Deep Creek Hot Springs Hike
|In This Guide|
|Distance||5.6 miles (9 km)|
|Hike Time||3 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||1,500 feet (457m)|
|Highest Elevation||4,370 feet (1332m)|
|Fees & Permits||None|
|Park Website||San Bernardino National Forest|
|Stay In Touch||Newsletter - Instagram - YouTube - Facebook|
Unlike the route from Bowen Ranch, this Deep Creek Hot Springs hike takes you on the free and less-traveled Bradford Ridge Path to the popular hot springs. The hike along the Bradford Ridge Path is a treat in itself, winding its way along lush valleys tucked into the pristine wilderness of San Bernardino National Forest until it joins the PCT, where you hike above Deep Creek. And then, of course, you arrive Deep Creek Hot Springs, a series of jacuzzi-temperature pools next to the river. The scene at Deep Creek Hot Springs can be interesting, to say the least, but plan your trip right and you can enjoy a beautiful hike and a nice soak without any craziness.
How to Get to Deep Creek Hot Springs
There are few ways to hike to Deep Creek Hot Springs, so don’t just put “Deep Creek Hot Springs” in your GPS as you’re likely to end up somewhere else. These directions will bring you to the Bradford Ridge Path trailhead. This trailhead is a bit easier to reach from most of LA and Orange County because you can come up through Arrowhead Lake; you don’t need to go around the mountains as you do for Bowen Ranch.
Use this trailhead address:
Bradford Ridge Path / Deep Creek Trailhead, CA-173, Lake Arrowhead, California
Parking is limited to the side of the road, but there’s a decent amount of shoulder within walkable distance to the trailhead. Just don’t block the road and you’ll be okay.
- There are no bathrooms at the trailhead.
- Don’t leave bags or electronics out in your car, hide everything. There are have been car break-ins.
- If there is snow and ice, confirm that CA-173 is open before you leave.
- You’re fairly close to a gun range at the trailhead. Sometimes you’ll hear gun shots during the beginning of the hike.
Why I Like Bradford Ridge Better Than Bowen Ranch
If you want to do the hike from Bowen Ranch, you certainly can. It’s a shorter route and a bigger, easier to follow trail. I’ve done it in the past but I can say without a doubt the Bradford Ridge Path is much nicer and more of a “hike hike.”
The Bowen Ranch route has a few downsides:
- Cash only parking fee
- Lots of crowds, including most of the people who come here to party
- Closed at night
- Trails are dirtier (including not-so-graceful bathroom leave-behinds)
- The owner, Mike Castro, deals with a lot of jerks, and isn’t always in the best mood
If you want to do the hike from Bowen Ranch, here’s a guide.
If you choose to do the hike on Bradford Ridge Path, please treat the trail, land, and rules with respect. Don’t turn this hike into a hot mess.
Gear For the Hike
Although close to Lake Arrowhead, this is a high-desert hike. It gets cold in the winter, hot in the summer (sometimes over 100F). Bring plenty of water (like 2-3L) and sunscreen. The route is totally exposed. Trekking poles help on the steep section of the hike. And of course, you’d be smart to pack in a bathing suit and towel if you want to hit the water.
Keep your eyes open for rattlesnakes on the ground too.
I try a lot of hiking boots and shoes, and there are some great options out there, but the La Sportiva Spire is the best combination of comfort, protection, low-weight, and durability. They are waterproof, and the high cuff keeps debris out without the need for a gaiter. Time tested over thousands of miles. Use them with a two-layer sock system to end blisters for good.
Reviews & Lowest Prices: Women – Men
On a medium or longer hike I recommend a pack like the Osprey Talon 33 (men) or Osprey Sirrus 36 (women) which is a little bit larger. These packs are on the upper end of the (35L) daypack range, but they only weigh a small fraction more than a pack with less capacity. Having the extra space gives you more flexibility and means you don’t have to jam things in there. I use the space for things like extra layers in the winter, extra water on desert hikes, and even a tent & sleeping bag on overnights.
If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Mini fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing. Read my review and see the lowest prices and reviews at REI.
I’m a big fan of GPS watches (which I also use as a sleep, wellness, and fitness tracker) and my current watch is the Fenix 6 Pro Solar. I load my GPX tracks onto the watch to make sure I’m in the right place, and if not, the onboard topo maps allow me to navigate on the fly. It’s pricey but it has a great battery, accurate GPS, and tons of functionality. If you want something similar without the maps and big price tag, check out the Garmin Instinct which is a great buy and does a lot of the same things.
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend.See All of My Best Gear Picks Here
No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.
Deep Springs Hot Springs Hike Brief
- Deep Creek is the most biologically diverse drainage in all of San Bernardino National Forest. It’s where the mountains meet the desert (and they meet Deep Creek), so there’s lots of wildlife and vegetation.
- Deep Creek is also designated as a Wild Trout Stream, and you can usually see them swimming around in the water.
- Another resident of the area is the endangered Southwestern Arroyo Toad, which burrows in the sand during the day and comes out at night.
- The hot springs are clothing optional. If you’re not comfortable around naked people, don’t go.
- Sometimes the idea of naked people attracts other more creepy naked people who like to take in the sights.
- You can wear your bathing suit without a problem.
- People come here to party as well. That means drinking and potentially drug use.
- In the spring you’ll get a decent amount of PCT through-hikers overnighting here.
- A group of dedicated volunteers comes here regularly to care for the pools and clean up. Be a mensch and pack out trash.
- I usually leave at sunrise to get to the springs early. I never have a problem with rowdy crowds then, just some folks enjoying the quiet. I highly recommend you do the hike this way to avoid any craziness.
- You’re not allowed to camp within 1 mile of Deep Creek Hot Springs, although people do. No open fires or stoves allowed. No glass containers within a mile.
- People break these rules all the time. If you choose to break the rules, know that if a ranger finds you, you’ll get a fine and have to hike out (possibly at night).
- If you break the rules, pack your crap out, be respectful, and don’t start a forest fire. Don’t ruin this beautiful place please.
Dangers in the Water
- Because of the popularity of Deep Creek Hot Springs, the fecal coliform counts in the hot springs are the highest measured in San Bernardino National Forest (told to me by a ranger). Don’t get the water in your mouth if possible.
- Oh, and there’s a brain-eating amoeba, primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). How it works is that the amoeba swims up your nose and eats your brain. The good news is that it’s very rare. The bad news is that most cases are fatal. And a fatality has occurred after contracting it at Deep Creek Hot Springs. My advice is to enjoy the water without submerging your head.
- Deep Creek can flood with heavy rains and snow melt.
Deep Creek Hot Springs Trail Map
Deep Creek Hot Springs Hike Map Downloads
Download the Hike GPX File
View a Printable PDF Hike Map
Deep Creek Hot Springs Hike Directions
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Turn By Turn Directions
That’s it, you’re at the hot springs. From here you just head back the way you came. You’ll have to climb that steep hill, but once you clear that, it’s pretty easy going back to the trailhead.
Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.