Hiking to Sykes hot springs in Big Sur

Our bike trip continued without much naked time as we were passing through farmland and coastal towns on the way to Big Sur. On our approach to the town of Marina, we had a very pleasant surprise at Del Monte Road. This amiable fellow on the photo below greeted us and offered some energy bars!

farmer 0000 Big Sur, CA, USA

He used to be an avid biker too, and now that is his way to contribute to the community. In his spare time, he goes out to local bike routes and supports bikers with some calories and a smile. That was a great encouragement of what was going to be our longest ride in one day – 85 miles (almost 140km). If you don’t think it’s that much, keep in mind that our bikes were loaded with camp gear and food, and the road along Big Sur coast was very hilly.

view 0001 Big Sur, CA, USA

We were constantly rewarded by such beautiful views. The weather was perfect for such a ride: warm and cloudy, with mild refreshing ocean breeze.

view 0000 Big Sur, CA, USA

The sun would appear once in a while briefly, and when it reached the silver surface of the ocean, beams of light almost seemed touchable… It was already getting dark though when we hoped to have reached a campground that would bring us close to something interesting in Big Sur. We settled on Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park campground and lodge right off the Pacific Coast Highway 1, it seemed to be pretty close to natural host springs of Sykes, another advice of Dan. We were greeted with a piece of pie at the entrance, which was prepared for the bikers of “AIDS/Life Cycle – Ride to end AIDS” that happened in the same time… We were setting up the tent in the dark and couldn’t wait use some of the lodge’s amenities: a very decent restaurant and a hot shower!

Next day, we started our hike by the Pine Ridge trail. It was easy to follow as it has clear signs for it… Or maybe not so clear, as some of the branches of the trail that looked very much like trails to us we marked as “not a trail” 😀

trail sign 0000 Pine Ridge Trail, Big Sur, CA, USA

This trail goes along the Big Sur National Wild & Scenic River, and it was indeed wild and scenic!

view 0000 Pine Ridge Trail, Big Sur, CA, USA

I was desperate to see an elusive mountain lion, known in the area, but it was too much to ask… and also, they usually avoid humans, so if you do see them, it’s not necessarily a good sign. The views were quite stunning anyways.

view 0001 Pine Ridge Trail, Big Sur, CA, USAview 0002 Pine Ridge Trail, Big Sur, CA, USA

It was interesting to see how different two slopes of Big Sur canyon were: the one facing the sun was almost bare, void of trees, and the more shady one facing north was covered with coniferous forest.  We could also feel that the climate was quite different from the shore shortly after beginning of the hike: the air was much dryer and the clouds didn’t seem to come up there often.

view 0003 Pine Ridge Trail, Big Sur, CA, USA

Some trees were damaged by infamous Californian wildfires, but it was good to see that many of them withstood the fire and seemed full of life again.

revived redwood 0000 Pine Ridge Trail, Big Sur, CA, USA

That was also where I saw my first hummingbird, but it disappeared before I could change the lens on my camera… So here are just its beloved red flowers of zauschneria that it fed on.

zauschneria 0000 Pine Ridge Trail, Big Sur, CA, USA

Pine Ridge trail crosses a couple of springs of the Big Sur river basin, so we could refresh on the waynaturist 0000 Pine Ridge Trail, Big Sur, CA, USA

and we didn’t have to carry much water with us (I have an ultra-fine water filter pump).

naturist 0001 Pine Ridge Trail, Big Sur, CA, USA

We packed very light, Tam and I shared one backpack which we swapped carrying, so it was a very pleasant easy hike. It was 7 miles to Sykes springs, which we did mostly bare and barefoot too – Tam, part of it, and I, all the way.

naturist 0002 Pine Ridge Trail, Big Sur, CA, USA

When the trail crossed the Big Sur river, we knew it was time to look out for Sykes hot springs and find a place for camping. We saw some tents along the river and continued towards the hot springs… and we couldn’t believe it when we found a perfect camping spot right across one of the hot springs! While two other guys enjoyed the hot spring, we claimed the spot and pitched the tent. Those two were heading back quite soon after that, as they came just for a day.

naturist 0000 Sykes Hot Springs, Big Sur, CA, USA

After our 85 mile bike ride the day before and then 7 mile hike, we were happy to stay overnight and relax at the hot springs at full.

