We’ve been hiking in the mounting around Lake Arrowhead, California, for a long time and never heard about the Deep Creek Hot Springs before. Until one day when another herhiker told us about a cluster of natural hot springs in an isolated canyon in the San Bernardino Mountains.
What? Cliff jumping, hot springs, and sun in mountains, who could ask for more? If you hike the trails in the San Bernardino mountains in Southern California you surely know how dry and dusty they are. The chance of finding springs, or waterfalls is quite remote. But the chance of finding nude hot springs is really far-fetched!
How to Reach the Deep Creek Hot Springs
For any outdoor lovers reaching this spot is a great opportunity to get some hiking in along the Pacific Coast Trail which follows the creek for about 16 miles. The hot springs are along the Mojave River (also known as Deep Creek), on public land near Lake Arrowhead in the San Bernardino National Forest. There are two ways to get there, depending on the direction you are coming from.
One option is the Bradford Ridge trail that comes up from the south. If you are coming from Los Angeles, or San Bernardino, this is a more direct route but requires a gradual 6-mile hike. Although it’s more challenging, we prefer this trail because it’s closer to Lake Arrowhead, where we come from. Besides, parking is free.
The easiest way to reach the Deep Creek Hot Springs is from is Bowen Ranch trail, which comes from the north. The road originates in Victorville area (off Highway 15). After getting off the freeway in Hesperia, part of the drive is on a dirt road.
Accesses to the springs is through private land and they charge $10 for parking. But they are VERY mean if you are returning late, so try to be on time, unless you want to deal with very hostile people when come up. Other than that, Bowen ranch is a secure place to park your car and a much easier way to come down. After you park your car, there is still a 2-mile hike down to the springs.
The “Naked” Truth About the Deep Creek Hot Springs
For anyone visiting this place, expect people to be naked! This is kind of unusual for California. You may expect this when visiting some hot springs in New Zealand, but not here. Deep Creek Hot Springs has been known as a nude beach for decades. While not every person around is naked, most of them like to take their clothes off, drink, and hang out.
The first time we came here we didn’t know this was a clothing-optional oasis. You can imagine how shocked we were to discover that people around us were completely naked.
Deep Creek Hot Springs are a real gem and will amaze you once you get there – unless you have a problem with public nudity. My first I-can’t-believe-it shock wasn’t about seeing naked people in a public place. After all, I grew up in Europe, where nudity in public parks is common. What was shocking was to see nudity practiced in California. What happened to the prude Americans? Did they decide to stop having a boring life?
What to Expect at the Deep Creek
The area is completely natural and undeveloped, with a small sandy beach, several pools of varying temperatures, each bearing a different name. The hot springs are comprised of 5 primary hot pools with temperatures ranging from 100 to 105 degrees. The uppermost pool has the warmest temperature, but it’s rather small (3-4 soak seekers).
The largest of the pools is actually big enough to swim in. Being a bit cooler than the smaller pools makes it great for cooling off during the hot summer months.
Further along the Deep Creek Fork, there are other geothermal pools with various temperatures. The water temperature of the majority of the pools averages over 100 degrees.
The area is maintained by volunteers. There are no trash cans around, so visitors are encouraged to take their trash with them when they leave.
Note: Camping is prohibited at the hot springs or in the valley.
In the past, the area has been frequented by hippies who used it for illegal activities. As a result, camping was officially banned. But even though it’s illegal, some people still camp here overnight. My guess is the authorities turn a blind eye to it.
The Deep Creek Hot Springs has become a very popular spot over the years for obvious reasons. The place is particularly crowded during the week-ends. Most of those who visit the springs come during the daylight hours.
Tips for Visiting the Deep Creek Hot Springs
• First of all, don’t go if you are not in good shape. This is a vigorous hike and the trails are very steep.
• If you choose to go in summer, start very early in the morning. The temperature rises up quickly in this high desert area.
• Bring LOTS of water and some energy bars. This long and dusty hike will drain all your energy.
• Bring a first aid kit. Help is hard to get here and there is no cell phone reception.
