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san juan hot springs

Caspers Wilderness Park – Hike San Juan Hot Springs

Caspers Wilderness Park is home to the San Juan Hot Springs hike, which is long but very doable. The hike can be done as an out-and-back trip, or you can do a longer 14 mile loop that circles Caspers Wilderness Park and offers incredible views.

Rating:
4.5 / 5
Distance:
10.5 miles (16.9 km)
Time:
5 hours
Difficulty:
Moderate
Climbing:
2030 ft (619 m)
Trail Condition:
Marked Trail
Challenges:
Distance
People:
Minimal
Known For:
Hot Springs, Views, Wildlife
Best Time:
Early AM
Dogs:
No
Bathrooms:
Yes
Parking:
Fee

San Juan Hot Springs Hike Trail Maps

Use this address in Google Maps to get to the trailhead:
33401 Ortega Hwy, San Juan Capistrano, CA, 92675, USA

caspers wilderness park location

Caspers Wilderness Park is about 30 minutes from Newport Beach, 90 minutes from Los Angeles, and 90 minutes from San Diego.

san juan hot springs 3d map

The hike follows the San Juan creek valley and Route 74 until you get to San Juan Hot Springs.

San juan hot springs hike elevation

The graph is deceiving, it's not too tough and feels mainly flat with some little ups and downs toward the end.

Interactive Map

San Juan Hot Springs Hike Map Downloads

hiking map on garmin fenix 3

If you have GPS device (I use this one by Garmin and I love it) for your hike, load the GPX file below into your device to navigate the hike. For help on loading the GPX file, read this article on converting and transferring to a Garmin GPS.

Also, don’t rely on electronics as your sole means of navigation. There’s a basic printable PDF map below, and I strongly picking up a good topo map too.

View a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File

San Juan Hot Springs Hike Video

San Juan Hot Springs Hike Directions

san juan hot springs

What to Expect on the Hike

Turn by Turn Directions

 San Juan Meadow Group Area
The hike starts at the end of San Juan Meadow Group Area. When you pull into the group area, keep driving until the end of the lot where the trail starts.
 San Juan Meadow Group Area map
When you pick up a map at the entrance, it has a zoomed section for the park entrance. This is where the San Juan Meadow Group Area is.
 San Juan Meadow Group Area bathrooms
The San Juan Meadow Group Area has bathrooms and water fountains to fill your hydration pack. Bring more water than you need, it can get very hot here.
Juaneno Trail start
The Juaneno Trail start is well marked. Read any notices and start here.
Juaneno Trail
The Juaneno Trail is well defined and easy to follow.
hike on the Juaneno Trail
Hike straight through the first intersection and stay on the Juaneno Trail.
san juan creek
The hike goes along the banks of San Juan Creek. You can imagine what this looks like after it rains for a few days in the Santa Ana mountains.
Juaneno Trail
When the Juaneno Trail goes into the wash, it’s well marked with rocks.
Juaneno Trail marker
When the Juaneno Trail leaves the wash, there’s a trail marker to confirm you’re on the right path.
Juaneno Trail intersection
Continue straight on the Juaneno Trail.
Juaneno Trail marker
If you’re not sure where you are, the trail makers are all generally accurate on this hike, and can be cross-referenced with the park map.
ridge line at caspers wilderness park
If you opt for the optional extension on the return trip, you hike along the ridge to the left.
views of Cleveland National Forest
The views of Cleveland National Forest come into view as you gently climb up the valley.
San Juan Creek Trail
A little after 3 miles, the Juaneno Trail will dead end into the San Juan Creek Trail. Hike to the left along the San Juan Creek Trail.
park map
Double check your position using the free park map as you hit trail junctions.
San Juan Creek Trail
The San Juan Creek Trail is more like a dirt road. It also follows Route 74, so expect some traffic noise.
Badger Pass trail
Continue straight on the San Juan Creek Trail as the Badger Pass trail intersects to the left.
San Juan Creek trail
Keep straight on the San Juan Creek trail avoiding any trails to the left.
San Juan Creek trail
The trail becomes primitive but easy to follow. Some other blog posts talk about this stretch being impassable, but it was clear for me.
San Juan Creek trail marker
A San Juan Creek trail marker alerts you to a hard left turn. Head up the hill.
San Juan Creek trail
At the top of the hill, another marker points you right, continuing along the San Juan Creek trail.
San Juan Creek trail marker
Here’s a closeup of the San Juan Creek trail marker at the top of the hill.
San Juan Creek trail
The San Juan Creek trail gets narrow and follows above the valley floor.
San Juan Creek trail
After the ridge, the trail goes through a lush section by a small stream. The trail is harder to follow here so keep your eyes open.
Hot Springs Trail
Eventually the trail emerges in a clearing. Stay right on the Hot Springs Trail.
Hot Springs Trail marker
Here’s a closeup of the trail marker at the last intersection. It’s set back in brush and easy to miss.
Hot Springs Trail
The Hot Springs Trail turns into a dirt road and climbs a steep little hill.
Hot Springs Trail
Okay, this part is easy to miss. As soon as you descend from the last hill, keep your eyes open for a small trail to the right.
palm trees
There are a few palm trees that mark the hot springs. After the turn go straight towards them.
San Juan Hot Springs
Here you are, the San Juan Hot Springs! They were smaller than I imagined them, but still cool. Walk around and explore.
San Juan Hot Springs
There are four pools, only one of which is supposed to be cool enough to go in. Again, you’re not allowed to go in the water. OC Parks has video cameras monitoring the pools.
San Juan Hot Springs
The water is crystal clear with gas bubbling up. It’s easy to imagine how this water filled pools in the resort below. Keep your eyes open for pipes heading down to the resort area.
San Juan Hot Springs
If you want to explore more, head down the hill on the paths by the pools for more ruins. Respect the areas marked no trespassing.
hot springs trail
After you’re finished exploring the San Juan Hot Springs, simply head back the way you came.

