, I hope it stays this way so I can bring my kids here one day. Also bring a gun for rattle snakes

backpacking
4 months ago

Amazing hike been here a few times, make sure to carry extra socks; there will be river crossings. Along the way, there will be a few campings locations and recreational areas to jump in. There is a diversity of wildlife from rabbits to deer. Make sure to carry enough water and/or water filter. The only permit required is the fire permit for camp stove or camp fire. Make sure to check fire warning conditions before hand. Word of advice don't go during dry season.

backpacking
6 months ago

This hike was beautiful this time of year (first weekend of December). The trees were in full fall bloom and the views were just endless. However, finding the spring was pretty challenging and took some audibles. When in doubt, follow the stacked rocks. I would definitely hike this trail again. The grade was steady and not bad at all for a 20 mile round trip trek. NOTE: there is not water along this trail until a faucet and tiny creek near the hot springs (9 miles).

7 months ago

The hot spring is a beauty , loaded with lots of sulfur. Spring seems like it's running colder than other times I've been here ...measured at 106 at the source , 103 coming out of the pipe into the pool . Just position yourself below the pipe , and you should be able to get your core temperature up . A Beautiful November hike and soak . Pick up trash if you see it and keep it pristine!

backpacking
8 months ago

Wonderful trail and plenty of water at the pond 5 miles in.

backpacking
9 months ago

My favorite trail. Super hot in august, and dry. Water is scarce and so is the shade. Bear camp is an oasis. Can't wait to return when it cools down a bit 113 in the shade is no fun. Well it is but it hurts.

backpacking
11 months ago

Easy to follow not very difficult to find the hot springs and definitely so worth it.

11 months ago

This hike is best done in April

backpacking
11 months ago

My boyfriend and I did this hike at the wrong time. We're both athletic and still had a very difficult time getting to Willet. Heat was in the high 90's to low 100's and the trail has no shade whatsoever! Be wary of summertime here, in the later months I could see the watering holes possibly drying up which would make the hike lethal. We camped out at Bear Creek (4 miles in) and had it all to ourselves. Then the next day hiked to Willet and back to camp. I was extremely disappointed in the amount of trash we saw along the trail. I tried to pick up as much as I could but couldn't carry much for weight purposes. PLEASE PACK IT IN PACK IT OUT!

backpacking
Tuesday, June 13, 2017

This was my first time out at Willet Springs. We took off at around 10:30am and arrived at Willett Springs around 2pm. On our way we passed a couple of cool spots along Sespe Creek. There is one campground about 7 miles in that looked like it would have been a cool spot to camp. We went all the way to Willett Springs and after setting up we hiked up to check out the hot spring. I don't know if we were at the right spot or if there are other hot springs near by but the hot spring is routed into a big metal tub. We tried it out but wasn't what I expected. We took off early the next morning and the hike back wasn't as bad. I definitely recommend going early in the day to avoid the heat.

backpacking
Monday, June 05, 2017

Nice hike. Went over Memorial Weekend. Only reason I'm giving this 2-stars is to bring attention to the numerous people we witnessed carrying rolls of TP to do their business and not packing it out (or even attempting to bury it) as clearly evidenced by the amount of TP littering the grounds behind Bear Creek Campground.

backpacking
Friday, June 02, 2017

Such a nice weekend getaway from LA! A group of 7 of us went up last weekend for Memorial Weekend. It was hot and we were moving slow with overloaded packs so we stopped to camp at Bear Creek camp near the water. The next day we Day hiked up the river and spent a second night at Bear Creek.

The campsite itself is clean, sandy, and perfect for swimming. We landed a sweet spot next to a huge rock for star watching at night. Next time we will have to make it all the way to the springs!

Can't wait to go back 
Emily

backpacking
Monday, May 08, 2017

We had a very pleasant weekend hiking out on the Sespe River Trail. I'd agree with the difficulty rating as "moderate," and it was still enjoyable despite rainy weather.

Early May was a great time to go: weather was in the mid-60s to upper-40s, and the creek was still relatively full. (I can see this trail being very hot in Summer months, as there isn't much tree coverage or shade.) As other reviewers noted, there are a few snakes along the path; we ran into a juvenile Rattlesnake and a Gopher Snake.

