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!
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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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