• Wear good hiking shoes and a hat. If you are planning to swim, bring a swimsuit and a towel.
• Use caution when entering the water. The rocks in the pools can be extremely slippery.
• Don’t submerse your head under the water in the hot springs. There seems to be an amoeba in these water that causes a nasty illness known as Naegleria fowleri.
Have you ever visited a nude beach? Did it make you feel uncomfortable?
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This is some great insight. My husband and I were planning a trip here this summer, so it’s great to hear more about the hot springs.
Thanks for sharing 🙂
– Sara Billings
Tanzania safari tours
This is an old post but I found it very useful, Thanks for sharing!
travelling all around the world it has been pleasing to see uninhibited nakedness when people are just enjoying the freedom from rules, the wonder and pleasure of their surroundings.
The sooner we can divorce in our minds nakedness from sexual activity the more natural and less strange it will seem. Trouble is, in a society where kids now learn about sex from pornogrphic sites this is a battle that will need constant fighting.
And let it be older people too, people who are no longer considered “beautiful” physically. Because if we live long enough that’s how we all end up
Brent A Halse
Interesting that you were so surprised about the nudity at the hot springs. I live in Oregon and there are several hot springs were people go naked. You just get used to it, and now I won’t go if I have to wear a swim suit. Don’t want to take a wet cloth item home. More comfortable being naked anyway. I know there are hot springs resorts in California where people go naked, also.
Thanks for your comment, Brent. Nudity always surprises me in the US, especially in California. I come from Europe, where nudity is not a problem anywhere, but that’s not the case here, in the U.S.
Soaking with naked people made me laugh. And then you see the guy standing on the right LOL. It seems like not everyone is down for the naked soaking though. I think I’m with them.
haven’t you just made an unfounded judgement about him? He is very probably just a bit awkward about cramming into dressed people’s space
I went to Deepcreek hot springs on my days off many, many years ago. It was popular back then with everyone who visited.
The nudity didn’t put anyone off. Kids and old were there as they took the Bowen Ranch way in.
Im wondering how that hill of decomposing granite looks now.
Maybe I’ll go back sometime.
To answer your question, the nudity never bothered me. Why should it?
Considering how difficult it is to reach it and how many people I see there when we go, Deep Creek Hot Springs seems as popular today as it was back then.
You’re out in the wilderness why would you need a swimsuit?
Is it possible to bike on a mountain bike there ? if possible, please e-mail us. Thanks
I emailed you the information, Ken.
Stumbling across the nude hot spring must have been a real surprise, right ?! I haven’t heard about this place before but would definitely want to hike this trail someday. You must be in great shape since you managed to hike in that area in that heat and dry conditions!
The hike is difficult only at the very end, but in heat it’s really dangerous.
I’m sure stumbling across the nude hot spring was a bit of a surprise for you, ha! I couldn’t help but laugh aloud when you said, “what happened to prude Americans!” So true! I’m an avid hiker so I want to hike this trail someday. Will definitely make sure to pack lots of water and granola bars as you suggested. Can’t wait to stumble upon this hidden gem one day myself!
Oh wow! That is interesting! I’ve never been to nude beaches, so yeah, I might have a reaction like you did too! Haha…
I haven’t been to the USA yet. Hope I’ll get to visit in future. Some of my friends in California and I’m gonna pass on this to them!
Crazy how I’ve never heard about this place! I grew up close by and have family and friends in Victorville and Hesperia! What a shock that was to find that clothing was optional. Hopefully those folks who go au-natural during the summer remember to use sunscreen. I need to check this place out for sure, but definitely not during the summer. It’s too hot and dusty!
I am sure I would love a dip after such a long and dusty hike. The place looks beautiful and very photogenic though I am not sure either if I will be comfortable taking a dip with naked people. But thanks for letting us know. Now we know what to expect and what to carry.
It looks amazing Anda. Love the photos. Not sure I could do the nude thing but certainly a great spot to reach after the hike.
I agree. I can’t do the nude thing either, at least not at this age (lol!). However, the hike is absolutely great.
