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Swimming holes are hard to come by in Southern California, and so are hot springs.
But there is one place where you can find both, and incredible ones at that.
That place is Deep Creek.
A cold stream flowing from the San Bernardino Mountains into the desert, it’s punctuated at one point by geothermal heat.
There, you’ll find hot pools, cold swimming holes, sandy beaches, sunny boulders, and cliff jumping—all in one gorgeous place. There are a few ways to reach Deep Creek Hot Springs.
The shortest and most popular is from Bowen Ranch to the north, but it requires a rough dirt road and a fee for crossing private property.
Bradford Ridge Trail is an alternative approaching from the south, and is the route mapped here.
It’s a bit longer than the Bowen Ranch approach, but is generally less busy and actually easier to access.
It begins from a paved road near Lake Arrowhead, where parking is free but somewhat limited.
Park along the road shoulder or in one of a few dirt pullouts, then begin on the signed trail into the gorge of Deep Creek. You’ll trend downhill through undulating washes and chapparal vegetation, then into the bottom of a wash intersected by the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).
From this junction, it’s a short distance along the PCT to the hot springs.
Once there, you’ll find a network of trails that lead to different pools and beaches.
There are several open areas where you can set up a towel or chair to relax. Keep in mind that these hot springs are quite popular among a diverse crowd of people, and are clothing optional.
Regulations by the US Forest Service are quite permissive, but certain things are prohibited in the hot springs vicinity, including: glass bottles, littering, and camping overnight.
Please abide by these rules and respect other users by avoiding loud music and taking up only as much space as you require. It is possible to get the hot springs all or mostly to yourself by coming early in the morning on a weekday.
The best time of year is early spring or late fall, when crowds thin out, but temperatures are pleasantly cool for hiking and soaking in the hot pools.
At any time of year, you should come prepared with plenty of water and food, because the return hike is all uphill and very exposed to sun.
Hot springs tend to dehydrate the body, so if you plan to spend much time soaking you’ll want to have extra water. Sources: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/sbnf/recarea/?recid=34152 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_Creek_Hot_Springs https://youtu.be/FdNhB9eY_IE