Jump to main content

Santa Barbara Hikes

Little Caliente Hot Spring

Little Caliente Hot Springs

[out of 5]
 *  *  *  * 1/2
For:Long, uphill on the way back.
Little Caliente Hot Spring
Little Caliente Hot Spring

Little Caliente Hot Springs are very warm and can be reached by either a long drive or long and strenuous day hike. The hike would be around 13 miles round trip and did I mention strenuous? The drive takes a couple of hours. Basically, the hike is a short-cut!

The trail is all downhill on the way there, and all uphill on the way back. You descend about 3000ft. It can be pretty difficult to do the uphill (3000ft back up) after soaking in the relaxing hot springs. If you prefer to drive, then you're not really looking for a hike, now, are you?

Be careful with hikes that start downhill if you are not in good shape. You will start out feeling so confident of your abilities that you may not realize how much uphill you have to do to get back to your car.

Algalita Research - Learn about the pelagic plastic problem

Little Caliente Hot Springs Updates

Update trail conditions

Posted: January 11, 2012, 11:28 pm
by: Cross Tie Walker

Just an update on the immediate Little Caliente area. The road is still closed at the Little Caliente Canyon crossing; the road damage was admittedly more than I expected.

You can see where several folks have gone around the sign to drive all the way up (and where one unfortunate soul definitely got hung up ... trying not to insert smiley emoticon Laughing whoops, couldn't help it!). They deserved it.

The hot springs themselves are in fine shape, and have been recently scrubbed by somebody.


Posted: October 19, 2011, 4:46 pm
by: Jules

This trail starts at the Mono Campground sign atop Camino Cielo by the water tower (not the water tower at the end of Camino Cielo when the road hooks left and turns to a dirt road; but the water tower a mile or so before where the Cold Spring trail ends).

The trail is pretty easy to follow for the first three miles or so. It's deceiving, however, how hard the hike back is. You're going all downhill in the beginning, so be prepared for a grueling hike back. If you hit forks in the trail, always just keeping heading downhill these first few miles.

When you get about two miles down, you'll see a sign to head toward Blue Canyon or Mono. Head toward Mono. This will make you go slightly up a hill for half a mile or so, and then back down.

At about three miles, you come out to a big dried out creek/riverbed, with apparently no where to go. Go left. About 500 feet down, you'll see a pink streamer on a tree. Look to your right (into the woods) and you'll see another pink streamer. The game is now, essentially, follow the pink streamers.

You'll follow those pink streamers for about a mile or less into the woods and then you'll lose them. When you absolutely cannot see any more (look hard, they are sometimes far apart), head directly to your right and across the little mucky stream. You may have to bushwhack a path, but if you keep heading right (and possibly up a bit of a hill), you'll hit a trail. The pink streamers will continue. Keep following those streamers. They will take you through some treacherous woods and eventually let you out at another dried out river bed. Keep following the streamers up the river bed. When there are no more streamers, you should be coming to some water. At that point, again, head to your right into the woods about 200ft. You should hit Mono campground. If you're too concerned heading into the woods, keep following down the river bed, through the water, until you hit the dam. At that point, head to the right side of the dam, and walk back from where you came, but staying to the right. You'll hit Mono campground.

Once in mono, head to the front of the campground where the fence is (you'll see an animal skeleton hanging on the fence -- seriously). There will be a big fire road. Hang a sharp left on the road, which will almost be a 180 degree turnaround and have you walking virtually alongside the campground. Do not go straight on the fire road when you exit the campground. Make that sharp left.

Walk down the fire road about 1/3rd of a mile and you'll see a fork in the road with a sign for the Little Caliente pointing you to the right. Take this road about a mile to a mile and a half down. At the end, you'll see a sign post and what looks like it used to be a parking area. This is where the Little Caliente is. You'll have to head up into the mountain to your right a little bit and you'll find it within 100-200 feet. You'll know you're at the parking area when the road starts to make a u-turn and heads in the opposite direction.

The springs are pretty nice and comfortable. There are three of them, with the top and bottom one being the most comfortable. They're a little slimy, but very nice to soak in. Great scenery as well. The whole hike is probably about 6.5 to 7 miles each way, with the hike back being brutal as the final 3-4 miles are all straight up hill. If you have a map, bring it. It's very hard to find, but if you follow the pink streamers, you should be okay.

