Sykes Hot Springs, Big Sur, California

Need a break from the city? How do some relaxing hot springs in the wilderness sound? 

Sykes Hot Springs are is of the best “hidden” treasures in the greater Bay Area. Located in the Ventana Wilderness in Big Sur, these smelly and incredibly comfortable hot springs provide much needed relief for weary backpackers making their way in for an overnight or few day trip. So just drive South down the Highway 1 from Monterey until you reach Big Sur Station. Here you’ll need to fill out an overnight parking permit which costs $5/day. There is no wilderness permit required. Sometimes campfire permits are available, however, due to the lack of recent rain campfires are usually banned. Note: all photos taken by Claire Wright


The hike is about 10 miles each way over a few hills on a well maintained trail. It can be quite dusty with many little rocks so I would advise wearing proper hiking shoes or trail runners (I did it in Salomons on the way in and Chacos on the way out)- wouldn’t necessary recommend that.

Although there are at least 4 springs that comprise Sykes, the main bathing spring is about 8 feet across and waist deep. It can easily hold about 6-8 people and is a great way to meet new friends. The temperature hovers around 100 degrees which makes it SUPER relaxing. We decided to use my new collapsable shot glasses as well as a bottle of Finlaggen Scotch Whiskey to make the hot springs all that more classy. So we sat and sipped after our long hike and enjoyed the beauty that was around us- huge redwoods, a trickling stream, and a few bobcats that occasionally popped out of the brush. We also munched down on fresh bread, hummus, green beans, cheese, and avocado. Thats how we do!


The next morning we woke up slightly hungover, hungry and thirsty. My water filter had died the previous day, but luckily we had made friends with some LA folk in the hot springs who said we could borrow theirs. So we made our way over to their campsite to find a splendor of food. There were fresh chocolate chip pancakes, grilled salami, hot coco, tea, coffee. I mean these guys knew how to live. Want anything ladies? Ummmmm….YES!!! So we all sat down for an hour of sharing food and pumping our water bottles full of fresh water. I haven’t been so full in my life! BEST PANCAKES EVER (especially when you cover them with peanut butter and then add salami). Delicious!

After breakfast we packed up our bags and got back on the trail. We had decided to only spend one night at the hot springs as we all had work the next day, however, the hike out was just perfect. Not too hot, not too cold, and around each turn we found ourselves getting closer, back out to the ocean.

We made it out back to the car just in time to watch the sunset along the coast as we drove back up to Monterey for dinner. And to our excitement, we arrived in downtown Monterey just when the new Chipotle was opening up- thus free dinner!! Ahhh I now have a new appreciation for Chipotle.

Overall, it was an amazing trip! We made new friends, had spectacular food, and were able to relax for a few days in the wilderness. What could be better?? So I encourage you to go check it out 🙂


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