Los Padres – Sespe Hot Springs

Location Los Padres National Forest, CA
Distance 18 miles
Total Elevation Gain 4030 ft
Topographic Map


Sespe Hot Springs offers a difficult, but rewarding hike. To access the trail, there are three different starting points. However, the easiest (Piedra Blanca) has been closed due to fire damage since December of 2017. The other access points are Dough Flat and Mutau Flat. The trail I hiked was the Johnston Ridge trail out of Mutau.

The trail itself is a bit of a beast; it meanders slowly down in to the valley with a sharp, long decent near the end. The return trip is a slog (3k elevation gain over ~3 miles). The views and the hot springs soak, however, make it well worth it.

  • My babby rental car was not able to make it all the way out to the actual Mutau trailhead. I had to stop about a mile and a half short due to a creek crossing. Plan accordingly!
  • If you do take a small car, do not go if there is a rain forecast!! The surrounding roads can wash out pretty easily.
  • There is no water on the Johnston Ridge trail. You’re gonna have to pack it in.
  • It is COLD in February at the trailhead. If you’re sleeping overnight there, bring a warm bag or blanket.
  • The only confusing part of the trail is here–to the left of the sign are some old road gates and a trail. Don’t go down there. Keep going straight even though the sign says “to little Mutau”.

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