Perhaps you've read or heard that Deep Creek Hot Springs is one of the top destinations for a day trip filled with adventure. However, you want to know all the details before you decide whether the trip is worthwhile. If so, you are in the right place.
In this piece, I will answer those questions you have about Deep Creek Hot Springs and more. I have created simple bullet lists to guide you in the ‘Before you go’ and the ‘When you get there’ sections. Pay attention to these sections.
- Address: Pacific Crest Trail, Apple Valley, CA 92308
- Location: 34°20′22″N 117°10′37″W
- Type: Undeveloped
- Temperature: Between 100°F and 105°F
- Fee: No
- Hike-in access: Yes
- Number of pools: 7
- Rule: Clothing optional
- Current status: Open
By the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains, you will find a cluster of undeveloped natural hot springs next to a cold creek and surrounded by a unique and beautiful landscape. This group of hot springs is called Deep Creek Hot Springs.
Formerly a little-known location, it is now a popular destination for adventurers who can hike the difficult trails to get to the hot springs.
Deep Creek Hot Springs is a free hot springs site maintained by a group of volunteers known as Deep Creek Volunteers. Although the site is free to use, you have to pay a fee at the trailhead for parking and camping (if you plan to use the campsites and the Freedom trail).
The site has 7 primitive, rock-lined soaking pools with temperatures ranging from 100 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. The pools range from very small (only seating for two people) to large enough to swim in. You are free to explore the area and use any of the pools that suit your needs.
This is a clothing-optional site. This means that you may encounter visitors soaking naked.
There is now a private hot springs pool available at the Deep Creek Hot Springs Campground for a fee.
Before you go
There are a few essential things you should know before you head out of town.
- The trip to Deep Creek is a mini wilderness adventure so you have to prepare appropriately.
- Beware of rattlesnakes on the trails. I will advise you to carry a stick (this will also help you balance when you get to the loose soil/slippery portions of the trail).
- Be aware that in the summer, daytime temperatures can easily exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Check on the local weather conditions of the area before you go because sudden flash floods, mudslides, and falling rocks are common in the Deep Creek area.
Things to take along
- To prevent losing time when the GPS fails, type 6100, Bowen Ranch Road in Google Maps and print out the directions on paper.
- Hiking shoes for good grip when hiking the slippery and steep trails.
- Water shoes. This will protect your feet against the rough bottom of the pools.
- Towels and toilet paper.
- This is a mini wilderness trip. There are no toilet facilities at the site so you can bring a small shovel to use when you go behind a bush.
- Lots of drinking water. Half a gallon during winter or a gallon in summer will do.
- Food and snacks.
- Sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses in the summer. The trails have little or no shade and the hot springs site is also exposed.
- Warm clothes in winter. When you emerge from the hot pools in winter, the sudden temperature change can be shocking at first. Warm clothes will help you adjust quicker as you hike back to your car.
- A change of clothes.
- Trash bags to remove your trash from the site. Endeavour to pick up everything you bring to the site. Leave the site better than you met it. This is the only way to preserve this treasure for future generations.
- A flashlight. This will help if you come out late
- A whistle, just in case you can’t find your way out of the trail.
- A power bank for your mobile phone.
- A good attitude and respect for others.
When you get there
You should note that:
- This is a communal hot springs site with a large number of visitors. You can’t tell what people take with them into the pools so human and organic pollution may be high.
- Deep Creek Hot Springs pools contain rare and sometimes fatal protozoa that can cause the disease called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis.
- As a precaution, do not submerge your head in the soaking pools.
- Do not drink the water from the creek.
- Do not soak for too long.
- If you are camping, break up your soak into short sessions and use the shower after your soak.
- Some people occasionally develop a skin rash after soaking in these hot Springs’ pools for a long period of time. This rash is caused by a bacterium called Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a natural organism that lives in hot springs. Although many people are not affected by this, it is good to be aware.
- Do not hike back from the hot springs between 11 am and 3 pm. This is the hottest period of the day and there is little or no shade on the trail.
