Located 26 miles north of Santa Barbara, CA, Little Caliente & Big Caliente are two separate natural hot spring areas within the Los Padres National Forest.

On a recent trip through Montecito and Santa Barbara, I decided to head into the rugged Los Padres National Forest in search of two hot springs I had never been to before.

On a recent trip through Montecito and Santa Barbara, I decided to head into the rugged Los Padres National Forest in search of two hot springs I had never been to before. The views of Santa Barbara as I wound my way up Gibralter Rd were spectacular, even on a rather hazy afternoon day.

East Camino Cielo road winds its way along the ridge of the mountain

I soon found myself driving along East Camino Cielo road, which travels along the ridge of the Santa Ynez mountains and offers up amazing 360 degree views of the coastline and Channel Islands to the West….

...a

…and Los Padres National Forest to the East.

Further along the road I came across a tower.

At the junction of where East Camino Cielo Rd turns into Romero Camuesa Rd (aka the Romero Saddle), I came across this large cement water tower.

Parking is found in the broad pullout across from the water tower. An adventure pass is not required to park here.

Of course I had to stop and have a look around.

Parking is available across from the water tower and an adventure pass is not required to park here.

Parking is available across from the water tower and an adventure pass is not required to park here.

13164301_10154157704471484_8361048508611129135_n

You can't beat the views.

You can’t beat the views from this perch that rises over 3000 feet above the sea below.

Constructed to prevent runoff from silting Gibraltar Reservoir, this and Agua Caliente Dam a couple further miles up now stand as both sad and funny relics to more watery times.

Constructed to prevent runoff from silting Gibraltar Reservoir, this and Agua Caliente Dam a couple further miles up now stand as both sad and funny relics to more watery times.

Speaking

Speaking of water, you’ll soon be driving through about 5 inches of it as you make your way closer towards Big Caliente Hot Springs.

The area has a picnic table, open air changing rooms, and shade. The spring is not very large, probably about 6' x 9'.

The lower section of Big Caliente has a picnic table, open air changing rooms, and even some shaded areas to protect you from the sun as you soak in the tub.

IMG_1087

The concrete tub is about 7 feet by 4 feet and 3 feet deep.

IMG_1085IMG_1093

Upper Caliente Camp is located a few miles up the Caliente Canyon from Big Caliente Trailhead. The camp is hard to find but has a table and a few unique benches cemented around a fire ring. Water is seasonal, at best, and the camp is a few hundred yards above the Oasis pool. In addition to water being scarce, shade can be scarce too. There are a few immature juniper trees around camp but other than that you are exposed and open to the elements. It's best to stay at this camp in the spring when temperatures are lower and water available. Still a beautiful canyon with a rustic and wild feel to it.

For those who want to take a little adventure hike, Upper Caliente Camp is located approx. 2.1 miles up Aqua Caliente Canyon along the Caliente Trail. The camp is hard to find but has a table and a few unique benches cemented around a fire ring. There’s also a swimming hole known as the Oasis and two more pools that make up Big Caliente’s Upper Hot Springs. I didn’t have time for the hike, so I headed back towards Pendola Ranger Station and took a right to continue along Romero-Camuesa Road.

After passing 3 campgrounds less than a quarter mile later branches. To the left, the road continues a short way to the Indian-Mono Trailhead. To the right, the road continues to Little Caliente Hot Springs.

After passing three separate campgrounds, I came across a sign pointing the way to my next destination, Little Caliente Hot Springs.

The hot springs

The hot springs are only a half mile away down this dirt road. This section of road has been closed in the past due to washouts from heavy storms but it was open when I visited the hot springs back in February. Even though it was open, you shouldn’t attempt to take it unless you have a high clearance vehicle. There are some pullouts along the way, so you can always park and hike the rest of the way up if you don’t think your car will make it. This area is extremely isolated, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

My cr

Fortunately, my 2WD Jeep Cherokee was able make it to the upper parking area.

The springs are hidden around a rise.

The springs are hidden around a rise not too far from the upper parking lot.

 three small developed pools.

Little Caliente Hot Springs has three small developed pools…

...situated in a small grassy canyon.

…situated in a small grassy canyon.

three pools all fed by the same spring.

The three pools are all fed by the same spring which is piped into the upper pool.

13177093_10154157710071484_4906056222205128238_n

Three benches are available to make changing in and out of your clothes easier and to help keep your stuff from getting dirty and wet.

Three benches are also available to make changing in and out of your clothes easier and to help keep your stuff from getting dirty and/or wet.

The temperatures vary with the upper pool being the hottest of the three.

The temperatures vary with the upper pool being the hottest of the three.

13102802_10154157708611484_5295122930593174813_n

After a quick dip, I said farewell and made my way back to Santa Barbara.

After a quick dip, I said farewell to Little Caliente and headed back to Santa Barbara.

The magnificent sunset as I made my way back down to town was the perfect way

The magnificent sunset that greeted me as I made my way back down to town was the perfect way to end an awesome day of exploration.