Willet hot springs. In the summer time.
How somebody hauled a one ton, heavy duty rubber tub ten miles into the Los Padres National forest, and then one mile up a hill to the base of a rocky mountain, is impressive in the least and slightly beyond me. (Billionaire pilot maybe? Friendly giants among the hills doing a favor for us feeble humans? Is mama nature now growing rubber tubs?)
How ever it got there, this hot spring is nestled cozy between rock and trees and set back away from the main trail. You’re going to have to work for it though!
The tub is what catches the hot water trickling down the cliff. Hot, sulfur-smelling water is channeled into, and drained out of, the tub through a simple and genius pipe system. Laid atop the tub, off to the the side, there is a long wooden board. The board acts as a bench or water bottle holder. Someone has kindly left soap and a scrub for us smelly hikers.
Come sundown the bats start flying and the stars come out a-twinkling. The occasional deer eyes reflect off headlamp lights in the dark.
If you find yourself there, then you’ve just hiked some long, tiring, miles. This hot spring is a luxurious reward to relax and soak your tired muscles in.
Your hiking journey begins at the Sespe River Trail head. Distance is approximately ten miles to the Willet Springs Campground. Along the way you pass Bear Creek Camp (4 miles) as well as Ladybug Camp (8 miles).
The Sespe River has been especially dry. Plan on packing in your water for the day (at least 4 liters.) There is a pool of water at Bear Camp. It is stagnant and smells earthy. Not recommended for drinking. However, for the brave soul, the water is cold and a great relief to the heat. Tread in gently, for the bottom is slimy and disturbs easily.
Taking a nice break at Bear Camp under the Oak trees is highly recommended. The rest of the hike is mostly exposed to the sun.
It is hard to tell the Willet
Campground once you get there, as there are no signs. You will see occasional fire rings tucked in here or there. The picture to the rght is what the area looks like hiking into it.
There is some water flowing to purify and drink once you get to this camp. Found tucked away on the left hand side of the vegetation as viewed from this picture.
From here you can either camp the night and make it your turn around point or hike even further to the Sespe Hot Springs (almost 10 more miles.)
The drive up to the trail head is a beautiful. A winding, two lane road through Los Padres National Forest – every bend is a great sight seeing/picture opp.
The Sespe River Trail head: To get there, From Ojai, CA, follow Hwy 33 north for 20 or so miles. Make a right at the signed junction for Rose Valley (and Piedra Blanca). From here, it’s another few miles to the trailhead. Follow signs for either Piedra Blanca or Sespe River Trail. It’s a paved road all the way to the parking lot. Use this link for google map directions. Yes, it is the same as the Piedra Blanca Trailhead.
Be smart. Plan ahead.
Bring plenty of water and sun protection.
Always tell someone where you’re going and when you plan on being back.
Respect the land, critters and people along your way.
Have lots of fun.