Sespe River Trail to Willett Hot Springs

MODERATE 111 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.

19.8 miles
2,522 feet
Out & Back

dogs on leash




nature trips

trail running


bird watching


hot springs


wild flowers


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.

Long day. Harder then we thought. Definitely want to break it up. Saw a great grassy overlook with a fire pit. Maybe just stay there next time.

7 days ago

One of the more amazing weekends I've ever had on a trail - Gorgeous landscapes, perfect weather, friendly people and the payoff of finding that hot springs at the end. This is easily one of my favorite quick backpacking trips I've ever done.

over grown
washed out
17 days ago

desert environment combined with some deciduous flora. plenty of water flow to refresh, bonus points if you find the rock jump!!

Awesome water level. No bugs. No trash. No jerks.

3 months ago

This will always be one of my favorites! The trail is easygoing with only a few moderate hills. It’s perfect for a first back packing trip or if you’re testing new gear. Only do this trail when water is flowing (usually during CA winter months). It can get pretty chilly at night so if you go, make sure to bring warm clothes for night. The hot springs are well hidden at the end of the trail, but there is a good spot to sit and enjoy the warm water that can accommodate around 5 people. Definitely a CA hidden gem :)

3 months ago

Awesome trail! 3 day backpacking trip. ***Easy to Moderate***
Dont be afraid to take the boots off and cross the river. We wasted a lot of time trying to not get our feet wet.
Willett hot spring was a bit difficult to find the trail leading up to it. We asked for advice and found the trail straight to it. Not to be a downer, but he hot spring was a big metal tub on the mountain side. Still pretty awesome tho.

5 months ago

Our journey into the Sespe Wilderness via the Sespe RIver Trail began at the Piedras Blancas trailhead at approximately 9:08 am on November 10. There were eight of us in our party all destined to go to Willet Hot Springs. With the help of some enlightening paper squares, we journeyed into, across, and within the magnificent rivers of our minds and the valley. Clarification: the river of the valley was dry, but the rivers of our minds ran bountifully. The trail profile is no lie, in both directions you ascend and descend a series of crests which we named in order: Robin's Cut Ridge (bring band aids), Lonely Oak Ridge, Rattlesnake Ridge (ps there are danger noodles), Creepy Creek Cliff Face, Helipad Landing, Up-side-down Spirit Rock, Limbo Cave, and finally Trip Stick Hot Springs (named after a spiritually significant agave stem plucked by Macro the wizard). All jeans will be jorts. Mandatory knifing of jeans is hereby instituted. It was hot, so it happened. There is minimal shade on the trail so while I think we could have made it all the way to Sespe Hot Springs if we had more daylight, I do not think we could have tackled the trail with the same fervor if we had gone in the summer. The hot spring is a bit hard to find, in fact we got a bit lost and did a 25-mile round-trip, but if you follow the cairns/elves you will be successful (also maybe ask some people if you see them, the trail is moderately trafficked). The hot spring is actually up, not down as we had thought. All together a truly awakening and rejuvenating experience. This trail was exactly what was needed to reignite the bonds of our friendship and our spirits. 10/10. Will be returning in 10 years. Here is a list of the wildlife we bore witness to: a family of zards, two rattlesnakes, one coyote, a hawk, lots of sheep scat yet no sheep, a graceful deer, a troop of boyscouts (identified by the size 3 Converse footprints), lichen, blue jays, sparrows, quail, a prospective Cal Poly student, and our deepest true selves. *Bonus: There is one camp uphill from the giant rock stack right adjacent to the spring. Bring your packs up there with you and you shall be rewarded as we were with privacy and easy access to a sunrise soak*

7 months ago

A few friends of mine and myself made this trek in late August. Definitely a beautiful trail but the heat and lack of shade made it pretty rough. Coupled with the large amount of rattlesnakes and low amount of water it would definitely be better in a cooler month.

8 months ago

This trail is awesome. I went yesterday and had a great time. A few notes of caution though - it is very hot in the middle of summer. I went during August and the heat paired with the full exposure from the sun made it a pretty grueling task to even be out there. However, once I turned a bend and was able to dip down toward the river, I was amazed at how full the river was and how shaded some campsites were. Additionally the fishing was great. Every cast I would pull back some bluegill (catch and release of course). I also saw steelhead in the water but couldn't get them on the fly. That's probably for the best though because I'm pretty sure they're endangered. All in all, I recommend this trail for anyone who loves wide canyon views and hiking near streams. I'll add the caveat that it's probably only good to go in the cooler months.

nature trips
9 months ago

This trail was gorgeous! I went on a Monday, a few other travelers on the trail. We went to the camp midway and spent time near the water. Make sure to take sunscreen, there is almost no shade! The water will help cool down, but won’t save you from burns. Take plenty of water and snacks!

trail running
10 months 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.

10 months 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.

11 months 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

Friday, February 02, 2018

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.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

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).

Saturday, November 11, 2017

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!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

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

Monday, August 28, 2017

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.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

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

Monday, July 03, 2017

This hike is best done in April

Friday, June 23, 2017

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!

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.

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.

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 

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.

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.

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.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

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

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.

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