Sespe Creek Trail - Camping & Backpacking

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Backpacking in the Sespe Hot Springs area can be a true wilderness experience full of great trails, natural springs, abundant wildlife, and backcountry campsites.

Written by

Ry Glover


18.0 miles

Varies from 18-36 miles roundtrip.

Destination Distance From Downtown

58.5 miles


4 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

1 days

1-2 Days


Spring, Fall, and Winter

Dog Friendly


Fees Permits


Adventure Pass; No backcountry permit

Land Website

Sespe Creek Trail



The Sespe Wilderness area in Los Padres National Forest is a truly wild place that will leave you wondering how it's possible that you're only an hour or so from the massive metropolis of Los Angeles. A backpacking adventure here is truly an amazing experience featuring quality trails, priceless views, excellent springs for swimming, and plenty of wildlife-viewing opportunities. While there are a few different trails in this area, the most popular and worthwhile is probably the Sespe Creek Trail, a roughly 18-mile route that follows the creek as it weaves through the canyon, creating a number of swimming holes and passing plenty of pleasant groves that are great for camping.

What Makes It Great

Head east from the Piedra Blanca parking lot on a fairly exposed trail that requires creek crossings, occasional rock-hopping, and only moderate climbing. After about 9 miles, you'll reach the Bear Creek Campground, which is a great half-way point to stop and spend the night if you're looking for an overnight backpacking trip, or an ideal place to turn around if all you want is a day hike in the Southern California sun.If you've opted for the overnighter, wake up in the morning and enjoy another 9 or so mile hike over chaparral-strewn hills until you reach the Willett Springs Campground. This is a fairly popular spot for weekenders who come to enjoy the warm waters of the Willett Hot Spring - a teal colored pool that is located about half a mile from the campground. Some people find this pool to be a great place to soak weary legs; others are turned off by the algae lining the man-made plastic tub. There's only one way to know whether or not you'll like it....

Who is Going to Love It

Wildlife is abundant here: mountain lions and black bear have been seen roaming these hills, and bighorn sheep and condors are also in the area. All in all, the Sepse Creek Trail is a wonderful destination for California backpacking.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

The trailhead is located at the Piedra Blanca parking lot, where you're required to have an Adventure Pass.

Camping in the Sespe Wilderness is free and doesn't require a backcountry permit unless you plan on making fires, in which case you will need a fire permit. Summer is brutally hot and dry. Spring yields the best temperatures for the hot springs themselves, but fall and winter are also good times to go.


Sespe Creek Trail

Rose Valley Road (Forest Route 5N24), Los Padres National Forest
Maricopa, CA, 93252
34.5765, -119.05069

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