Posted: February 8, 2011, 10:14 pm
by: harv

hiked to LC from cold springs TH on friday. trail was great and easy to follow until a mile or so past the santa ynez river...at that point, it diverged into two options: 1-footprints heading into what appeared to be a vast sea of deep floodplain muck and poison oak, or 2-skirt the muck by hanging on the steep hillslopes to the right. we chose 2, and after a lot of scrambling, ended up facing a muck sea anyway. we chose to hike uphill from there until we hit the road, then hiked to mono camp from there. i'd recommend choosing option 1 or just walking d/s in the santa ynez until you see mono creek come in from the right, then hiking up mono creek to the debris dam. the temps were perfect for wading with shorts and chacos.

great hiking otherwise. got a few ticks, but managed to dodge the poison oak. the hot pools were excellent. thanks to those who maintain them! the upper pool was the perfect temp, and the lower two just tepid. didn't see a soul on friday or saturday.

thanks to the previous poster who noted that the sign to "MONO" has been painted over with "GOTOCA.." at the junction with the gibraltar mine trail. definitely go right (downhill) at this junction.

Posted: January 23, 2011, 10:10 pm
by: jadinolfi

Just a quick update on this trail. There are several places on this trail where one could get lost if this is a new trail and new area. There are a couple of forks without any kind of label or sign, the one that got my boyfriend and me on the wrong path was just after crossing the river near the waterfall. You emerge from the river and forested canopy to a fork that has 2 signs, one brown with "Trail" on it, to the left, and the other spray painted green with sloppy white writing reading "GOTOC..." (after the C it is illegible). This is to your right, and under the paint you can still kind of see the decal that once read "mono." Whoever decided to paint over this, really was not doing a service to hikers, because it's nearly impossible to see Mono and it just looks like graffiti. So, there's my tip, hopefully it will save hikers the extra miles we did until realizing we had made a wrong turn.

Posted: January 14, 2010, 2:36 am
by: redhathiker

I hiked from Cold Spring Saddle to Little Caliente Hot Spring today. The exact GPS measurement is 5.96 miles, or 3 hours and 9 minutes each way (nonstop). Elevation change is 1711 ft. I carried 1740 ml of water and drank about 1400 ml. If I had carried more, I would have consumed more. (I can feel a little dehydration.)

The trail is in hikable condition, not too good but not too bad.
- The most dangerous part is N of The Grotto fall, where the trail narrows and there's a steep drop on the E side. There used to be a wooden fence but the fence fell down. A trekking pole is needed.
- Creek crossings, including Santa Ynez river crossing, are easy with good boots. Sneakers will get your feet wet. The river was about 5-6 inches high.
- The trail past the Santa Ynez River crossing was really hard to pick up. You have to look for signs of human activity. I wouldn't have done it without a GPS. Even with a GPS, you still have to pay very good attention.
- Lots of giant leaves poison oaks! Lots of overgrown vegetation. Long-sleeve shirt and water-resistant pants are a must.
- Many parts of the trail (esp N of Santa Ynez River crossing) are on muddy grounds. In some parts, you have to walk in sticky mud and shallow water.
- The hot spring is in a perfect, beautiful, and clean condition. The water is warm but not too hot in all three pools. The upper pool is the warmest.

Posted: July 7, 2009, 11:28 pm
by: RyanJ

Hiked this the other day. Trail was great up until the area right before the Santa Ynez river, it got kind of hairy and easy to get lost in, but if you have any sense of adventure you can find the river. The trail to Mono Camp after crossing the river however was quite overgrown. The overgrowth is often head high and totally obscures the trail, and trail markers (which are extremely helpful!!) are few and far between. As one previous poster suggested a machete would have actually helped a great deal Smile (there are a few fallen trees on this part of the trail as well). After getting through about a mile/ mile and a half of the overgrown part of the trail, we had to turn around as we came to an area where there was no longer even the smallest clue as to where the trail headed (and we took a number of routes at this spot and just wound up getting dead ends). Overall though, the trail is quite pretty and fun to hike, it was just a bummer navigating got extremely difficult on the way to Mono Camp. Definitely worth another try sometime however. WARNING: there is a ton of poison oak growing along the trail, much of it juts across the trail and you must be quite vigilant in avoiding it. Also, there was a yellowjackets nest right along the trail about two miles in, so be wary.

