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Agua Caliente -


Overview
Access
On the Trail

Overview

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate • Mileage: 5
Elevation Gain: 800' ft. • Location: Upper Santa Ynez River
Features: Canyons, Creeks, Out & Back, Backcountry Camp
User Type: Backpacking, Hiking, Equestrian Trail, Mountain Biking, Dog Walking, Trail Running


Highlights

The upper part of the Agua Caliente drainage contains a very relaxing hot springs, beautiful sandstone formations, and a huge debris dam. Beyond the dam the country has a wild and romantic feel to it. This is one of my favorite hikes.

The Basics

  • Length : 5 miles to the point where the canyon closes in and the trail seems to disappear.
  • Gain : 800’ from hot springs to the end of the upper canyon.
  • Difficulty : Easy to moderate
  • Path : Single track
  • Season : All year.
  • Restrictions : Multi-Use; you may encounter mountain bikes.
  • Canine : Ok for dogs off leash.
  • Admin : Los Padres National Forest, Santa Barbara District

Things to Look For

  • Points of Interest : Canyons,Creeks,Out & Back,Backcountry Camp


Find Other Similar Trails

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Points of Interests: CanyonsCreeksOut & BackBackcountry Camp
User Types: BackpackersHikersEquestriansMountain BikersDog WalkerTrail Runners
Locations: Upper Santa Ynez River

Links & Resources

Gallery

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Hike Details



  • Length : 5 miles to the point where the canyon closes in and the trail seems to disappear.
  • Gain : 800’ from hot springs to the end of the upper canyon.
  • Difficulty : Easy to moderate
  • Path : Single track
  • Season : All year.
  • Restrictions : Multi-Use; you may encounter mountain bikes.
  • Canine : Ok for dogs off leash.
  • Admin : Los Padres National Forest, Santa Barbara District

Access / Getting There

  1. Follow Gibraltar Road for 7 miles to Camino Cielo.
  2. Turn right on Camino Cielo and follow the crest road for 5.8 miles to Romero Saddle then drop down an additional 4.6 miles on a rough dirt road to the Santa Ynez River crossing where the road leading up to Jameson Reservoir takes off on the right.
  3. Continue past the crossing additional 3 miles until you reach the intersection of the spur road leading to the Pendola Hot Springs. Turn right and follow this road 3 miles to the hot springs.A half mile short of the hot springs is Rock Camp, a nice overnight spot for car camping. The trail begins immediately beyond this point.

 

Things to Know

Background

Trip Log

On The Trail

Agua Caliente is the name of this canyon—the place of the warm water. For me the water temperature is about perfect—105 degrees at the hottest. But while many people know about the Big Caliente Hot Springs, very few  know that one of Santa Barbara’s nicest day hikes is to be found above them.

The canyon is composed of two major drainages—Devil’s Canyon and Agua Caliente proper. Both have exquisite sandstone formations in them, with narrow, steep-walled sections that are almost like works of art. To reach these you will need to do some scrambling up the creek.

The trail (a dirt road at first) begins at the upper end of the hot springs parking lot just beyond a locked gate. This road leads along the left side of the canyon for a half mile then crosses the creek and climbs up the right side of Big Caliente Debris Dam, built to help keep sediment from spilling down into Gibraltar Reservoir. 

As you start the hike look across the creek and about 150’ up the side of the mountainside. This is actually where the hot springs are located. The water is piped down to the cement pool where people bathe. 

A half mile beyond the debris dam look for Devil’s Canyon, which comes in from the right. I like hiking up into this drainage though you will have to scramble up the creek to do so. The main trail continues up Agua Caliente Canyon. At one time this route continued up to La Carpa Potrero, a small meadow with a perennial spring, and eventually to the Pine Mountain area, but it is now almost completely overgrown.

You can follow this old pack trail for 3-4 miles above the dam. The canyon is relatively narrow and has a wilderness quality to it that I appreciate. The sandstone is beautiful and best of all, when you get back to your car a hot tub awaits you.

 

On The Bike

On The Run

On The Walk


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Last Updated: Sunday, November 9, 2014