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Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, California, United States

Pine Ridge Trail to Sykes Hot Springs

A popular 10-mile hike through the Big Sur wilderness with a relaxing finish

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    This guide contains photos
 (34 votes, 25 reviews)
Difficulty: Difficult
Length: 20 miles / 32 km
Duration: Multiple days
Dog Friendly
 
Overview: 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.


Tips: Parking is now $5/day and campfires are not allowed during summer months, even with a fire permit (this may change depending on the season).
The ranger station wants you to have a campfire permit even for stove and lantern use.

Points of Interest

Parking
map

Trail Head

Park in the parking lot near the ranger station (parking is $4/day, just fill out an envelope with some cash in it. There is a trail map at the start of the trail for reference, but it's pretty difficult to take a wrong turn, as there are only one or two forks during the entire hike.

You will start with a slight ascent parallel to the river, which you will eventually cross within about 0.5 miles.
map

Crossing Post Creek

After you cross the creek, the climb continues as you hike along the side of the hills, which offer some great views of the hills across the valley carved out by the river. If you are hiking in Spring, you will see some beautiful wildflowers along the trail, especially after the rainy season.
map

Ridges and Valleys

The climb lasts about 2.5 miles total, and then the trail flattens out as you walk along the side of the hill. Most of this section of the trail is exposed, so be sure to bring sunscreen if you are hiking during Summer. You will have some great views of the higher hills across the valley carved out by the river, after a couple of miles you will enter more tree cover.
Water
map

Waterfall

A little while after you have entered the tree-covered area you will arrive at a bend in the trail. Make sure to keep your head up, because (depending on the season), there will be a waterfall to your right.

This section of the trail is significantly more damp than the ridge because it is covered by the trees. If you are hiking after a recent rainstorm don't let the views distract you too much or you may step on a banana slug.
Water
map

Waterfall

Several miles later you will come across an even bigger (and more impressive) waterfall, which will be difficult to miss. Feel bad if you want to stay for a while; Sykes campground isn't too much further
Water
map

More Waterfalls

Hopefully you aren't tired of waterfalls by now, because this one you shouldn't miss. The waterfall is in two sections, with a smaller section next to, and higher than, the trail, and a longer section below the trail (but if you are adventurous, you can take off you pack and climb down the dry rock for a better look).
Water
map

Crossing the River

Depending on the season, this could be very tricky. After heavy rains, the water level will be much higher than normal, making the river dangerous to cross. It is recommended to bring a rope in this situation, and first walking across with out your backpack to secure the rope on the other side.

In any case, be smart: try to walk upstream or downstream along the shore until you find a wider section (which means it shouldn't be as deep). Rivers can be deceivingly powerful, and often times people don't realize just how powerful until too late.
Campground
map

Sykes Campground

Since the hike is about 9 miles each direction, and you will want time to relax in the hot-springs you likely brought camping gear with you (if not, you are in for an exhausting hike back). There are several campsites with firepits after you cross the river, just along the bank. There are also signs for bathrooms.
Water
map

Skyes Hot Springs

The hot springs are pretty hidden, and there are two ways to reach them. The easier and more popular way requires a walk downstream (with some wading) until you reach the bend in the river, the hot springs will be visible soon, after about 15 minutes of walkling along the river.

A more difficult way is to cross back across the river (the side you came from), there should be a sign pointing towards it. You may have to scramble through some steep terrain, but you will soon be rewarded with a nice relaxing soak.
Pictures in this guide taken by: chris, oruwu, RedTailTrails
Reviews
pmarek
Amazing place, ideal for the whole family.
Visited on Aug 05, 2014

by pmarek on Sep 12, 2014
dai800
so beautiful and nice
Visited on Feb 07, 1992

by dai800 on Aug 22, 2014
Falmao_11
Great place, just amazing view

by Falmao_11 on Aug 19, 2014
JanettHill
I traveled to Skyes Hot Springs which was all paid by Luke Barnett
as a holiday bonus. I can certainly say that's the best trip I have ever taken... Highly recommended for single adults!

