Sespe River Trail to Willett Hot Springs

MODERATE 166 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: 2,522 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dogs on leash

backpacking

camping

hiking

nature trips

walking

bird watching

running

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.

hiking
bugs
muddy
no shade
rocky
3 days ago

Poor trail with disappointing

Trail is a little hard to follow at some of the river crossings but generally not too bad, I got really turned around and exhausted after willet hot springs and ended up turning back and going to willet rather than u all the way to sespe in one day. Willet springs was really nice in November and under rated in my opinion, I only saw 3 other groups on the entire hike up there and the springs were way cooler than I thought they’d be, it was a little tub tucked away in the trees with only a few people hanging out when I got there. Watch out for poison oak on the left as you approach the springs! There is a ton right there about 100 yards from the end. The best part was the total seclusion and beauty on the hike from the trailhead to willet, there are a bunch of spots along the way to cut off the trail and go dunk into waist deep chilly water in the creek and fill up water. I’d highly recommend doing this route and I’d make it a multi day thing if you want to go all the way to sespe so you can enjoy it and take it slow.

hiking
no shade
1 month ago

Absolutely beautiful mountains and wildlife. I suggest a compass and gps map (I used downloaded map in all Trails) as the trail the last half mile or so to Willet hot springs before going up the mountain can be hard/nearly impossible to follow. Also extremely hot when I went, drink lots of water filtered from creeks. On flip side check trail conditions in winter as river crossings can be dangerous and uncrossable.

hiking
no shade
2 months ago

Found a google pixel phone dropped in the river crossing shortly after bear creek. If anyone is looking, let me know. Plenty of water left in the creek, especially near Bear Creek Camp. Pretty hot out there this weekend but on the plus side, not a lot of bugs.

hiking
no shade
3 months ago

The trail is ok. There is little shade. But once you hit the swimming holes it’s not so bad.

hiking
no shade
3 months ago

Great for trail running

backpacking
bugs
no shade
3 months ago

Awesome weekend trip. Left for the trailhead Friday after work and hiked in about 4ish miles to bear camp with a super scenic sundown the entire way. Finished the rest of the hike to the hot springs the next morning with the final stretch right around noon which was extremely tough with the heat (high 90’s). The trail between bear camp and oak tree was somewhat tough to follow at times and had a few tough river crossings so take it slow or have a gps to follow to make sure your on track. Spent the afternoon enjoying the views and soaking in the hot springs. Left at sunrise back to the trailhead to try to avoid the heat. Overall, this is a super scenic trail with great camping spots along the way and plenty of water (at this time). Highly recommend to plan for the heat as it killed the fun for brief periods of the hike. Bug spray too, they are ferocious in parts where the creek water pools or is stagnant.

hiking
bugs
no shade
4 months ago

This is a great trail for those who understand the meaning of 1 mile at a time. This trail is best completed during the end of winter or early to mid spring. I have done this trail in the summer time and it beat the hell out of me. Overall, amazing trail with great scenery and outstanding views.

hiking
4 months ago

Did a quick backpacking to the springs and back. Great trail though got pretty hot during mid day. Not much in the way of shade but an absolute blast

hiking
4 months ago

good beginner backpacking trail. only somewhat difficult part would be picking up the trail after some of the crossings. follow the carins. Also campgrounds are not well marked

hiking
5 months ago

Great hike, although temps were pretty hot today - upper 80s. Lots of water running so we were able to cool off in several places. Not much shade along the route. We hiked about 4.5 miles in and turned around. Wildflowers are gorgeous and a breeze that kicked up on the way back helped us with the heat.

So sad. On the way to Willet over MDW and a fire broke out at Oak Flat. So many people had to hike out.

hiking
bugs
no shade
6 months ago

hiking
no shade
6 months ago

Hiked it this last week. Was a great trip. Pros-plenty of water, beautiful flowers, very few people during the weekdays, awesome camping spots right near the river. Cons-gets pretty busy on the weekends, lots of sun. We had a great trip. Highly recommend going during the week to avoid the many many weekend warriors. We did a three night trip and stayed by Bear creek camp, the river right before willett, then again at bear creek. We went on a lot of day hikes on the trails around and the hot springs were perfect. There is one campsite right near the hot springs. Highly recommend staying at one of the 5 or 6 sites right near the river before you cross to get to willett. Late April/early May was perfect. Would be almost too hot in the summer. River crossings were very doable and refreshing. Pretty easy trail to follow... just had to put a little thought to it when it came to some of the river crossings and up around willett and the hot springs. Great few days out on the trail!

hiking
no shade
6 months ago

I’ve done this trail twice now, both times in early to mid December. You will need a national Forrest adventure pass to park at the trailhead. This area can get very hot. 100’s are almost the norm in the summer months. The creek can be a raging river with flash flood/ life threatening conditions in a torrential downpour. I would only recommend this hike from mid fall to mid spring. The trail is very exposed so a wide brim hat or umbrella is recommended. There are a number of creek crossings so don’t wear shoes you don’t want to get wet. On my first hike to Willets a couple of years ago, there was no water in the Sespe creek bed and only one little side creek flowing. If it is a dry year plan your water accordingly. Willets hot spring is located near an old ranch. There are still some buildings standing in decent shape. There is a water spigot that is fed from a spring in the area, although I can not attest to its purity. There is plenty of space for camping and even a couple of picnic benches. Winter night temperatures can get below freezing. The Hotspring itself is reached via a precarious steep trail that ascends up a small canyon to the west of the old ranch. The hot spring water temp is bathtub warm. The trail can be deceiving in its gain and loss of altitude because of all the headlands and bends in the creek that you must ascend and descend. Allow for a full day of hiking.

6 months ago

fun, easy overnight backpack trip with mulitple fun river crossings! we lost the trail a couple of times but that made it interesting- we had a great time! bring shoes you dont mind getting wet.

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.

backpacking
7 months 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
rocky
washed out
7 months 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.

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