Weekly Wander: Montecito Hot Springs

An easy mosey to the popular Montecito Hot Springs. 

True story: every month or two I get a query that reads something along these lines: “Can you tell me where there’s an amazing hot spring right off the highway that nobody knows about that I’d have all to myself? I promise I won’t share with anybody else! Thanks!!!!!”

Le sigh.

So skipping that one super-secret right-by-the-side-of-the-road unicorn hot spring, let’s talk about Montecito Hot Springs. This easy walk along old service roads is a great route for little hikers and rewards its visitors with its namesake hot springs.

If you’re looking for solitude, this isn’t the place — it’s popular among locals and out-of-towners — but this short out-and-back hike makes for a great afternoon out, and most days the number of folks with whom you’ll share the trail aren’t all that numerous.

Detailed Route

From the parking area (600’, N34° 26.951’ W119° 38.752’), follow the trail northward along an easy and well-worn track shaded by numerous sycamores and live oaks (but also skirted by poison oak). The trail progresses behind numerous private properties and along a number of fence lines; be sure to stay to the trail and respect private property. Soon you’ll cross a marginally residential stretch of Hot Springs Road (0.2 mile); cross the first street and then stay left as the track parallels the road northward for a short spell before cutting onto the road proper.

Follow the road, crossing the creek (0.25 mile) and continuing on the narrow road until reaching a large driveway gate (0.3 mile). The trail follows this private drive along the right (east) side of the property before passing it and joining a dirt service road. Continue northward here, passing a Montecito Trails Foundation sign (0.45 mile) that gives a preview of your return route. Keep to the west side of the creek until you reach the Edison road (0.9 mile).

Continue along the trail — crossing the creek a handful of times — until the canyon narrows and you spy the palms and telltale stone ruins of the once-glorious Hot Springs hotel and resort above you on the right (east) side of the canyon. At the junction of several Montecito Creek Water Co. signs (1.3 miles) follow the trail down to cross the creek and make the quarter-mile saunter via this connector trail westward to the adjacent drainage where the popular pools can be found (1.4 miles, 1,540’, N34° 27.800’ W119° 38.427’). A number of pools have pipes of hot spring water pouring into them and have been built up with rock by hikers.

Return either the way you came or via the road that descends from the south edge of the ruins.


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