Carmel, CA: Sykes Hot Springs

Follow the Big Sur River to a group of hot pools on this 19.3-mile out-and-back half an hour from Carmel.
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Follow the Big Sur River to a group of hot pools on this 19.3-mile out-and-back half an hour from Carmel.

Soak in three steaming, aqua-colored pools flanking the Big Sur River on a 19.3-miler south of Monterey. Pick up the Pine Ridge Trail at the Big Sur Ranger Station for a roller-coaster climb high above the river, linking redwood groves and chaparral hillsides. Nine miles in, descend switchbacks to the banks of the Big Sur (and Sykes Campsite), then follow the smell of sulfur to the hot springs.

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 31.1

Waypoints

SYK001

Location: 36.247599, -121.781263

The trail begins at the Big Sur Ranger Station off CA 1 in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Hike south on Pine Ridge Trail. Note: This can be done as a day trip. If you start early enough (by 6:00 a.m.), without a big pack, you'll make good time to soak and return by the evening.

SYK002

Location: 36.241018, -121.77244

Cross the Post Creek drainage and head north.

SYK003

Location: 36.244323, -121.771264

Climb four switchbacks. Ahead, the trail curves to the east-southeast, traversing hillsides above the Big Sur River.

SYK004

Location: 36.247143, -121.748472

Cross Bad Gulch.

SYK005

Location: 36.255171, -121.742077

After rounding this ridgeline, the trail curves southeast.

SYK006

Location: 36.246727, -121.729547

Cross Terrace Creek.

SYK007

Location: 36.246518, -121.713391

Pass the spur trail to Barlow Flat Campsite on the left.

SYK008

Location: 36.250087, -121.690004

Descend switchbacks to the Big Sur River.

SYK009

Location: 36.248667, -121.686289

Pass Sykes Campsite on the right. Follow the smell of sulfur to the hot spring pools next to the river. Look for the pool that sits higher from the river: it's hotter and you'll have a canopy of trees that filters the sun during the day. Tips: Avoid peak crowds from September through mid-April. If you pack in cold drinks, find a place in the river to cool them off while you set up camp; by the time you're ready to hit the hot springs, they'll be nice and cold. Retrace route to the trailhead.