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Best Hot Springs in Southern California to Soak In (With Maps)

Southern California offers a unique escape from the constant anticipation of seismic activity. Instead of dwelling on the looming “Big One,” nature enthusiasts in SoCal can embrace the benefits of their geothermal surroundings: a wealth of natural hot springs. 

For those willing to venture off the beaten path, these secluded oases promise a rewarding respite from city life, blending tranquil soaks with picturesque landscapes.

These geothermal hot springs in California hold an almost mystical quality. As you immerse yourself in their therapeutic waters, the stresses of daily life dissolve. 

1. SESPE HOT SPRINGS

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Sespe Hot Springs, nestled within the pristine Los Padres National Forest, offers a rewarding escape for adventurous hikers. These secluded hot springs boast a unique feature—the geothermal waters flow down a stream and cascade over a man-made rock wall before filling a soothing pool.

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Unlike many other hot springs, Sespe Hot Springs is accessible solely by foot or horseback, making it a hidden gem far from the hustle and bustle of urban life.

Location and Accessibility

Situated approximately 50 miles east of Santa Barbara and 21 miles north of Ojai, California, Sespe Hot Springs is deep in the heart of the Sespe Wilderness. This remote location adds to their allure, but reaching these natural hot springs can be an adventure in itself.

Visitors can approach Sespe Hot Springs via three different trails, each offering a unique journey through the wilderness.

  • The most direct route covers a distance ranging from 7.5 to 17 miles one way, depending on the chosen trailhead. It’s a long but rewarding hike.
  • An alternative and more scenic option is the Johnson Ridge Trail, which spans 9.5 miles, providing hikers with panoramic views of the Sespe area and a downhill descent to the springs.
  • Access to the northern trailhead via the unpaved Grade Road may require a vehicle with all-wheel drive or SUV capabilities.

Read Also: 12 Best Hot Springs in Washington State Mapped | Complete Guide

How to Reach There

To embark on this adventure, you’ll drive along a serene highway from Ojai and eventually follow a remote forest road to the trailhead leading to Sespe Hot Springs.

Ideal visit times are during the mild seasons of fall, spring, or winter when the weather is more forgiving. Be mindful that summer temperatures on the trail can soar above 100°F, making it less comfortable for hiking.

Nearby Attractions

While Sespe Hot Springs offers solitude and relaxation, the surrounding Sespe Wilderness also holds the allure of wildlife sightings. Keep an eye out for bighorn sheep, mountain lions, and even California condors—the last of their kind in the state.

The awe-inspiring landscape features soaring white sandstone cliffs, expansive bare bluffs, and Sespe Creek meandering through the heart of the wilderness.

Important Things to Know Before You Go

  • Sespe Hot Springs is accessible solely on foot or horseback, so be prepared for a hike.
  • Plan your visit during the fall, spring, or winter to avoid scorching summer temperatures.
  • Ensure your vehicle is suitable for the unpaved Grade Road if accessing the northern trailhead.
  • If you prefer a shorter hike, consider exploring nearby Montecito Hot Springs or the 20-mile overnight trek to Willett Hot Springs.
  • Keep an eye on weather conditions, as winter months can bring closures due to snow or high-water crossings during the rainy season.
  • For additional information and updates, check with the Ojai Ranger District, especially during adverse weather conditions.

Read Also: Best Hot Springs in Hawaii That You Can’t Miss – List & Map

2. IVA BELL HOT SPRINGS

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Iva Belle Hot Springs, nestled in Inyo National Forest near Mammoth Lakes, offers a serene retreat. This site features six natural pools with temperatures around the low 100s, ideal for relaxation. The pools, varying in size, are situated among flat camping areas equipped with fire pits.

Photo by: brazenbackpacker

Notably, the springs are devoid of the sulfuric smell often associated with hot springs. The upper springs are smaller and hotter, while the lower three can accommodate up to eight people each.

Location and Accessibility

Located outside of Mammoth Lakes, these hot springs are a hidden gem in the backcountry. Access is moderately challenging, involving a hike through diverse landscapes.

The springs are best visited during summer as the access road, Red’s Meadow, closes in winter. Permits are mandatory for overnight stays, with some walk-up day permits available at the Mammoth Visitors Center.

