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Los Padres National Forest

By Levi Clancy for לוי on

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Hiking Trails

Pothole Trail

There is a sign marking Pothole Trail from the road, and a turnoff to park. Hike along, then you'll lose a thousand feet in elevation and find the Pothole (Potrero, grassland) to the west. Look carefully for the narrow, unkept trail leading a short ¼ mile south to the grassy Pothole. It is a natural depression created by the nearby Agua Blanca Fault.

In 1890, William Whitaker homesteaded there. He had a small cattle operation and grew feed for his livestock on the potrero. Back on overgrown Pothole Trail, you plunge into a ravine, passing Whitaker's abandoned cabin with its rusty farm implements out back. Whitaker disassembled the harvesting and baling equipment in the flatlands below and packed it up here with his mules. (LA Times, 1991)

Agua Blanca Trail

Agua Blanca Trail follows the Agua Blanca Creek. There are numerous creek crossings, and if you can't find the trail in the creek bed then just look to the hillsides to see it. Its termini are by Lake Piru and another location.

Notable sites

Pothole. link

Devil's Gateway. link

Indian Cave

Hot springs

Gaviota Hot Springs (public)
Gaviota Hot Springs (aka Las Cruces) is just west of Santa Barbara, by the Vandenberg exit off Hwy 101. A little lukewarm. It an easy one mile hike (some sites say ten minutes from the lot) along Gaviota State Park’s Peak Trail. It is clothing-optional but many folks do not disrobe. Take the 101 and exit Highway 1 but instead of going on toward Lompoc, take a small road: it is a left if coming from the south; a sharp right if coming from the north. Then make a right at the end of the road. Follow the chain-link fence about 1000 feet to the small $2 parking lot at a cul de sac. The hike is about 25 minutes uphill and there is a sign. Take a right, following a narrow path about five minutes to two smelly, warm pools. It is possible to shower at Gaviota State Beach.

Boron Spring
This was on but I didn't see it on the satellite image and it is only 22°C -- not much of a hot spring at all.

San Marcos Hot Spring (public)

Montecito Hot Spring
This may have once been a resort, but from what I gathered has been taken over by the local water district and may not exist anymore.

Little Caliente Spring
Just north of Santa Barbara, but on a difficult dirt road that makes it a 90 minute drive that is sometimes briefly closed in winter.

Big Caliente Hot Springs (public)
The road is closed, so one must hike or bicycle to this hot spring some six miles east of Little Caliente Hot Springs, in a different canyon.

Agua Caliente Hot Springs
This is the one near Montecito and not the one by San Diego.

Vickers Hot Spring (public)
Located in Los Padres National Forest within the Matilija Valley, about thirty seconds from the road. A hotel and baths were constructed in 1873 for a health resort. The buildings were washed away by floods in 1884, following which the property was abandoned.

Stingley's Hot Springs
Located within the Matilija Valley.

Matilija Hot Springs (private)
Located within the Matilija Valley.

Wheeler Springs (private)
When calling the forest service recently I was told that it is on private land and no longer accessible.

Willett Hot Springs (public)

Sespe Hot Springs
public, c/o

Near the Sespe Condor Sanctuary, within Hot Springs Canyon, is the riverside Sespe Hot Springs. It is remote, pristine, hot and primitive; indeed, it is in a designated wilderness area. Natural mineral water flows from the mountainside and other sources at 185°, then flows through shallow, volunteer-built soaking pools. There is no shade. It is accessible via a steep 9 mile hiking trail from Mutau Flat. Once on Mutau Flat road follow the road until it splits, over 3 miles.

Take the right fork heading uphill and then back down to another creek. The road forks right again and the trail continues west for another 3 miles. When the road splits again, take the right fork to the pools. If the road to the Condor Refuge is open again above Fillmore, hiking from Dough Flats is probably an easier route into Sespe Hot Springs, although it is about five miles longer. Horses and mules are also allowed on the trails.

A Forest Service permit is required to enter the area at any time. Very little use due to the difficulty in getting there. The trails can be in poor condition since they are no longer maintained due to budget cutbacks.