Pine Ridge Trail to Sykes Hot Springs
ElevationAscent: 3,811' 1,162 m
Descent: -3,810' -1,161 m
High: 1,690' 515 m
Low: 297' 91 m
GradeAvg Grade: 7% (4°)
Max Grade: 47% (25°)
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“A scenic route above the Big Sur River culminating at Sykes Hot Springs.”— Jason Fincher
At the 4.5 mile mark, you'll pass the turn-off for Ventana Camp. This small connector drops into the Big Sur River and is a good stopping point if you are traveling with kids. Just keep in mind that you'll have to climb back out before you can continue.
At the 5.5 mile mark, the trail crosses Terrace Creek. This is a reliable water source and is shaded by Redwoods. This is a great place to stop and rest since it is right on the trail. The Terrace Creek campsite is about 50 ft up the creek if you want to stay overnight. There are also toilets available at Terrace.
Once you cross Terrace Creek, the trail has more shade and crosses several intermittent streams. At the 7 mile mark, you'll pass the Barlow Flats campsite which sits right on the Big Sur. You can see the camp from the trail. This is a good option for camping, especially on weekends when the Sykes campsite tends to be overcrowded.
The highest point in the trail is about 1,700 ft, which you'll hit at around 8.5 miles before dropping in earnest for the last 1.5 miles to the Sykes campground. The trail crosses the Big Sur and campsites are in both directions along the river from the crossing point.
The hot springs are about 100 yards downriver, on the left-hand side directly adjacent to the river. There are two main pools that can only accommodate 3-5 people at a time. Since this is such a popular run, the pools are usually packed. Hot spring etiquette is all over the place so don't be surprised to see nudity or unsavory behavior. Be warned that this is not to be considered this kid-friendly environment.
The Pine Ridge Trail #3E06 continues past Sykes for 14 more miles but gets significantly more treacherous. The next campsite is Redwood that is about three miles and 2500 ft in elevation beyond Sykes. This is a nice site and worth the trip if you are looking for a little more solitude than Syke provides.
This route is best accomplished during midweek in spring or fall. The trail gets very crowded on weekends and you'll see all sorts of young people venturing under-prepared into this wilderness. Due to the high volume of novice trail users, it is more important than ever to adhere to leave-no-trace and pack-it-in, pack-it-out principles as you'll see the consequences of ignoring these ideas in many areas.
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Land Manager: USFS - Los Padres National Forest Office