If you’re adventurous and looking for the perfect afternoon soak near Los Angeles, take the time to drive and hike to the Deep Creek Hot Springs and be rewarded with a selection of 100°F hot mineral pools to float in by the cool Mojave River.
These undeveloped hot springs are located in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains, surrounded by golden, sandy rocks and lush vegetation, and, with rope swings, cliffs to jump from, plenty of sunbathing spots, and the river flowing alongside the natural hot pools promise a fun and relaxing escape from the world – and they’re not the only ones. Check out this great list of other tempting hot springs in California!
|Address||5900 Bowen Ranch Road/5900 Hot Springs Trail, Apple Valley, CA 92308|
|Location||Deep Creek, Apple Valley, outside Hesperia|
|Open||Year-round, sunrise to sunset|
|Road Access||High clearance best, challenging 2-mile hike required|
|Water Temperature||100 – 105°F|
|Admission||FREE but parking at the Bowen Ranch is $10/person/day|
What To Expect
Deep Creek Hot Springs is a non-commercial hot springs oasis in the San Bernardino National Forest, on the popular Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and around 2.5 hours from Los Angeles. There are around 6 pools there, ranging in temperature from 100 – 105°F. In spring runoff, some of these pools become submerged until mid to late summer. The top one, the most secluded of the group, is the hottest, closest to the 108°F source, and can accommodate two brave soakers. It is appropriately named the “crab cooker.” This then runs off in a hot “shower” to the pool below.
The largest pool can fit over a dozen bathers and is deep enough to swim in – great for fun with friends, but noisy in summer and on weekends and holidays. If noise is not your thing, aim to get there early, or go in winter or on weekdays. NOTE that nudity – and sunbathing on the rocks in the nude – is perfectly acceptable here, as is soaking in a bathing (rather than birthday) suit. It’s totally up to you, but either way, if you like it, go prepared to see nudity!
You’ll find other rock-edged pools along the Deep Creek Fork of the Mojave River, all around the same temperature. Perch on a handy submerged rock and soak up the minerals and good vibes. If you get too warm, you can take a dip in the river. Just be careful when doing so as the flow can be strong!
The gentle alkaline hot spring waters here contain Lithium, which is said to “boost your mood, promote feelings of calmness, happiness and joy” and will “leave you with a general sense of wellbeing.”
Another fun activity to be tried is cliff jumping, upstream from the main area. Look before you leap!
A Few Important Warnings
First – You should aim not to get the hot springs water in your nose or mouth. This is to avoid contact with a very rare but usually fatal parasite that causes amoebic meningoencephalitis.
You might also come across some friendly tadpoles in the water – these are nothing to be afraid of, so please leave them be!
Pack light. The hike is 1.75 miles each way from the Bowen Ranch and 2.5 miles each way via the Bradford Ridge Trail. It can be steep and slippery in parts. Take plenty of water, some snacks, sunscreen and a sunhat, a flashlight in case you get caught in the dark on the way back, and toilet paper. The Hot Springs has no amenities – no bathrooms, drinking water, trash cans, or cell service. Go prepared and pack out your trash!
Wear the right footwear for the hike and bring water sandals for the hot springs – there may be slippery algae on some of the rocks.
Take a map or GPS device to help you navigate the trail.
If you’re entering via Bowen Ranch, take around $30 in cash per vehicle, as Bowen Ranch charges for parking and we’ve heard the prices can change (though the site currently reads “$10 donation per person”). The website also has a link for credit card payments, but we advise you to take cash in any case. NOTE: The nearest ATM is a 30-minute drive away! Check the weather forecast and conditions before you go.
By choosing to visit Deep Creek Hot Springs, you are following in the footsteps of Serrano Indians, 19th-century homesteaders, fisherpeople, hippies, naturalists, biologists, and today’s seekers of peace and an escape from the metropolis. The San Bernardino National Forest, where Deep Creek Hot Springs is located, was established in 1907, but centuries before that, the Deep Creek Hot Springs was revered by the Native American Indian tribes that lived in the area, who used the mineral water for rituals and healing.
