Sykes Hot Springs: Ventana Wilderness

For this trip, you hike along the pine ridge trail – starting from Big Sur Station and culminating at Sykes hot springs in the Ventana Wilderness.

I have hiked this trail a total of two times. The first trip I did was in the spring time, and it was absolutely beautiful! All the wild flowers were out, it was warm but not too hot, and the winter rains had washed away the previous seasons hippy filth (this will be explained).

For my first trip – I went with a group of friends and we started out fairly early in the morning from Big Sur Station, hiked to Barlow Flats where he had our lunch break, then finished hiking to Skyes hot springs. We spent only one night at Skyes hot springs campground, and then did the same hike only in reverse the next day. The whole trip is a little less than 20 miles round trip, which if you’re in decent shape (and some of us weren’t on this trip) you can do in a weekend relatively pain-free.

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean from Pine Ridge Trail.   
River at Barlow Flats 

On my second trip to Sykes, we did things a little differently. We started late, and hiked about 4 miles to Ventana Camp, where we spent our first night. This is where I spilled boiling hot water on my boyfriends bare feet – causing second and (almost) third degree burns. Yeah – I’m classy like that. To make matters more interesting, this trip was me, my boyfriend, and his two male friends. Not only do I feel like I’m intruding on some epic bro-out, but after the boiling water thing I’m pretty sure Kevin’s two friends thought they were going to be first hand witnesses to our break up, with an incredibly uncomfortable hike/drive out the next day. By what could only have been a miracle (or maybe love), Kevin never even yelled at me, just an awkward angry moment, and then things worked out. More amazingly Kevin finished the trip, 16 miles with very burned feet.

The river at Sykes Campground – where people were POOPING IN THE RIVER!  

From Ventana we hiked to Barlow Flats, where we had a lunch break, and a dip in the river to cool off. Then after being refreshed we hiked on to Sykes where we camped. DEAR LORD THERE WAS SHIT EVERYWHERE! And I’m being literal. People are really dumb, and decided that they didn’t want to use the wilderness toilets because heavens forbid someone might walk up on them while they’re doing their business. So somehow they reasoned that shitting on the river bed, where the river that we all get our water from, and people swim in, and walk along all day long, is some how a more private/safer option. I have never been so afraid that I was going to get Giardia, or worse.

Not only were people just pooping wherever they felt like it without even the decency to bury it, they were leaving trash, used toilet paper, beer bottles/cans, etc all over  the place. Now I can understand someone in a wetter climate thinking that toilet paper will biodegrade…but in what place do beer bottle compost back into soil? Oh right…that’s no where on Earth. Sykes Hotsprings is a hippie mecca – a place where Big Sur Bohemians have trekked for decades. But these people who are supposedly nature loving, outdoor enthusiasts, in favor of preserving open and wild spaces for generations to come, clearly have a massive disconnected from the rhetoric they spew and ‘the man’ versus their own actions. I really don’t understand why anyone would think it would be okay to poop in the water that they drink. PLEASE, DEAR LORD PLEASE, DON’T PARTICIPATE IN THE DESTRUCTION OF THE HOTSPRINGS BY LITTERING AND POOPING IN THE RIVER! Okay, done now.

After tootling around the springs for half a day we hiked out along the Pine Ridge Trail to Terrace Creek, where we broke for lunch (found more people who’d pooped in the stream which is once again you’re only water source). Instead of continuing on the Pine Ridge Trail we took the Terrace Creek Trail out to Coast Ridge Road. Once you hit the road, you can follow the road, which is dirt and not well traveled, to the Ventana Inn. WARNING: To do the trail this way you need to leave at least one car at Ventana Inn before starting out at Big Sur Station. Also Terrace Creek Trail is not recommended for beginners, it is a long and steep climb from Pine Ridge to Coast Ridge Road). The views from Coast Ridge Road are spectacular, however it is definitely less wild and doesn’t feel as remote as the Pine Ridge Trail. More information about the Pine Ride Trail and Skyes hots springs here.      

One of the many stunning views from Coast Ridge Road
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