Soaking in the hot springs after a long hike – this sounds immensely interesting to me. The place seems less developed, and hence more close to nature. Loved your pictures and it’s great to see you having an epic time there.
I love hiking, but haven’t yet done much in California outside of Yosemite. It looks like a beautiful place. It reminds me of the hot springs in New Mexico near the Gila National Wilderness.
I have to ask, did they mind you taking photos there? (Referring to the photo with the topless girls.) I have never been to a nude beach, but I always assumed people would be uptight about people snapping photos. With that being said, I do want to go to a nude beach/hot spring so I am glad that I learned about this one!
I wasn’t pointing directly at the nude people, but rather taking “landscape” pictures (lol!). They didn’t say anything.
I had no idea this place existed and I live in SoCal! I love hot springs, they are all over Idaho if you ever make it out there. Not sure I would survive this hike but sounds like a great find!
The effort is totally worth it, Maggie.
What better way to relax after a long hike than in a natural hot tub! These look amazing, a beautiful spot and worth the walk. Thanks for mentioning not putting your head underwater; warm water always ‘feels’ dirtier than cold, but that might be because I associate it with bath water!!
Hahaha, that idea crossed my mind too, Claire. For some reason soaking in the same pool with naked people disgusts me. It feels like we are bathing together.
funny, aren’t we? The same genitals soak in the water even if there’s a thin layer of cloth on top. And it’s hardly a hot tub/bath sized body of water.
Having said that, I’d still be distancing a little
Swimming with Clothes on is kinda gross,
But waring “special swim suits” does not filter the water at all.
If anything the non needed clothing could carry more
Germs and dirt.
The Deep Creek Hot Springs looks like a really beautiful and serene place! I love the fact that you can have a great hike and combine it at the end of the day with a swim in the hot springs to rest a little. Too bad it has become so popular though. The surroundings look really beautiful!
Looks very idyllic. I think it would be a bit awkward for me to swim with naked people though hehe. However, I would love to do this hike it sounds like a great adventure. Good you include tips at the end of the post, especially that you should start early. I know the feeling hiking middle of the day in the heat, it is horrible.
Awesome hiking tips at the end of the article — it’s always good to hear first-hand experience from hikers about the trail difficulty, crowds, what to expect, etc. About the nudity, that’s definitely strange, almost like you were transported to Europe for a day!
Sandy N Vyjay
The Deep Creek Hot Springs seems to be a place that is pristine and the natural environment has been maintained fully. I think the hike to the place in itself is a lovely experience. Of course, the sheer naturalness of the place that includes nudists may be a deterrent to some.
Sally's Tips 4 Trips (aka Toddlers on Tour)
Well, I don’t think I’ll be joining the naked swimmers, but I’m sure the springs are a welcome relief when hiking the trails.
They sure are, Sally. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my swimsuit and I din’t feel like swimming naked, despite this place being so welcoming to nudists (lol!)
Jules ( shadesofcourage.com)
Looks like a great place. In Europe there are loads of nude beaches. We currently live in the Netherlands at a beach close to our house, there is a ‘general’ beach, which then becomes the dog beach and then the nudist beach, before the dunes start. If you know about it you are mentally prepared, but else it is very confusing to suddenly see loads of naked people at the beach. The hot springs look like a great spot to relax. great post. enjoyed reading it.
We are Europeans too, Jules, so we are pretty much accustomed with nude beaches. However, I didn’t expect to see them here, in California.
I hike to a lot of hot springs in California-they are all clothing optional.
Paul and Carole
This looks a tough but very interesting hike! A bit worrying about the amoeba so good advice to include that. Think it is great that there are places where individuals can be at one with nature, and admire those that can do that. Even us Europeans can be a little prudish at times too!
I guess it depends on the individual, more than on the culture.
Haha not all Americans are prudish when it comes to their nudity. My parents once rented an apartment from a woman who was a nudist and often went on nudist cruises. I, however, am a prude haha and have a hard time with it in Europe. Recently went to Munich’s English Garden last weekend many people were laying out naked in this popular public park where EVERYONE could see them! One guy was even peacocking with a shiny silver cup over his man parts but nothing else. I was totally shocked!