If you want to mix it up, I have two optional extensions below. One continues on to the old San Juan Capistrano Hot Springs rest area, which is pretty unremarkable but has a cool sign that is great for photo ops. The other extension returns up along the ridge line, offering great views, but a bit of climbing. Or just go back the way you came.

San Juan Capistrano Hot Springs Rest Area Extension

Instead of making the left back the way you came on the Hot Springs Trail, make the right and continue down the hill.

intersection of the Sitton Peak trail
You will come to the intersection of the Sitton Peak trail. Stay to the left.

If you want to hike to Sitton Peak, it’s a good one. I have full hike directions for Sitton Peak on the site here.

intersection of the Sitton Peak trail
Here’s a closeup of that last trail marker for Sitton Peak. If you missed the turnoff to the hot springs and see this trail marker, you’ve gone too far.
San Juan Hot Springs rest area
The trail opens up to the old San Juan Springs rest area. There are picnic benches and some old porta-potties.
San Juan Hot Springs rest area sign
The sign is what everyone wants a photo with. Grab your shot and head back the way you came.

Alternate Way Back on Oso Trail

Again, after visiting the hot springs, you can simply retrace your steps and go back the way you came. If you have the energy, I recommend doing this detour that adds about 3 miles and 1,200 feet of climbing onto the hike, but offers some incredible views. Here’s the GPX file for the hike with this extension: capsers-park-san-juan-hot-springs-extra

san juan hot springs hike extension elevation
Here’s the elevation profile with the extension. It’s about 1200 feet of extra climbing but worth it.

Pick these directions up from the end of the Hot Springs hike directions.

Cold Springs Trail
When you get back to the Cold Springs Trail and Hot Springs Trail intersection, make the right onto Cold Springs Trail.
cold springs trail
The trail climbs along the stream.
wildlife camera
Keep your eyes open for the wildlife cameras. They’re motion activated and have IR night vision.
cold springs trail
The hike gets tougher as it climbs to the ridge line.
Cold Springs Trail
Eventually the Cold Springs Trail dead ends at the Oso Trail.
Oso Trail
Make the right on the Oso Trail. This will seem counterintuitive, but go ahead and do it anyway.
views of Saddleback Mountain and Cleveland National Forest
The views of Saddleback Mountain and Cleveland National Forest are great from this part of the Oso Trail.
Oso Trail
The Oso Trail follows the arcing ridge line, offering great views the entire way.
Oso Trail
Stay on the Oso Trail, ignoring the spur to the right.
Oso Trail
The Oso Trail gently descends down the ridge.
Oso Trail
The Oso Trail is well defined here, nothing tricky thanks to the OC Parks folks.
Badger Pass
At the intersection with Badger Pass, make the quick left to stop at the picnic bench.
trail junction
Take a break at this trail junction and enjoy the view.
Oso Trail
After stopping, continue back on the Oso Trail.
Oso Trail
Continue on the Oso Trail as it descends.
Oso Trail
At this big junction, head left. It’s a little confusing here because it’s the only place where the map doesn’t match the markers. The map shows Oso Trail to the right, but the marker shows Bell Canyon.
bench on trail
Take advantage of the shady bench if you need a break.
East Ridge Trail
The trail comes to a junction. Head left up the steep climb (last one!) on the East Ridge Trail.
East Ridge Trail
At the top of the climb, make the hard right to continue on the East Ridge Trail.
East Ridge Trail
The East Ridge Trail is marked and offers great views to the right and left.
East Ridge Trail
Stay left on the East Ridge Trail, passing the Sun Rise Trail.
views from East Ridge Trail
This is the last stretch, so enjoy the views. You earned it on the climb.
East Ridge Trail
Stay straight on the East Ridge Trail as it passes Quail Run.
East Ridge Trail
Go straight through the water tank area.
East Flats Trail
Make the left on the East Flats Trail.
East Flats Trail
There’s a marker for the East Flats Trail if you’re in doubt.
East Flats Trail
Descend on the smaller East Flats Trail.
East Flats Trail
Stay left at the spur to the road.
San Juan Meadows
And you’re back at San Juan Meadows! Pat yourself on the back, that was a long hike!

A quick note. These directions are meant as a guide for the hike, and not a definitive source. Conditions change, and the information here can be different based on time of day, weather, season, etc. There can be small side trails that you might see but I missed. I have made every effort to include all the information you need to complete the hike successfully. I recommend using this guide in conjunction with a map, GPX file, common sense, and call to the ranger station or park office. If you do the hike and notice something has changed, please contact me and I will update the guide.

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