If you are looking to enjoy your hot springs in amongst fresh air and nature then the natural hot springs in Santa Barbara is the place to be.
Yes, you read that right; you’ll even find gorgeous natural hot springs in Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara is a beautiful coastal city in California with a Mediterranean climate. It is a tourist destination hot spot between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains and filled with electric communities.
But, it’s not just a seaside escape; it is a delicate part of the California coastline that connects beautiful beaches, vineyards, mountains set within lush forests, as well as natural hot springs.
Explore The Natural Hot Springs In Santa Barbara This Weekend
There is something magical that happens when you climb into the warm waters of geothermal hot springs.
Every bit of stress you feel will float away when you surround yourself with soothing water, natural stones, and magnificent scenic landscapes.
The 3 Best Santa Barbara Hot Springs
Are you in need of a relaxing escape? If yes, then follow along with me while I take you to some of the best natural hot springs in Santa Barbara.
1. Hot Springs Canyon
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Hot Springs Canyon Santa Barbara (also known as Montecito Hot Springs) is probably the most accessible and, therefore, the most popular. In saying that, though, there is still enough space around to avoid any crowds.
Hot Springs Canyon can be found on a 462-acre undeveloped piece of land west of the San Ysidro Canyon. There are a few hot springs in this area and trails that lead up to the peaks overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Hot Springs Trail Santa Barbara
The Hot Springs Trail Santa Barbara is a 4-mile loop trail. The trailhead begins at Mountain Drive. As you’re hiking along the trail, you’ll pass through the back of a residential community and past the Montecito Hot Spring Club ruins, which was an exclusive resort for tourists built in the mid-1800s.
The resort was destroyed in a forest fire in 1964. There was no one to take over the business, so it was never rebuilt.
Continue on the trail, and you’ll go through the lush exotic vegetation of avocado, palm, banana, and bamboo, among other trees. You’ll reach a sign about water conservation, and this is when you’ll start smelling the sulfur from the pools.
Take the left fork, and you’ll cross a riverbed. Not too far after this, you’ll find the hot springs to your left.
Multiple pools go up the canyon. The hottest of them is the upper pool, with the temperature sitting around 105 Degrees F. I don’t think I even lasted 10 seconds before climbing out and moving down to the lower pools when I climbed in. These are cooler pools. As the water flows down, the cooler it gets.
The water is sulfurous, so you are going to get that pungent smell. But remember that sulfur has plenty of health benefits.
It is important to note that this Santa Barbara hot springs hike is mostly uphill. So my advice would be to make sure you have suitable trail shoes.
If you wear silver jewelry, you might want to leave it at home to avoid any damage while hiking or when you’re in the pools, as sulfur turns silver into a rusty shade of orange.
Hot Springs Canyon Santa Barbara is an absolute must when you plan your next visit!
Location: Mountain Drive, Montecito, CA 93108 – 15 min drive from Santa Barbara
Parking: Limited street parking
Entry Fee: No
Pet Friendly: No
2. Gaviota Hot Springs
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Gaviota Hot Springs (also known as Las Cruces Hot Springs) has been around for hundreds of years. It was a favorite place for early British and Spanish settlers to relax in the natural hot springs in Santa Barbara.
They described Gaviota Hot Springs as “a beautiful desert oasis” because of how vital the therapeutic waters are for people.
This Santa Barbara Hot Springs is in the Gaviota State Park. The park itself was established in 1953 and is accessible to the public.
Gaviota Hot Springs Trail
The trail to get to Gaviota Hot Springs is around 1-mile, with an elevation gain of 400ft.
Start from the trailhead off Highway 101 and hike along Gaviota Peak Fire Road. As you climb this road, you’ll reach an elevation gain of 150ft. Carry on a little further, and you’ll get to Trespass Trail.
Turn left at the junction and carry on along the road. When you reach the next junction, you’ll be right beside a creek.
The water here flows from the hot springs. Turn right at the junction, follow the flowing water up the creek, and you’ll reach the source, which is where you want to be.
The hike up to the Hot Springs should only take you around 20mins.
If you choose to keep hiking along the Gaviota Peak, either before or after you relax in the hot springs, there’s a fantastic view of the ocean when you reach the peak.
This breathtaking view is hidden from us while hiking the rest of the trail because the climb is from behind the mountain.
Arriving at the Gaviota Hot Springs, there’s a choice of two geothermal mineral-colored pools. The hot springs smell of sulfur and are light milky blue. The smaller of the two pools can only accommodate two people.
However, the larger pool next to the smaller pool can accommodate around six people.
The temperature of the Gaviota Hot Springs averages around 96 DegF throughout the year. So spend some much-needed relaxation time soaking in the steam for that ultimate spa feeling.
Gaviota Hot Springs is open to the public all year-round. Between 1 January to 28 February, the campground is closed, so this is the ideal time to visit the hot springs in Santa Barbara.
There are fewer people around, so you can soak in the hot waters for as long as you want, and there’s no pressure knowing other people are waiting to get in.
The summer months between June to September are the busiest.