I was quite shocked when I saw nudists in Munich’s English Garden too, Lolo, although being born and raised in Europe I’ve been on nude beaches many times. However, I didn’t expect to see nudists in a park, right in the middle of the city, where small children play around.
I did not know that there were natural pools like this in California. I first saw natural hot pools like this in New Zealand years ago. I think the ones here are a bit easier to get to 🙂
Hot springs are very rare in California, Rhonda. I was surprised to see some so close to Los Angeles.
Looks nice, the naked people don’t bother me but I am a little afraid of the amoeba. it is ok as long as you don’t go underwater?
No problem if you don’t submerse your head in the hot pools, Anisa.
I am horrible at hiking (Holland… no hills, no mountains!), but always try when I’m abroad. This looks like a great hike, though I think I’d leave the dipping to others 😉
I didn’t get into the pools, Esther. I have repulsion for public swimming pools and baths like this. However, my husband loved it.
It looks like a really beautiful and pristine place – not sure I’d survive the hike though! I haven’t really encountered nudists except once on a beach in Spain, and I think I’d be too self-conscious to do it ever. Although when you visit hot springs in Japan, clothes aren’t allowed. Somehow it’s less awkward when you’re almost fully submerged in the water though! (Oh, and the public ones are single-sex only.) That amoeba sounds scary, though. I won’t be putting my head underwater in hot springs anytime soon! Thanks for the tip!
Being born and raised in Europe, I’m used to seeing nude people on the beaches or even in public parks, but I’m not used to seeing them here. I don’t have a problem with other people exposing their bodies, I have a problem exposing with MY own body. I don’t feel like doing it at all, but I don’t judge others who want to do it. This was a really fun place.
Anda, this is a bit of a coincidence because I was in the Lake Arrowhead area two weeks ago (for the first time) and I heard about these springs. The same thing has happened to me. I was not expecting a nude beach in the San Diego area (very close to Downtown) but apparently I walk beyond a state park limit and started to encounter several people in the buff. I think this is a bit more common than what we think. I was looking for info about hiking trails in Lake Tahoe and I found a pretty nice once on one of the shores. It warned that people used to sunbath nude there. So, I am sure there are tons of spots around (even close to the big cities).
I think America has changed a lot in the past 30 years since I moved here. I don’t mind seeing nude people on the beaches, as long as this is not associated with indecent acts or drugs. The ones I saw were very young (and beautiful people) who were obviously very proud of their bodies. I’ve heard however that in Santa Barbara there is a nude beach where people of all ages, shapes and colors come, even morbidly obese, or crippled ones. That sounds a little less attractive if you ask me.
I would also be really surprise to be naked people in the US. In Germany, it’s quite usual to lay down in a park naked (the first time I saw someone, I was shocked as I didn’t know it was “normal”).
Anyway, here not having a swimsuit wouldn’t be a problem 😉
I’ve seen them in the park in Munich too, Shere. They come from work, take their fancy suits off and pack them nicely and then lie down in the grass to get some sun. I found this kind of weird in the middle of the city, but at the beach I think is quite OK.
I’ve been to a few hot springs but I just experienced my first “au natural” one in Oregon this year. I love hot springs and seek them out wherever we go. This one is in a beautiful setting.
It seems it’s a tradition to soak naked in hot springs Jill. I’m just surprised it caught up with the Americans, who are usually so prude.
Yep that place is every natural LOL 😉
Definitely kills the stereotype of the prudish, modest American, for sure.
We have seen a nude beach here in New Jersey. I mean, we have not seen it in person. I mean, no, I have never heard of a nude beach in NJ hahaha….
It looks like you have to be in great shape to hike to that area between the heat, and dry conditions, and demanding terrain. Good on you for gliding through those mountains effortlessly.
Thanks for sharing.
Truth is that it wasn’t an easy hike, but it was very rewarding. That place is really beautiful. Thanks for dropping by.