Saddle Rock Loop West
In the three decades since my first day hikes book was published there have been quite a few changes in the Hot Springs area. The trailhead has been shifted, new homes have been built and the hot springs, which are on private property, have been posted with “No Trespassing” signs. Nevertheless, the hike up into Hot Springs Canyon is still as enjoyable as ever, especially so since the upper property that includes the Hot Springs is now part of Los Padres Forest.
The Hot Springs Trail follows the right side of a small creek for several hundred yards until you reach a private lane. Turn left on the lane and follow this for several hundred more yards. There are no signs along this section and at first glance it will appear as if you are walking up someone’s driveway but this is the right direction to go. The lane crosses a small creek before reaching a large gate. A narrow path leads around the right side of the gate and then opens up as it turns back into a dirt roadway.
Follow the dirt road for several hundred yards to the point where the main trail drops down and across Hot Springs Creek. Once across the creek you'll find yourself connecting back into another dirt road, this one leading directly up the east side of Hot Springs Canyon to the upper jeepway. This is the most direct way to get to the Hot Springs if that's your destination. A short distance up the dirt road you'll also spot the turnoff to the McMenemy and Saddle Rock trails. Head right onto the McMenemy Trail and follow it up a series of swithcbacks to a ridge where the Saddle Rock Trail goes left and straight up the ridge.
A great loop hike can be made either by continuing on the McMenemy Trail and going counter-clockwise back around via the Girard Trail and upper jeepway and then back down the Saddle Rock Trail or clockwise via Saddle Rock. Either way it's a fantastic loop hike and there's always the hot springs waiting if you decide to take a dip and then loop back down via the canyon jeep road.
The Saddle Rock Trail follows the ridge and leads steadily uphill to the powerlines. In places the trail is so steep and rocky you'll feel like you're climbing rather than hiking it. Along the way you will find Saddle Rock, a large outcropping from which you can watch the sunset or enjoy expansive views of the coastline. Just before you reach the powerlines you'll come to a wide, open flattop which has a beautiful heart laid out in the middle of it created from hundreds of small rocks, and is a perfect place to catch your breath.
From this point a small drop and then a brief climb under several towers leads to the power line road. The good news is that no matter which direction you head from here, almost all of the climbing is behind you. Turning to the left will lead you down into upper Hot Springs Canyon in the vicinity of the former resort. The hot springs are not too far up the canyon, and now open to the public thanks to the recent transfer of ownership to Los Padres National Forest. To the right you can take the upper jeepway east to the Girard Trail and loop back to your car on it and the McMenemy Trail.