We stopped a bit after Willett Hot Springs, as we heard from many people along the way that it was pretty crowded. We enjoyed privacy throughout the night, just a few hundred feet away from the river crossing.

backpacking
Sunday, May 07, 2017

Heres an honest in depth review. We hiked from piedra blanca to sespe hot springs. It was very hot, in the 90s in the middle of the day, water was available as long as you had at least a 2 liter camelbak, I seemed to just run out as we hit the next watering spot, used a katadyn filter, worked great. The hike was very difficult in the heat and I am an avid biker/surfer etc. We camped out 2 nights, hiked to oak flat and slept, then hiked to sespe the next day, the third day we hiked all the way out, this was very long and grueling. The wildlife is very active, frogs were noisy. mountain Lions and Bighorn Sheep could be heard at night as well as an occasional coyote. BEWARE OF RATTLESNAKES, we saw three, I was almost bit gathering wood, they don't always rattle sometimes they attempt top evade and you can sneak on them accidentally. This is one hell of an adventure if your gonna backpack out, plenty of great swimming holes and fun places to camp. Make sure you are prepared, its more challenging then you think if you are not an avid backpacker. (look for rock piles left by hikers, they are trail markers) Past willet it gets a little hairy as far as where the trail is and there is way more switchbacks. All camps were basically empty, saw a few other hikers but avoiding the weekend warriors was beneficial.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Beautiful! When we left there were about 40+ people at the hot springs.

hiking
Saturday, April 15, 2017

Long endurance hike if you choose to do it in 1 day, as I did. Def. will be back to go past Willett to the Sespe Hot Springs.

backpacking
Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Beautiful trail. 5 small creek crossings in the first half mile. Well maintained. Trailhead parking fills up quickly.

backpacking
Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Took my bf here for his shakedown and we had a blast. Be careful with the river crossings shortly after Bear Creek as they are easy to miss and we ended up off trial along the river.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Beautiful wilderness, lots of birds. Be aware that there are five pretty serious river crossings - I went just after a storm, and the fords were chest deep at times. Probably best to attempt the hike in the spring, when there's less water. trail can be quite exposed in places.

backpacking
Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Fun little hot spring nook. Lots of plant life surrounding Willet Spring. Make sure to hang a left about a half mile after you see the sign reading that Willet is a mile away. Went over Christmas 2016 and had plenty of water options between a couple rivers and ponds. Weather ranged from a day of rain and a day of small snow flurry to 70*F. Happy travels!

backpacking
Wednesday, December 28, 2016

don't underestimate the temperature drop when staying overnight because gets mighty cold especially in windy areas. be sure to bring enough water and to fill up when you can some spots offer water but bring some to be safe because it's quite a wall between sources depending on season.

backpacking
Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Nice shakeout hike. Super bowl weekend. Back in time Sunday for the game! Tons of water

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Easy to follow trail except in a few places. Bring plenty of water, I found none until willlet. There is a spigot near the sheds in willet but the feed hose coming down from the spring box up the mountain disconnects from the water pressure.

backpacking
Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Went in at night, some difficult places to follow the trail the further you go. Some puddles from recent rain, but very little in Sespe River. Able to find water flowing from spring both at Willetts and Sespe camps.

backpacking
Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Pretty cool backpacking trip with some leg burners if you're not in shape. Make sure you go when there is water running, otherwise you're going to have a bad time.

backpacking
Monday, August 22, 2016

I've done this hike twice before and it's been a fun experience when there's been water. This isn't a review so much as a warning to any hikers that would want to do this trail at this time of year: THERE IS NO WATER (except for a small pond at bear creek).

backpacking
Sunday, June 05, 2016

This is a beautiful trail that affords many opportunities for wildlife viewing. Beyond the varied animal tracks on trail, we saw several deer and a very healthy black bear. The water is still available in many places but beware the heat. The mid-day temperatures this weekend were staggering. Hike early in the day if you venture out Sespe Creek Trail in the summer. The only downside was viewing the trash left at one of the campsites at Bear Flats. If you pack it in then please pack it out.

hiking
Thursday, May 19, 2016

Beautiful, easy trail with lots of great spots to take a dip.

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