While you are here, why not hike up to the Gaviota Wind Caves. They are easy to get to, in the Santa Ynez Mountains, not far from the Pacific Ocean. The hike itself is a 2.5-mile round trip with an elevation gain of 600ft.
Location: Gaviota State Park, Boundary Road, Goleta, CA 93117 – 40 min drive from Santa Barbara
Open Hours: 7 am-6 pm daily
Entry Fee: No fee to enter the park. However, there is a $2.00 per day parking fee.
Need Somewhere To Stay?
If you’d like to stay a little longer, Gaviota State Park has 38 campsites. But to keep the Hot Springs as private as possible, campsites are not located close to the Hot Springs.
The campsites are suitable for RV’s and tents.
There are also modern facilities available, with restrooms with flushing toilets and showers. There are also picnic tables and a fire ring with a grill.
The campsites have no hook-ups.
It does get quite windy in this area, so if you’re in a tent, make sure you stake it to the ground firmly enough.
$45.00 per day – during the high season, from March to November.
$35.00 per day – during the low season, from 1 December to 31 December.
$10.00 per day – Hike & Bike site.
Maximum Vehicle Length:
Trailers – 25ft
RVs – 27ft
Contact For Reservations:
1-800-444-7275 (During office hours 8 am-6 pm)
Due to high demand and limited availability, if you are thinking of traveling in the summer, you should book your campsite at least six months in advance. Otherwise, it’s first come, first served.
It’s important to note that there are no campsites available between 1 January to 28 February.
Pet Friendly: Yes – Dogs are allowed in the campground but not on the beach.
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3. Big & Little Caliente Hot Springs
Both Big and Little Caliente Hot Springs in Santa Barbara is a little off the beaten track, located in Los Padres National Forest. Two groups of thermal mineral springs in two separate areas within the forest.
Getting To The Hot Springs
The hot springs are accessible by car; however, it’s an 8-mile drive, and the clay road can be hazardous if there’s been wet weather. And because this area is so isolated, you will need to be diving a high clearance vehicle to be safe. Sometimes the road is closed, and the next best option is to hike or bike.
I recommend giving the forest service a call to find out if the road is open and check the conditions.
When driving along Gibraltar Road, the views of Santa Barbara are spectacular. And along the ridge of the Santa Ynes Mountains, you’ve got the most magnificent 360-degree views of the beautiful coastline. You can see the Channel Islands to the west, and to the east, you see Los Padres National Forest.
As you approach a junction, there’s a large water tank with parking available. Stop here and have a look at the views. At this point, you’ll be at 3000ft above sea level.
If you choose to hike, it’s a rather strenuous 13-mile round trip that will take a few hours. To get to the pools, it’s a downhill hike, but then after a lovely relaxing day soaking in the hot springs, it’s a pretty challenging hike back uphill to get to your car.
Big Caliente Hot Spring has a large, well-maintained cement and stone pool. There are changing rooms and a picnic table here.
Continue further along the forest trails, and you’ll reach Little Caliente Hot Spring. There are three rock pools connected by flowing water, cascading from top to bottom. The top pool is the hottest, with a water temperature of 115 Degrees F. The temperature does cool down as it moves to the lower pools.
The best time of year to visit is during the Spring, Summer, and Fall. And it’s at its busiest during Spring and Summer. The Hot Springs tend to get quite crowded on the weekends, so you might want to consider going during the week.
Always take lots of water with you.
Location: Forest Road 5N16 Santa Barbara, CA 93105 – 26—miles north of Santa Barbara
Open Hours: 6 am-10 pm daily (Day-use only)
Entry Fee: No
Where To Stay
Camping is only allowed in the campgrounds, not at the Hot Springs.
With four different campgrounds available, you have a choice of:
Mid Santa Ynez – Multiple campsites are available, plus group sites.
Rock Camp – 2 campsites available – Limited to 2 vehicles per campsite.
P-Bar Flats – Multiple campsites are available, plus group sites.
Mono Campgrounds – 3 campsites available – Walk-in only, No reservations.
The campgrounds have vault toilets, stand-up BBQs, fire rings, and tables.
$5.00 per day or $30.00 per year – Adventure Pass is needed for camping.
Contact: (805) 967-3481
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What To Take With You On Your Hikes
Whichever hot springs in Santa Barbara you choose to visit, here are a few items you should consider taking with you on your hike.
- Water Bottle – Super important to take water with you.
- Bug Spray
- Hiking Shoes – If you are going directly to the Hot Springs, there’s probably no need to take hiking shoes. This will depend on the Hot Springs you are planning on going to because if your hike is a long one, hiking shoes are an absolute must.
- Water Shoes – To avoid any slipping, it might be a good idea to have water shoes with you.
A Little Tip
Always practice the “Leave no trace” policy. Please pick up after yourself and take your trash with you. Leave areas better than how they were when you arrived.
And respect everything around you at all times. Never disturb the plants or wildlife.
Now that we’ve explored the best Hot Springs in Santa Barbara, you have to admit that the beautiful Santa Barbara mountains will always impress us all from sunrise right through to sunset.
Have you experienced any of these natural Hot Springs in Santa Barbara?
Share your amazing adventures. And if there’s anything I’ve left off and you can add to it, please let us know.