Few weekends back, Hrishi and I went for a backpacking trip to Sykes Hot Springs in Big Sur. It was the perfect way to celebrate my last free weekend before classes started. Most long hikes give a psychological high of achievement but this one also packs an immense physiological reward – sitting in a pool of hot sulphur springs at ~95 degF after the long hike. I could feel each muscle slowly relaxing into its natural state. It was totally awesome!!
The pools are small and plenty (~5-6). Each group had one to themselves. Some of them were warmer than the others. It felt like a personal spa for which people would pay big bucks in some resorts. It was not as crowded as some review make it out to be, but they are right about the nudies.
Sykes is a great weekend backpacking option from the Bay Area. Its challenging enough that one feels good to have completed it, but not so hard that you spend weeks preparing for it. If you feel “reasonably fit” then you are probably set to go.
We found the following articles quite helpful:
A few tips from our experience:
– We took 6.5 hours each way, with a total of 1 hr of food/other breaks. We are about average hikers.
– The whole hike is up and down and up and down.
– Take ample bug spray with you. If you are the sweet blooded kind then be prepared for a bug attack in the summers.
– One of these links mention that there’s no place to camp near the hot-springs. That’s actually not true. Continue in the direction of the spring, and just across the river from springs, there are a couple of campsites.
– Pay for parking at the trail head. Check if a pass/permit is needed at the ranger station near the trail head. We did not need one since cooking was officially not permitted inside because of a danger of wild-fire this late in summer. Typically, a permit is needed.
– Most importantly what we learned was that if you are hiking 10 miles into the wilderness, then stay there for a couple of nights. Go over a long weekend or take a day off. Hiking in on Saturday, and leaving Sunday feel like a low return on investment. Plus the place is pretty and quiet! You just feel like dipping in the pools and just relaxing for hours. There should be no need to hurry. Most campers with us were staying for 2 nights at least, some for more.
I totally recommend this hike if you are visiting the bay area and are an outdoor enthusiast. It was hot!!