How to Reach There

Start your journey from Mammoth Lakes, by taking the $7 Red’s Meadow shuttle to the last stop (#10). The hike to the springs follows the Carter Creek Trail for 11 miles, descending into Fish Creek Valley. It’s a strenuous 12-mile trek, recommended to be done over two or three days.

The trailhead is inside Devil’s Postpile National Monument, requiring a shuttle ride during summer. In the fall, when the shuttle isn’t required, parking is available near the Rainbow Falls trailhead or at Reds Meadow.

Nearby Attractions

The trail offers stunning views of granite hills, dense forests, and a hidden waterfall. Notable sights include the Rainbow Falls and Devil’s Top, adding to the scenic value of the hike. Thimbleberries, wild blackberries, and a variety of wildflowers can be seen along the trail.

Read Also: Best Natural Hot Springs in Montana – Resorts & Maps

Important Things to Know Before You Go

  • Wilderness permits are required for overnight stays.
  • Prepare for a challenging hike; it’s not flat and involves steep ascents and descents.
  • The area is active with bears; carry a bear-resistant food container.
  • Mosquitoes can be intense; bring bug spray.
  • The best time to visit is from spring to early fall.
  • Carry plenty of water and snacks, and plan for sudden weather changes.
  • Leave no trace: pack out all trash and respect the natural environment.
  • Be prepared for sun exposure and varying temperatures.
  • Check for the latest trail and weather conditions before setting out.

3. JORDAN HOT SPRINGS

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Jordan Hot Springs, once a bustling resort, now offers a tranquil, backpacker-only experience. Located in the Golden Trout Wilderness, part of Inyo National Forest, it features a seven-person pool, a single-person warmer pool, and a foot trough. The springs are surrounded by remnants of its past as a resort, including dilapidated buildings and historical cabins.

Photo by: new.michigo

Location and Accessibility

This hidden gem lies in the southern part of Golden Trout Wilderness. Its transformation from a commercial resort to a natural wilderness spot means access is solely by hiking. The area’s pristine condition reflects its past, offering a unique blend of natural beauty and historical significance.

How to Reach There

Begin your journey at the Black Rock ranger station. The trail descends through a pine forest, paralleling a creek, and opens into a clearing with historical structures. The 6-mile hike drops about 3,000 feet, making for a moderate challenge. In winter, access may be restricted due to snow, so plan your trip accordingly, ideally outside the snowy months.

Nearby Attractions

The trail itself is an attraction, showcasing the southern Sierras’ expansive meadows and stunning vistas. Casa Vieja Meadows and Ninemile Canyon are notable highlights along the route. The surrounding area is rich in natural beauty, offering opportunities for photography, bird watching, and experiencing diverse ecosystems.

Important Things to Know Before You Go

  • Wilderness permits are required for overnight stays.
  • The best times to visit are spring and fall for optimal weather and fewer crowds.
  • Be prepared for a challenging return hike with a 3,000-foot elevation gain.
  • Pack out all trash and follow Leave No Trace principles.
  • Be mindful of wildlife, including bears, and take appropriate precautions.
  • Bring sufficient water and food, and be prepared for sudden weather changes.
  • Note the presence of bacteria in the springs; avoid submerging your head.
  • If camping, choose spots away from the springs for privacy and environmental care.

4. KERN RIVER HOT SPRING – Natural Hot Spring Pool

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Kern River Hot Spring, set in a natural outdoor paradise, features a single spring flowing into three pools. The temperatures range from 100-115 degrees, perfect for relaxing.

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It’s nestled along the shores of the Kern River, beneath towering cliffs and surrounded by a dense pine forest, offering a serene escape from the hustle and bustle.

Location and Accessibility

This hidden gem is located in Sequoia National Park, along the shores of the Kern River. Unlike the more accessible and often crowded Remington Hot Springs, Kern River Hot Spring provides a more secluded and natural experience. It’s part of a less explored area of the park, adding to its allure.

Read Also: Best Natural Hot Springs in Wyoming | Mapped & Ranked

How to Reach There

The most direct route to Kern River Hot Spring is a challenging 20-mile hike from Mineral King Ranger Station, traversing Franklyn Pass and descending along Rattlesnake Creek to the Kern River.

