Willett Hotsprings, Sespe Wilderness

Especially beautiful late spring and early summer, the Sespe Creek Trail follows the river for most of the hike and the area is covered in wildflowers. Temperatures can get high, but a dip in the river is easy to manage most of the time. The trail is never too steep, and for each gentle uphill climb, there is a gentle downhill decent. This trail is a good one for day hikers looking for a swimming hole in the river, or for beginner backpackers who would like a hike with hotsprings as a destination, a forgiving trail, and the chance to see a local wilderness area.

Trail + Camping

Begin the trail just left of the bathrooms in the Piedra Blanca parking area. Overall, the trail is gently rolling and crosses over the creek numerous times. Maybe five or six, overall, but not all will require taking off your shoes. It will depend on the time of year and how much rain has fallen. After about four and a half miles, the trail will take you right through Bear Creek Campground. This is a nice camping spot right by the river and allow you to break up the trip into two four and a half miles stretches.

To continue to Willett Hotsprings, continue on the trail along the water, make a couple additional crossings, and walk for another four and a half miles up and down grassy chaparral hillsides. At the Willett camping area, the trail crosses the creek into trees and makes a sharp left, crossing the creek, again, at a trail sign, bringing you to scattered old buildings. This is the Willett camping area. Camping sites are found near the buildings and along the river to the left. Camping here is a great outdoor experience. The sounds of toads, crickets and the wind in the trees are heard during the night hours.


To find the hotsprings, continue on the trail heading left of the old buildings in the Willett camping area. Follow this well-worn trail up a steep path and around the hillside for about half a mile. The large hot tub is tucked in the trees on the hillside and a large pipe is situated next to the hotsprings to make a shower for rinsing in cooler water.

Fire Permit + Adventure Pass

A fire permit is required to have a campfire or stove in the area. This permit is free and can be obtained from the National Forest Ranger Station in Ojai. Check with the Ranger Station to find out if Adventure Passes are required to park in the parking area these days.


From Ventura drive Highway 33 to Ojai. Continue on Highway 33 for another twenty miles through the hillsides of the Los Padres National Forest. Turn right at Rose Valley. Continue on this road to the end at the Piedra Blanca Trailhead.


7 thoughts on “Willett Hotsprings, Sespe Wilderness

  1. Nice photos! That’s the only way I’ll ever see Willett Hot Springs again. I biked there once, and I could probably manage that again, but I don’t think bikes are allowed any more.

  2. Disclaimer: I was out there this past weekend… The little thermometer dangling off my pack read 110+ in the sun (there is very little shade, especially the last four or so miles before the hot springs, and even with the gentle breeze, the ground was baking up at us). Even the snakes and lizards were taking cover!

    If you are planning a trip out during these summer months, be prepared for the heat — to say the trail is gentle and great for beginner backpackers might be misleading; at those temps, even a level, straightforward trail can be challenging. Hydrate (especially remember those electrolytes) and rest accordingly. It is a remote area, so it’s better to not take chances with your safety and well-being.

    And please, leave no trace. Los Padres Outfitters was kind enough to haul out a large bag of trash (wine bottles, a full bag of marshmallows, salsa, tin cans, broken glass, etc) that had been left in our sweet little campsite along the river. This is a wilderness area (and bear country), so let’s treat it with some reverence!

    Thanks for the trip report — the wildflowers are going OFF right now out there, which is worth a walk even if you don’t have the gumption to head as far as the springs.

  3. Wow, sounds as if temperatures are quickly rising in the area. Good reminder to hike in early morning or evening hours this time of year.

    Because the area is designated wilderness, you are right, bikes are not allowed on the trails. Horseback may be a comfortable alternative. Los Padres Outfitters (http://www.lospadresoutfitters.com/packtrips.html) offer custom full-service pack trips. I used them as an outfitter for a day trip and was very happy with their services. Sounds like they voluntarily take care of the area, too.

    For details about permits, weather, wildlife, trails, ranger station address, business hours, and so forth, you, also, might like the Ojai Ranger District phone number: 805-646-4348.

  4. GREAT pictures! I haven’t been there yet, but it’s on my list of places to go. I was out hiking in sedona az 2 weeks ago and it was simply beautiful too. The red rocks, bell rock – the vortexes, everything about sedona is simply beautiful – and this looks up there on that same level!

    Thanks for sharing this

  5. The Sespe is amazing. I have kayaked it 3 times and rafted it once, all four times from Lyons Camp to Filmore. I now want to do it again in a small pack raft and go about it a little more mellow.
    Cant wait to get back in there. Thanks for the write up.

  6. Nice blog. I haven’t been in Rose Valley since the road to Sespe Hot Springs
    Nice pictures, brought back some fond memories.

  7. Thanks, Gordon! (This is Ashley.) This area is currently burning in the Thomas Fire. The Los Padres backcountry is dramatically changing right now! Happy Holidays to you and your family! ❤️

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s