Los Padres National Forest: Pine Ridge Trail to Sykes Camp Hot Springs (2 days / 30 km)

Big Sur is known for its breathtaking coastlines along Highway 1, so most visitors to the area stick to the stops along the road. However, the Big Sur area is also home to some fantastic backpacking trails, one of which is the Pine Ridge Trail in Los Padres National Forest.

I backpacked from the trailhead to Sykes Camp, the most popular of the five campgrounds along the trail and known for its hot springs. It was a moderately challenging trail, with quite a lot of elevation gain and the hot sun beating down on exposed ridges. Despite the challenges, this was a fantastic backpacking trip with gorgeous views, natural hot springs and a nice campsite.

Trip Completed: September 2021

Trip Summary

Starting Point: Big Sur Station

Ending Point: Big Sur Station

Total Distance: 30.4 km

Elevation Gain: 1598 m

Duration: 2 days / 1 night

Difficulty: Intermediate


This route is in Los Padres National Forest, near Big Sur California. Los Padres is about 2.5 hours south of San Francisco. The trailhead is at Big Sur Station, which is directly off of Highway 1 and very easy to find.

Traditional Territory: This trail is located on the traditional territory of the Esselen (source).

Maps & Resources

Guidebook: N/A

Map: I used the AllTrails Map. I recommend getting the Pro version of AllTrails so you can download the map to your phone. There is also a paper map available.

Camping Permits: You do not need any permits or reservations for this route. There is a self-registration for hikers at the trailhead (there is a short form to fill out and place in a wooden box).

If parking at Big Sur Station, you'll need to pay $10 per calendar day your car is parked. At the parking lot, you put cash in an envelope, rip the permit from the envelope and place the envelope in a wooden box. The permit has two parts to it: one part goes on your dash and the other stays with you.

Outfitters & Shuttles

Outfitter: I ha...

To continue reading this Trip Report, please login below.

If you aren't a Member yet, please sign up here.