Visited on Jul 09, 2003

by JanettHill on Aug 14, 2014
inqueba
once you go here you dont want to come back"

by inqueba on Jul 17, 2014
hairtransplant
very adventures... Great place to visit.. i recommend all

by hairtransplant on Jul 17, 2014
casinobackhaus
Ich möchte dorthin zu fahren
Visited on Jul 13, 2014

by casinobackhaus on Jul 13, 2014
Malwina
I also agree,it's a great palace to amazing adventures
Visited on Jun 16, 2014

by Malwina on Jun 16, 2014
richarduggers
Pine Ridge is a great palace to adventures.
Visited on Apr 15, 2014

by richarduggers on May 02, 2014
itsybeadsykitty
This was my first backpacking experience, and it was awesome. But sure is a butt-kicker. night before we start the hike, we camped at Big Sur State Park. First day of the hike, camped at Barlow Flat Campground that i think was the best decision. Next day we day hiked to hot springs with less heavy backpack, which was way more pleasant. Highly recommended.
Visited on Apr 05, 2014

by itsybeadsykitty on Apr 17, 2014
ristorantiroma
I'll be there very soon!

by ristorantiroma on Feb 20, 2014
registravel
Great place, very want to go. Is it possible to meet people want to go there to do excursion ?

by registravel on Feb 16, 2014
vtorgonz
Fantastic hike. I went with a group of 9 and it was a blast. The hot springs are surprisingly big.
Visited on Mar 28, 2013

by vtorgonz on Jan 31, 2014
lubiejesc
Well that was hell of a good adventure..
Visited on Apr 05, 2013

by lubiejesc on Dec 20, 2013
frankwo
Great place, just amazing view
Visited on May 08, 1993

by frankwo on Oct 25, 2013
paulhilliar
Is this doable in one day? Yes, absolutely. It's a big workout, but if you like that sort of thing then it's about four hours fast hiking each way.

The first bit of the trail isn't amazing and it quite exposed to the sun but the really lovely views kick in after about 3 miles. Big valleys, beautiful forests, what's not to love? It's a great hike. Loads of shade, great views.

No need for long trousers, or heavy hiking shoes. This isn't a rocky or overly technical trail.

To find the hot springs (there were three at the time of writing), get down to the river, cross over and turn left (downstream) and continue for about 10 mins before crossing back to the original side for the final five mins. It's lovely there.

Visited on Sep 01, 2013

by paulhilliar on Sep 02, 2013
Marybackpacker
The trail to Sykes is a wonderful escape and takes you into the beautiful Ventana Wilderness, and brings you to some very nice spots along the way to soak your feet and relax. I am sorry to say that there are far too many traces of human trail toilets. It is so unsightly to be walking in such perfectness, and come across toilet paper either tossed off trail, into bushes, or left right there. Please, if you use toilet paper, please follow proper trail etiquette, which is to carry it out, or burry it the length of your orange, or any little shovel. I am certain that somewhere this has been lost in the Backpacking 101. The wilderness should e left so that all who come have the feeling that they are experiencing a piece of preserved beauty. We stopped at Barlow Flats to camp. It was very peaceful, and yet, there were 3 pairs of underwear, a tank top, a towel, and a clothes line left behind, all in various places, along with again, white toilet paper!
Visited on Jul 04, 2013

by Marybackpacker on Jul 07, 2013
kawaz1000
I just got home from a three night back-country trip on the Pine Ridge trail and it was amazing. The views are spectacular. The hot springs at Sykes Campground are well worth the visit. You get to camp amount large redwoods, fresh air, and babbling brooks. It is the perfect place to find zen. There is plenty of fresh water that is easily cleaned with a purifier or iodine tabs. Just be aware that on the first five miles in, water is scarce. Once you get to Terrace Creek camp, there is plenty of water between there and Sykes.

There were a couple of drawbacks. There was a fair amount of trash on the trail. Clean up after yourself people. It's not that hard. In addition, most of the terrain are steep hills leaving few places where you can find a comfortable rest area. I noticed a fair amount of people using trees as toilets and not burying their waste paper which is a big no no. The least you can do is dig a small hole and put some dirt on top of it.