For a decade from 1960-1970, Deep Creek is said to have offered shelter to AWOL servicemen and homeless squatters, Charles Manson allegedly among them. In 1970, the Forest Service and FBI raided the area and found several fugitives camped out there. That year, the service banned overnight camping, though the lack of enforcement means that even today you’ll see people setting up camp by the hot springs, flaunting the rules.
Find out more about today’s Deep Creek Hot Springs, and a few local characters, in this interesting LA Times article.
How To Get There
Deep Creek is roughly 2.5 hours from Los Angeles near Victorville off the I-15.
Via Bowen Ranch – Pro Tip: Type “Bowen Ranch Parking Lot” into Google Maps to get directions straight to the trailhead (then save it, as cell service comes and goes there!). Don’t type in the name of the hot springs, as it will direct you to a very rough trail good only for off-roaders.
In Hesperia, leave the I-15 at the Bear Valley Exit. Continue east on Bear Valley Road for 10 miles until you get to Central Road. Turn right and drive 3 miles to Ocotillo Road (pass the railroad tracks and head over the hill). Turn left and drive for 2.2 miles until you get to Bowen Ranch Road, which is a winding dirt track. Turn right onto Bowen Ranch Road and drive for 6 miles until you get to the Bowen Ranch Parking Lot. Do NOT pay at the shack entrance. The Bowen Ranch trailhead and camping area has its entrance just past the three-way split at the shack – keep right. The trailhead begins at the Bowen Ranch parking lot and you will need to pay to stay.
NOTE: Deep Creek Hot Springs is only available for day use and the Bowen Ranch people will get grumpy if you’re late and arrive back after sunset!
From Bowen Ranch Parking Lot, it’s a 1.75-mile steep hike (with an elevation change of about 950 feet) on the marked Bowen Ranch Trail- around 45 minutes’ downhill on a narrow and sometimes slippery (sandy/gravel) path on the way there. It is slower (around 1 hour and 15 minutes) to climb uphill on the way back.
NOTE: The trail is a tough one, especially in extreme heat, which can cause unprepared hikers to suffer heat exhaustion, hypothermia, or disorientation. Locals say around six search & rescue teams are called out each month in summer for such unprepared hikers. And don’t leave the marked trail or you’ll end up lost – there’s no cell service in the creek!
The hot springs are on the opposite side of the creek from the trail, and, depending on the water level, you can ford it or pull yourself across on the “boat on a rope” (don’t untie it, just pull!). Be cautious – in the spring runoff, the river is deep, strong, and very cold! Take a change of clothes in a dry bag for the way back up.
Via the Bradford Ridge Trail – Exit the I-15 at Highway 138 and head southeast until you reach Highway 173. Turn left on Highway 173 before Lake Silverwood. Go around the lake on Highway 173 (pass the turnoff for Hesperia), until the road becomes dirt. Keep going some 5 miles. Near the concrete bridge, you’ll see a small parking area on your right. Opposite that parking lot is the trailhead. This trail is around 2.5 miles and, like the Bowen Ranch Trail, is well marked and involves a steep descent into Deep Creek Canyon, despite a relatively level start. Before the final descent, the trail forks. Head left for the hot springs.
Can I Stay There?
No. Camping is not permitted within a mile of the Deep Creek Hot Springs, in order to give nature and the local wildlife the overnight chance to recuperate and use the area freely without human interaction. That said, you may well see some campers braving the wrath of Mike Castro, a local landowner who patrols on a dirt bike with a pistol!
If you’re looking to camp, it’s best to keep it official! Bowen Ranch offers the “`Deep Creek Hot Springs Campground” with campsites at $15/person/night, with picnic tables and fire rings. The campground is ideally placed near the trailhead and parking area, so you can be the first down to the hot springs at sunrise! The site has bathrooms, showers, drinking water, firewood, and cold drinks for sale, but no electricity (generators can be run until quiet time at 11 pm). Check-in on arrival. For a hardy wake-up call, you can get coffee from 8 am – 11 am, and a Taco Truck rolls in most weekends.