Posted: March 25, 2007, 8:22 pm
by: amount

Excellent hike! We took the advice on the trail description and made a little backpacking trip out of it. The trip down was beautiful, but there were three nearly impassable sections. Any worse and the trail might not be hike-able. These were just north of "the Grotto" coming down towards the Santa Ynez River. Also, there was a ton of poison oak leaning out over the trail in the first downhill section after passing Forbush Flat. It made the going very slow. Otherwise, no problems. The hike from the river to the Mono Camp was top notch and the campground couldn't be beat (not to mention the moon-lit hotsprings!). We'll be back, but not on that trail (we took a long way around hiking back up to the car to the P-Bar flat and then to Cottom camp before heading back up to Forbush in order to avoid the "treacherousness" of washouts and poison oak).

Posted: December 22, 2006, 8:30 pm
by: rc

The trail was great except for one spot a couple miles in. It looks like the wood and spikes holding up the trail collapsed, making it nearly impassible. On the way to mono I was able to pass it, on the way back I had to backtrack down to the river, follow it up (barely passable) and scale a bank, huge pain.

At mono came around a bush and startled about 5 deer all within 15-50ft of me, startling me even more. Camped out by the reservoir that night, rained off and on from midnight to 4am.

Next morning there was a shiny huge pickup in the parking lot and the plastic enclosed trailmap sign that was ok the night before was completely shot up, right into the direction i was sleeping. Hike back to camino ciello was filled with fresh inline wheel tracks (bicycle?) and gunfire seemingly just hundreds of yards ahead. They must have gone off the main trail because at some point the shots started to go off behind me, very near the washed out area actually.

All in all a great hike, but someone needs to fix that washed out spot. Most people aren't going to be able to make it until its repaired.

Watch out for dicks with guns. Whoever that guy is needs put more effort into finding a more remote, legal shooting area.

The Santa ynez was dry and most of the creeks fairly low. Not much rain yet I guess.

Posted: October 4, 2006, 1:54 pm
by: BernardMines

Sunday October 2, 2006.

Hiked with a few friends down to Little Caliente Hot Spring from Camino Cielo. The trail was marked as closed due to the fire danger! However it was raining!
Originally planned to hike just to the Zen Pools, but got there early enough and thought we might make it to the hot springs for a little soak. Trail is in okay shape, there are a couple of sort of hairy wash out sections near the Santa Ynez river, but below that its been cleaned up a bit. Someone has gone to a great deal of effort in cleaning up the trails down by Mono. The Red Rock Girbralter trail had been cleared, I've always wanted to explore this trail, maybe this year. Also the approach to the trail as you cross the Santa Ynez River has been cleared and is marked. Usually I scramble thru here in bare feet after crossing the river and hope I don't hit brambles or sharp rocks, and spend 5 minutes or so making my way to the trail. Now its easy to follow and direct. The next 2 miles or so are on sort of sandy loose soil so not as much fun to hike on but the destination was worth it. Saw a large cat, most likely a bobcat somewhere down here. It moved very quickly no one but me spotted it and it was fairly close, if you blinked you'd have missed it. Hot spring was as nice as always, totally deserted as I expected. Looked like someone had driven up and left earlier in the day, judging from the tire tracks. I always think its funny to hike out here when you see people driving that you know. They are so impressed that you can hike so far; in fact it might be a more arduous drive then a hike, but you cannot let them know that.

Posted: January 17, 2006, 2:45 pm
by: BSA Troop 42

We backpacked Cold Spring Trail to camp at Mono Campground on 14 January 2006. The trail is in very good condition, overall. Some trail slippage downstream of the waterfall. Good markers to cross the Santa Ynez River; ankle high boots will keep your feet dry. The deepest water in the three Little Caliente Hot Spring pools is now about one foot. No water at the bench water trough. Flowing water at Forbush Flat and Mono Camps. Some of Fredís apples are still on the tree. Thank you to those who maintain the trails, camps, and Hot Spring. steep