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.