Sykes Hot Springs via Pine Ridge Trail is a 19.5 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Big Sur, California that features hot springs and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail.
Big Sur has many great destinations, but Sykes Hot Springs is definitely near the top of the list for anyone who has been there. It is roughly 9-10 miles to the Skyes campground, and limited climbing after the first 2 hours (which can be steep at times, and tiring in the direct sun). It is possible to treat it as a day hike, but it is recommended to take some time for the hike, as there are rolling green hills, several waterfalls, and wildflowers throughout the trail, none of which should be missed. The hot springs is about 8 feet across and a couple of feet deep--about the size for 4 adults, and it stays around 100 degrees depending on rain. Start by parking at the Ventana Wilderness area ranger station and heading towards the back parking lot.
This is a highly traveled trail so if you don't like crowds either go during the week or try another trail. The hot springs at the end are nice, but you have to share a 2/3-person bath with approx 8+ people. A little too much sweat and bodily fluids in one body of water for me. Camping spots are generally pretty crowded because of the number of people coming through. Definitely a tough hike, especially in the heat.
We did This back in 2012. Epic hike with a reward at the end
WARNING: This Trail is closed as part of Soberanes fire. While Sykes wasn't affected by the fire. There has been reports of people Illegally camping in and having campfires according to the ranger station.
The ranger, said that it'll be closed for a while. Likely to open back up in April.
A bit tedious up and down the whole way but nice hike with cool River and springs at end
First time where I hiked and camped overnight with all my gear. Left at 4pm and got up before it got dark to setup camp. Definitely needed the hot springs to recover. Dogs barely made it but did it 2 days. Definitely possible if you keep a good pace
One of my all time favorites! The hike is long and I'd say moderate but long. The end is definitely worth it. Bring a bathing suit :)
I have backpacked to Ventana Camp once before I did this trek. I really am not entirely experience in backpacking and I am here to warn you if you are not experienced I would skip this trip or maybe just settle for a closer camp. It took me two days to get out to Sykes. We kinda just decided to go on the trail and see how far we could go and we ended up making it all the way to Sykes. It was gorgeous there. WAY to many people though and people were not respecting others turns in the hot springs. They were just all jumping in front of people who were waiting to get into them. Also kinda wanted to be able to strip down but that was impossible cause so many people there and young kids. (awkward) other than that it was extremely gorgeous and was nice to be able to rest muscles in hot springs after that long trek. It only took us a day to get out all the way back to our car which was impressive for me though it was mostly down in elevation. Id also suggest going extremely early in the day or later at night and also in a cooler season because it gets really hot and strenuous on that trail especially from the trail head to Ventana camp.
Not much to see but the hot springs are worth the hike.
The proximity to San Francisco is super convenient. We took a quick 2.5 hour drive on Friday evening, and slept in the back of a Getaround Prius in a parking lot near the trailhead. We got a late start (late for what we wanted) and were on the trail by 9:30am. It was foggy for the first 3 miles or so, which was great. It kept the temperature down during the steep initial ascent. The single track trail is well maintained, and relatively easy as far as wilderness trails go. The main challenge is the length. There's a great resting place at the 5 mile mark.
We arrive at Sykes camp around 1:30pm, and the sites were starting to fill up. By evening, every possible camp site was filled. Not a great location for solitude. Some camps were playing music, other camps were building campfires during a fire ban. There were no outhouses, and lots of toilet paper scraps scattered around in the brush. I would happily pay a fee for a wilderness permit if they figured out a toilet solution. The amount of traffic this place gets is pretty incredible, and I wonder how it's affecting the area. There was even some toilet paper scraps near the creek, which is pretty nasty.
We avoided the hot springs that evening because of the amount of people camping in the area. We woke up at 5:30am and hiked in the morning light down to the pools and had a nice quiet soak. I was again surprised to see all the campsites filled with campers, even all the way down to the hot springs. There was a tent set up right at the pools as well.
All in all, it was a fun trip, but don't come here for solitude or to be surrounded by people who treat the outdoors with kindness.
We hiked in and back in one day. A little over 20 miles from the truck and back. Our group was in good shape, but it was rough. There is a lot of up and down and elevation gain. I kept telling myself "soon you'll be at the beautiful springs!"
We arrived at the hot springs and we all looked at one another like "soooo.... THIS is what we are hiking 20 miles for?". Teeny tiny sulphur pools FILLED with algae (think long billowing aggressive algae). Super crowded. We had to wait for a little pod to empty out. I didn't want to get near them, except I knew my muscles probably needed it to make the 10 miles back. The springs were more of a tepid "I'm going to get a disease here" temp instead of hot.
I have done amazing hikes in big sur and surrounding areas. This was the least beautiful and completely underwhelming. We were hiking inland so I expected maybe something like big basin? Beautiful green forest and ferns and waterfalls. No. Brushy forest and an occasional creek crossing. We weren't even tempted to take photos along the way. The trail is super narrow so we were single-file the whole way and sang songs and chatted to pass the time. The only nice thing about this hike was the workout and being with friends. I wouldn't recommend to anyone.
This hike is very strenuous. The first 4 miles to ventana is the hardest. From Ventana to Terrace Ceek is moderate and a good break from the uphill from the station to Ventana. From Terrace Creek to Barlow Flats is moderate; from Barlow Flats to Sykes is moderate to difficult. The last 3 miles is tough because it's uphill in the sun, with little shade, then downhill to get to Sykes. It's a scenic path with beautiful views. The river is crossed several times.
The entire time on the path there is room for only 1 person. There is very little room and you're literally on the cliff of the mountain the whole time. There is not room for off trailing and was honestly a bit boring for how long the hike is.
Once you get into Sykes camp, the trail goes left and right. The hot springs are to your LEFT. It's confusing and very many people got confused and didn't know where to go. The trail gets lost for a little bit; if you keep continuing to the left, you'll find them. The trail will go up on rocks which was very narrow and scary because of the rocks, you can also go through the river. Once you get close, it's hard to take your backpack with you. The small trail to the springs is very narrow and hard to get to because of the rocks. I would recommend finding the springs without your packs, find a campsite, and then enjoy.
The Hot Springs felt great and was truly an amazing experience. The river is beautiful and the camp is very comfortable. When we got to the springs, there was no one there. We got there Wednesday and left Thursday morning. At night the springs were crowded.
We stayed the first night in Ventana. The Ventana camp is a mile down with beautiful views. It's a tough hike back uphill to get back to the Pine Ridge Trail.
If you're willing to do a tough hike and test your uphill abilities, this is a great hike. If you're looking for scenery and a nice calm scenic hike, this is not for you. There are no coastal views, and you're looking at the path the entire time.
Challenging, beautiful and worth it! go mid week and leave on Saturday to avoid crowded campsites.
Great trail! You'll cross beautiful springs, look over the ocean, see the amazing valley below, and travel along the lush ridge line. Definitely backpack out to Sykes Hot Springs and stay over for a night.