- Rehydrate regularly when hiking to avoid heat exhaustion.
- Pack out what you pack in. Leave no Trace behind.
- No overnight camping or campfires allowed on the Forest Service land.
- There is no trash pickup or restroom available at the site.
Camping at Deep Creek Hot Springs
Overnight camping and campfires are not allowed on the Forest Service land on which the hot springs are located. Although, this rule is not enforced and often you find people camping in the surrounding area of the hot springs.
However, there is now a campground called Deep Creek Hot Springs Campground located on the Bowen Ranch property about 45 minutes to the springs.
This privately owned property also contains the parking area and the trailhead that you can use to access the hot springs.
The campground has picnic tables, fire pits and grills, showers, toilets, and potable water, but no electricity.
Overnight camping which includes trail access from 7 AM until 7 PM the next day costs $15 per person. Day pass which includes parking and trail access 7 AM to 7 PM costs $10 per person.
Reservations are not needed to use the campsites and you can pay on arrival with cash or credit card.
What are the best times to visit Deep Creek Hot Springs?
The popularity of this hot spring site is growing daily. I’ll advise going on a weekday, (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) to avoid the crowds. Camping and nighttime soaks are options you might want to consider if you want some privacy, especially over the weekend. The majority of visitors to these hot springs start to leave after sunset. There is nothing better than having the pools to yourself and taking a tranquil bath under the stars.
How to get to Deep Creek Hot Springs?
Deep Creek Hot Springs is located near Hesperia in the Mojave Desert portion of the San Bernardino National Forest. Bowen Ranch Road is the easiest and most common way to access this site. This road leads to a private property known as Bowen Ranch. From this ranch, you can access one of the trailheads after paying a small fee.
Driving directions from Interstate 15
If you’re coming from the south, exit Main Street in Hesperia, turn right and drive for about 10 miles. If approaching from the north, exit Main Street in Hesperia, turn left and travel approximately 10 miles. Turn left onto Rock Springs Road and head east for about 8 miles. Take the first right onto Bowen Ranch Road. Bowen Ranch Road is a well-maintained dirt road. Drive cautiously because this route is winding and has blind turns.
Deep Creek Hot Springs Trails
There are three trails that you can use to access this hot springs site.
1. Bowen Ranch / Freedom Trail
First and foremost, do not attempt to hike this trail at night!
The Bowen Ranch/Freedom trail although short is a hard trail. The steep and slippery trail starts at Bowen Ranch and is the most popular path to the hot springs. It will take you roughly 2 hours round trip. To access this trail, you will have to pay a fee of $10 per person at the parking lot. It takes around 45 minutes to hike the over 2 miles trail from the trailhead at the ranch to the hot springs.
The trail drops about 950 feet in elevation from the trailhead. This means that coming back up will be a challenging task as you will have to trek uphill for about 1 hour 15 minutes to the parking lot. The trail is narrow, steep and slippery in places and you will have to do some boulder climbing. This is where good hiking shoes come in.
The signs that mark the trailhead is at the southern end of the parking lot. Go down the trail and you will find a sign at the end of the path down the hill. GO LEFT on the road here. Continue on the trail through an opening in the fence to your right.
The trail is easy to follow from here as it winds through the canyon on National Forest Service land. The hot springs will become visible ahead and to the left about 1.5 miles down the trail.
As you follow the trail down to the bottom of the hill, turn left and continue until the trail meets a small creek. Cross this creek to get to the springs on the other side.
Please note that it is crucial to pay attention and take note of the little markers on your way. Many hikers require rescue after becoming lost on this trail. There’s a good chance you’ll cross paths with other adventures too so feel free to ask questions if you feel lost.
Watch out for makers such as the creek crossing and the PCT intersection with the Freedom Trail. The map handed to you at the parking lot after payment may not show these makers and it is easy to get confused about what direction to go.
2. Pacific Crest Trail
An alternative route is to hike the 12-mile out-and-back Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) east from Arrowhead Lake Road. It will take you about 5 hours and 30 minutes to use this moderately challenging trail. You do not have to pay any fee to use this route. The trail is mostly flat and long and has no shade for most of the way. Endeavour to come with lots of water, sunscreen and good hiking shoes.