Visited on May 17, 2013

by kawaz1000 on May 21, 2013
Kvanboven90
My good friend and I just came back from this backpacking trip. We left our hometown really early in the morning and started hiking out with our packs around 9:30 Wednesday morning. We were pleasantly surprised at the beautiful scenery and challenging hills. It took us approximately 7 hours to arrive at Sykes Campground; we took a few nice breaks. The hot springs were amazing, be prepared for a nudist party though. Apparently it is newt breeding season as well, we enjoyed watching many newts swimming around in the river. We were lucky to find a quiet secluded area around the river bend as well, and the people we met along the way were very pleasant. We left Thursday at 2 o'clock after soaking in the hot springs for a while, and we arrived back at the parking lot at 8:15pm. We did get rained on Wednesday night, but other than that the hike was beautiful! I definitely recommend this hike, and plan on returning!
Visited on Apr 03, 2013

by Kvanboven90 on Apr 05, 2013
erin_said
Please, for the love of god, practice Leave No Trace if you are hiking, backpacking, camping, or doing anything outdoors, really. It is not that difficult, and it preserves nature for the rest of us who want to continue enjoying it. I noticed a lot of trash at campsites all along the Pine Ridge Trail, and it was really upsetting. This isn't some KOA where a maintenance crew is going to come in and pick up after you. If you can't pack out your own trash, then don't go.

With that being said, the hike was lovely and challenging. The trail is very steep, so if you have bad knees beware: it will be extremely hard on you on the hike out. The ticks were out IN FORCE when I went, so wear long pants, put on lots of bug spray, and be ready to pull those suckers out if they attach to you. Watch out for poison oak as well.

I camped at Ventana Camp the first night since my group got a late start. The trail down is not for the faint of heart (extremely steep and overgrown in some sections), but the camp was beautiful and quite close to the Big Sur River which was a plus because you don't have to worry about water for the trek back up.

Visited on Mar 15, 2013

by erin_said on Mar 26, 2013
adamw6
This is a beautiful place and a challenging hike. However Redwood Camp, only 1.75 miles further, is much nicer and there are a ton of people that visit Sykes. And of course the rest of the Ventana Wilderness is even more spectacular.
Please practice Leave No Trace when visiting.
This link is very helpful for more information:

http://www.ventanawild.org/planning-trip/sykes-camp-a-hot-springs.html

Visited on Mar 24, 2013

by adamw6 on Mar 23, 2013
jrocnyc
It's a full day if you head to the springs and back but totally doable. Great views along the way, good elevation changes, a great workout.
Visited on May 01, 2012

by jrocnyc on Jul 31, 2012
zaventh
An amazing hike. I literally went out here not even knowing there was a hot spring until I was tipped off by some other trailgoers. Amazing! Let me just say, do NOT attempt to day-hike this unless you run marathons on the weekends or something. I like to think I am in pretty decent shape, but I was having serious doubts by the time I got to the springs. There is a lot of gradual but unrelenting elevation change. It also gets a bit chilly in the canyon at night even in the summer, so plan accordingly. Other than that, pack some wine, bring your dog, and enjoy the (clothes optional) springs!
Visited on Sep 15, 2009

by zaventh on Aug 12, 2011
RedTailTrails
Sykes was my first solo backpacking trip, and it turned out to be a great adventure. I hiked in mid August and it felt like 4:00 PM was the hottest part of the day. Sunscreen is key, there are lots of exposed areas. Sections of this area experienced a fire in 2008 and parts along the trail are rebounding. I highly recommend bringing a water filter to avoid carrying excess weight, and there are plenty of sources along the way. If you can, plan a trip on a weekday to avoid weekend warriors.
Visited on Aug 16, 2010

by RedTailTrails on Mar 16, 2011
chris
This is a great 2-day hike for anyone visiting the big sur area. We got a little lost on or way and missed the hot springs and kept hiking an extra 3 miles, but we still had a great time. The area is so beautiful and the scenery changes often, ranging from forests to ridges to rivers.
Visited on Jan 30, 2010

by chris on Mar 11, 2011

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chris
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