view 0000 Sykes Hot Springs, Big Sur, CA, USA

Could there be a more perfect natural campsite? I would say it was like heaven, except that the hot spring was very much a manifestation of earthly activities, being produced by the emergence of geothermally heated groundwater from the Earth’s crust. Neither its sulfuric odor was amongst the most pleasant smells you could think of, but we felt like in paradise.

naturist 0001 Sykes Hot Springs, Big Sur, CA, USA

There are only 3 ‘tubs’ at Sykes, but we were lucky to have “ours” mostly just for ourselves.

fern view 0000 Sykes Hot Springs, Big Sur, CA, USA

I couldn’t help noticing that the tubs were surrounded by ferns which always a prehistoric look… We had a very quiet, starry sky and babbling brook kind of night… followed by early morning warm up in the hot springs.

naturist 0002 Sykes Hot Springs, Big Sur, CA, USA

Too bad we couldn’t stay at the hot springs much longer, but the hike on our way back was great too. We didn’t see a mountain lion,

mountain quail 0000 Pine Ridge Trail, Big Sur, CA, USA

but we did come across of mountain quails,

western fence lizard 0000 Pine Ridge Trail, Big Sur, CA, USA

western fence lizards,

Steller's jay 0000 Pine Ridge Trail, Big Sur, CA, USA

and a Steller’s jay dealing with its favorite meal, an acorn. We had our meal at the campground too, jumped on out bike and headed out South… Unfortunately, Niko’s bike broke and we could go as fast as we should. But luckily, as night was approaching, we got a ride from a very friendly couple who agreed to squeeze all our 3 bikes into their SUV and drive us to the next campground. This helped us to get back on schedule, and next day we rode to San Luis Obispo station to take the train all the way to San Diego.

16 thoughts on “Hiking to Sykes hot springs in Big Sur

  1. hi,

    me and a buddy wanted to do a 7 day trip like this. How long was your hike? and do you know of any other trails that we can do for 7 days, crossing swimming holes, springs, rivers, etc? and also nude? Any advice or ideas would be really awesome. Thanks.



  2. Looks like you had a good time. However, you should have seen all of the signs posted at the Big Sur Station trail head regarding “NO CAMPFIRES”. Please have more respect for Big Sur and not have campfires when there is a Level 4 Fire Warning out.


    1. thanks for your concern about Big Sur. But I’d like to point out that this trip was a year ago, there was no Fire Warning at that time; also, we made fire in a fire pit that had been there before, AND it was 2 feet away from the brook, AND it was on sand.


      1. If this trip was done any time after June 2013, campfires were not allowed. In order to follow Leave No Trace, campfires should be avoided at Sykes all together since the fire rings are too close to the water. When the river level rises in the winter, the fire rings and all their contents get into the river. Not to mention camping right next to the hot springs ruins the privacy for others.
        As the previous commenter said, please have more respect for the Big Sur River.


        1. As I said in the reply to the previous commenter, it was one year ago, i.e. in 2012. I agree that Leave No Trace policy is best for nature. Of course, we took all our trash with us, as always (and often enough, we pick trash after others). I personally think that leaving wood ash in a fire pit is acceptable, but if it’s not allowed I wouldn’t argue with that. Regarding your comment about camping next to hot springs ruining “privacy” for others, I find it hard to follow its logic. Indeed, our presence would ruin privacy for others, so as presence of anybody else would ruin privacy for us. Luckily, it is not a private place. We spent one evening/night at that place and had nice and friendly interactions with our very few neighbors (4, if I remember correctly). I don’t think there is any reason to suggest we lacked respect to people and the place. It was a magic night for three of us, and we wanted to share this experience to encourage people seek out beauty and peace in nature.


  3. People, what time to have wonderfull vacances! Never thinked we could do this with a bike, and is amazing to know how much you can learn / live / experience with nature… the trip sounds really perfect! congratulations!!! really would plan something here at Brazil too !!! Nude regards!


    1. I think biking was the best way to do such a trip. Not too fast to be able to appreciate the beauty of the scenery, but fast enough to do it in a reasonable time. It was a good exercise too 😉
      BTW I do hope to do something similar in Brazil some time soon


  4. amazing ..what a ride ….how many miles in all ? how much time ? do you guys never have to work ? thanks for sharing this part of your journey .your photos are beautiful ..what a beautiful place this earth is …glorious.


    1. something like 350miles biking and 40miles hiking in 8 days, we weren’t rushing too much 🙂 This ride definitely made us love our home, the Earth, only more


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