The Deep Creek Hot Springs Campground boasts 3 ziplines. It’s a $10 zipline equipment fee per person + $5 per ride (all-in-all $15 for 1 ride). Or you can pay $25 per person for 4 rides or $60 for 8 rides for up to 4 people.
The same owners offer the slightly more exclusive Bowen Springs Camp Retreat, an “oasis” with its own hot and cool mineral spring pools for rent. You can stay in a tent, bring your RV, or clamp the night away.
There are also numerous primitive campsites on the nearby public lands and a selection of popular campgrounds in the San Bernardino National Forest. Arrowhead Campground, for example, includes over 170 campsites. The Big Bear Campground has over 190 sites. San Gorgonio Campground offers 230 sites, and San Jacinto Campground offers 112 campsites. Check out a detailed list here. If you want to stay in a hotel, Hesperia offers La Quinta by Wyndham Hesperia Victorville, two Motel 6s, and a SureStay Plus Hotel by Best Western, with outdoor pools and all the comfort you’d expect of the brands.
What Else Can I Do In The Area?
The San Bernardino National Forest offers a plethora of opportunities for action and adventure lovers, as well as for those wanting to get back to nature, escape the city, and appreciate wildlife. Choose from biking, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, off-roading (OHV), climbing, snow sports, swimming, and wildlife watching. The San Bernardino National Forest boasts mixed conifer forests and oak woodlands, pinyon-juniper stands, and chaparral and semi-desert areas. There are 71 threatened or endangered wildlife species in the forest area, which is home to bald eagles, peregrine falcons, bighorn sheep, and numerous endangered plants.
If you fancy upping the Californian hot-springing temperature, try the four pools at Travertine Hot Springs (boasting a whopping 115-156°F!) or the majestic views of the slightly cooler Buckeye Hot Springs. Benton Hot Springs, meanwhile, promises a clean, rejuvenating soak with incredible views on a well-kept family-run site.
Want more California hot springs? Have a read of the articles below for our favorites!
The Dos And Don’ts Of Visiting A Hot Springs
Every hot springs has its own quirks. Visitors to Deep Creek Hot Springs, for example, need to keep the water out of their noses and mouths, be ready for a challenging hike up out of the creek, and be open-minded to nudity. For more general and very important “hot springs etiquette,” we highly recommend you take a moment to check out our carefully compiled easy-to-read list of “dos and don’ts” here. And always, always respect our nature – pack out what you pack in and LEAVE NO TRACE.
Frequently Asked Questions
In Hesperia, leave the I-15 at the Bear Valley Exit. Continue east on Bear Valley Road for 10 miles until you get to Central Road. Turn right and drive 3 miles to Ocotillo Road (pass the railroad tracks and head over the hill). Turn left and drive for 2.2 miles until you get to Bowen Ranch Road, a winding dirt track. Turn right onto Bowen Ranch Road and drive for 6 miles until you get to the Bowen Ranch Parking Lot. Do NOT pay at the shack entrance. The Bowen Ranch trailhead and camping area has its entrance just past the three-way split at the shack – keep right. The trailhead begins at the Bowen Ranch parking lot and you will need to pay to stay.
From the Bowen Ranch Trailhead, it is 1.75 miles – 45 minutes down, 1 hour 15 minutes back up. The Bradford Ridge Trail is 2.5 miles each way (around 2 hours).
The six Deep Creek Hot Springs pools vary between 100 – 105°F.
Yes. Dogs are welcome in the campground and on the trail, on a leash, but not in the hot springs pools. Be aware that hot ground and water can burn them.
Deep Creek Hot Springs is not ideal for children. First is the difficulty of and risks involved in the descent, and second is the nudity you can certainly expect at the hot springs.
The site is managed by the San Bernardino National Forest and is looked after by a volunteer group, the Deep Creek Volunteers.
While we at Traxplorio do our very best to give you the latest information about these hot springs sites, life happens, weather happens, and property owners happen. We always recommend you go to the official hot springs’ web page and/or the relevant state authority page to check conditions, times and prices (where relevant) before you head out. Thanks for understanding, and enjoy your soak!