For those seeking a longer adventure, the hot spring can also be accessed along the High Sierra Trail at about mile 36 of the 72-mile trek. This journey requires preparation and a permit, obtainable online or as a walk-up from the National Park Service.

Nearby Attractions

The route to the hot spring showcases breathtaking scenery around Mineral King and along the High Sierra Trail. Nearby attractions include Lake Isabella, which offers additional outdoor activities. The area is also known for excellent stargazing opportunities, especially when staying overnight at a local campground.

Important Things to Know Before You Go

  • A permit is required for this hike, available online or as a walk-up.
  • The best time to visit is from late spring to early fall for snow-free trails and warmer temperatures.
  • Prepare for a strenuous hike with significant elevation gain.
  • Pack out all trash and respect the natural environment.
  • Bring sufficient water, and food, and be ready for weather changes.
  • Nearby campgrounds, like Hobo Campground, offer convenient overnight stays for extended soaking.
  • Be aware of natural hazards and wildlife in the area.
  • Check current trail and weather conditions before setting out.
  • Enjoy responsibly, maintaining the serene and natural state of the hot springs.

5. Desert Hot Springs

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Desert Hot Springs, a serene oasis in Southern California, is renowned for its therapeutic hot and cold mineral springs. Home to over 20 spa resorts, including the exclusive Two Bunch Palms, this city offers a unique wellness experience.

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The hot springs here are odorless, a rare quality that adds to their appeal. The city’s rich history, dating back to the early 20th century, contributes to its charm.

Location and Accessibility

Situated just outside Palm Springs and about two hours east of Los Angeles, Desert Hot Springs is easily accessible by car. It’s a quick 20-minute drive from downtown Palm Springs, making it an ideal destination for a day trip or a longer, relaxing getaway.

Read Also: 8 Best Natural Hot Springs in Virginia to Soak – Mapped & Ranked

How to Reach There

From Los Angeles, take the I-10 East towards Palm Springs, then follow signs to Desert Hot Springs. If you come from Palm Springs, a short drive north will bring you to this tranquil city. The area is well-connected by roads, ensuring a hassle-free journey.

Nearby Attractions

Desert Hot Springs is close to several natural attractions. The Big Morongo Canyon Preserve offers miles of hiking and biking trails. The Mission Creek Preserve, a unique spot between the Mojave and Sonoran deserts, features a river trail and welcomes leashed dogs. Additionally, Joshua Tree National Park, a haven for nature lovers, is just a 30-minute drive away.

Important Things to Know Before You Go

  • The best time to visit is in the cooler months to fully enjoy the hot springs.
  • Accommodation ranges from budget-friendly to luxury resorts, catering to all preferences.
  • Most resorts welcome both day visitors and overnight guests.
  • The area’s mineral springs are unique for being odorless.
  • If you’re planning to visit the nearby preserves, bring suitable hiking gear and water.
  • For a historical experience, visit Cabot’s Pueblo Museum to explore the city’s founding heritage.
  • Remember to book spa treatments in advance, especially at more exclusive resorts like Two Bunch Palms.
  • Desert Hot Springs is pet-friendly, with several locations allowing leashed dogs.

6. Wilbur Hot Springs

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Wilbur Hot Springs, a historic and eco-friendly mineral hot springs resort, is a serene retreat nestled amidst the natural beauty of Northern California. Established in the late 19th century, this off-grid sanctuary offers a unique blend of relaxation and rejuvenation.

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The resort’s Japanese-style onsen structures provide an authentic hot springs experience, some of which are clothing-optional. Additionally, there’s a spring-fed swimming pool, a spring-heated swimming pool, and a dry sauna to enhance your wellness journey.

Read Also: Ojai Hot Springs (Ecotopia) in California – Read Before You Visit

Location and Accessibility

Situated in the charming town of Williams, Wilbur Hot Springs is conveniently located just 90 minutes from Sacramento by car and approximately two and a half hours from San Francisco. Its serene setting amidst nature makes it feel worlds away from the urban hustle and bustle.

How to Reach There

To access Wilbur Hot Springs, take Highway 80 from the San Francisco Bay Area, then continue on Interstate 505 north to Highway 16, followed by Highway 20.

At the intersection of Highways 16 and 20, head west on Highway 20 for about 675 feet, and then turn right onto Bear Valley Road. After approximately 4 miles on this dirt road, you’ll cross the historic Silver Bridge and reach the retreat.