With an early start, park near the trailhead ( the end of US Highway 173) and follow the well-marked PCT trail which takes you through the Deep Creek canyon. You will arrive at a creek crossing after about a mile. Depending on the season, this creek’s water depth varies. However, it is typically only deep enough to wade through. When the trail ends, you are met with stunning hot springs, where you can immediately rip off your clothes and plunge into the soothing waters.
3. Bradford Ridge Path
This is a very challenging but scenic 5.2-mile out-and-back trail that will take about 3 hours to complete. The trail is free to use but is hard because of the steep climbs and descents. I do not recommend this route to the hot springs. There are easier trails to the hot springs. The Bowen Ranch /Freedom trail for example is easier and shorter, although you have to pay a small fee to access the trailhead.
This trail is doable if you have prior experience and are in good physical condition. So, if you must use this trail, bring plenty of water and good hiking boots, and make sure you do it during daylight.
A trip to Deep Creek Hot Springs is a lovely escape for those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a day or two. The clean air, creek, majestic hills, diversity of flora and fauna, hike, physical exertion, outdoor camping, and, finally, the hot springs make this a true adventure. And the best part is that you can do it all in one day.
So there you have it. All you need to know before that trip. If you have any questions, or if you’ve been to this location and have advice for other adventurers, please leave a comment below.
Is Deep Creek Hot Springs open?
The hot springs site is open year-round.
Are dogs allowed at Deep Creek Hot Springs?
Yes. Dogs are allowed, however, they must be on a leash. According to US Forest Service rules, they are not allowed in the soaking pools.
Are there regulations for using these hot Springs?
Yes. The hot spring pools are technically a day-use facility which closes from sundown to sunrise. However, this rule is not enforced. You can still find soakers in the pools at night.
How hot is the water at Deep Creek Hot Springs?
The temperature of the hot springs at the source is about 119 degrees Fahrenheit. While the hottest pool is about 105 degrees Fahrenheit. The most lukewarm pool is about 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Who owns Deep Creek Hot Springs?
San Bernardino National Forest, United States Forest Service.
Who owns Deep Creek Hot Springs Campground?
The campground is owned by the same person who operates the Bowen Ranch.
Is this hot springs site kids-friendly?
The answer to that depends on the trail you intend to use to access the hot springs. The Bowen Ranch/Freedom trail has very steep and slippery descents and a tough climb on the way back. I would not recommend taking kids through that route. The other alternative, the PCT is long but doable for kids if you bring enough water and food and start out early before the heat comes up. On the other hand, there may be nudity at this location and sometimes you may encounter very loud visitors who may be on drugs. These are some factors to consider before bringing teenagers or kids here.
Is there a place to eat close to the hot springs?
If you paid for overnight camping at the privately owned campground, breakfast and coffee are offered and served from 8 to 11 in the morning. Additionally, the Taco Truck is available on-site on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Do you need a 4WD vehicle to go to Bowen Ranch?
The trip to the trailhead is accessible to any vehicle. However, if it has recently rained or snowed heavily, the dirt Bowen Ranch road may become difficult for smaller vehicles.
What other activities are close to Deep Creek Hot Springs?
- Zip line rides: This recreational activity involves riding a steel cable between two points over a valley with breathtaking views below. This ride is currently provided by the Deep Creek Hot Springs Campground.
- Hiking the PCT trail.
- Cliff jumping. Although these cliffs located by the pools are modest in size, they offer an alternative activity to relaxing in the hot pools.
Do you need to book ahead to use the hot spring pools?
No booking or reservations are required. The site is completely free to use.
Who are the Deep Creek Volunteers?
They are a non-profit group that works to keep Deep Creek Hot Springs in their current state for our future generations.
Is this hot springs site safe?
Visitors have long enjoyed the hot springs, which are generally safe to use. However, exercise some caution and follow the safety guidelines when using hot springs.