Nearby Attractions

While Wilbur Hot Springs offers a tranquil escape, its surroundings provide opportunities for exploration. The resort is part of a 1,800-acre nature preserve, making it an ideal destination for hiking and mountain biking. The nearby area also offers scenic drives through walnut orchards and fruit stands brimming with oranges, cherries, and honey.

Important Things to Know Before You Go

  • Wilbur Hot Springs is a digital-free zone, meaning no mobile phones are allowed in public areas, creating an environment conducive to relaxation and introspection.
  • The resort’s remote location ensures a peaceful atmosphere, with the closest WiFi and cell phone reception available in the town of Williams, approximately 20 miles away.
  • The resort underwent renovations after a fire in March 2014, resulting in the addition of new duplex cabins with deluxe queen-size beds and private bathrooms, offering improved comfort and tranquility.
  • Wilbur Hot Springs boasts mineral-rich geothermal waters with three ounces of dissolved minerals per gallon, making multiple daily soaks recommended for up to an hour each time to fully experience their potential healing properties.
  • The resort’s communal kitchen allows guests to prepare their meals, fostering a sense of community and offering the chance to share culinary experiences.
  • Wilbur Hot Springs provides a unique blend of serene silence and opportunities for conversation, whether in the dining room, around the communal outdoor tub and swimming pool, or during chance encounters on the hiking trails.

7. Sycamore Mineral Springs – Hot Spring Resort & Spa

Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort & Spa, nestled in the heart of Avila Beach, Central California, is a tranquil haven that spans over 100 acres of pristine forest, rolling hills, and scenic meadows.

photo by: sycamoresprings

Read Also: 7 Best Hot Springs in Texas You Must Visit | Natural & Mapped

This boutique luxury resort offers 72 rooms and suites, including a charming three-bedroom casita. Each accommodation is thoughtfully designed with private hot tubs on secluded balconies or patios, inviting you to unwind in the soothing warmth of mineral-rich waters.

The resort’s lush estate is graced with 24 naturally heated outdoor hot tubs, thoughtfully placed along a verdant hillside. Beyond the therapeutic waters, Sycamore pampers its guests with a wide array of wellness activities, including yoga and pilates classes.

A large spa awaits, offering a diverse range of body, beauty, and skin treatments, ensuring a truly rejuvenating experience.

Location and Accessibility

Located just 15 minutes from San Luis Obispo off Highway 101, Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort & Spa is easily accessible from the surrounding areas of Central California.

Its central location in Avila Beach makes it a convenient retreat for travelers seeking relaxation and rejuvenation amid natural beauty.

How to Reach There

To reach this idyllic resort, simply follow Highway 101 and take the exit to Avila Beach. The resort is a short drive away, offering a seamless journey to your oasis of tranquility.

Nearby Attractions

While Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort & Spa is a destination in itself, the Central Coast region offers captivating attractions nearby. One such gem is Hearst Castle, the opulent mountaintop estate of William Randolph Hearst, which invites you to explore its grandeur and history.

Important Things to Know Before You Go

  • Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort & Spa boasts an array of amenities, including the Oasis Waterfall Lagoon, the Secret Garden, meditation gardens, and a labyrinth, providing ample opportunities for relaxation and reflection.
  • The resort’s on-site restaurant, the Gardens of Avila, is a renowned Central Coast dining destination, offering a seasonal menu sourced from local ingredients, including produce from the resort’s one-acre chef’s garden.
  • Day guests who reserve hot tubs can also savor delicious meals from the resort’s restaurant while enjoying the rejuvenating waters.
  • The resort’s diverse selection of accommodations includes one and two-bedroom suites and a charming three-bedroom Guest House, each featuring a private balcony hot tub.
  • Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort & Spa is celebrated for its rustic elegance and serene ambiance, making it a coveted destination for spa retreats and weekend getaways on the Central Coast of California. Check current trail and weather conditions before embarking on your hike.

The Bottom Line

Southern California’s hot springs offer a diverse array of experiences, from the remote wilderness of Sespe to the historic luxury of Wilbur Hot Springs and the tranquil beauty of Sycamore Mineral Springs.

Whether you seek a challenging hike, a digital detox, or a rejuvenating soak, these hot springs have something for everyone.

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