Willett Hot Springs – Ojai, California

Exploring Willett Hot Springs in Ojai, California, is like taking a trip back in time. The springs have been used by the Chumash Tribe for centuries and the area is steeped in history.

If you’re looking for a fun and unique way to explore the area, then Willett Hot Springs is definitely the place for you. In this article, I’ll be your guide as we explore this magical place. I’ll provide you with tips on how to get the most out of your visit, as well as a few fun facts about the area.

So, let’s get started! Join me as we explore Willett Hot Springs and all the wonders it has to offer!

Natural Hot Springs

Willett Hot Springs
Willett Hot Springs. Photo:

The natural thermal springs at Willett Hot Springs are truly a sight to behold. Fed by a water source deep in the Sespe Wilderness, the collection basin of natural hot water is a popular destination for those looking to soak in the hottest springs while surrounded by lush vegetation and tranquil wilderness.

The hot springs at Willett are made up of a series of pools that are fed by a natural water source deep in the Sespe Wilderness. The main pool is the largest and most popular of the pools and is typically the busiest, but there are several smaller pools that are located nearby, each with slightly different temperatures and characteristics.

The temperature of the main pool at Willett Hot Springs is typically around 100-105 Fahrenheit (37-40 celsius), however the temperature can vary depending on the time of year and the water levels in the Sespe Creek. The smaller pools tend to be slightly cooler than the main pool, with temperatures ranging from 90-100 Fahrenheit (32-37 celsius).

The water in the hot springs is naturally heated by geothermal activity deep within the earth and contains a variety of minerals, including sodium, calcium, and sulfates. The high mineral content is thought to provide therapeutic benefits, such as helping to soothe sore muscles and joints, and is believed to have a detoxifying effect on the body.

The hot springs at Willett Hot Springs are open to the public, however, the schedule and availability of the hot springs may be affected by weather, water levels, and other factors. It is best to check with the local ranger station or online resources to check the schedule and availability of the hot springs before planning your trip.

It’s important to note that while the hot springs are open to the public, they are located in a wilderness area and are accessible only by hiking in, therefore it may not be suitable for people with limited mobility. There are no lifeguards on duty, so swimming and soaking is done at your own risk. Additionally, as with any outdoor activity, it is always important to come prepared with appropriate clothing and gear, including good footwear, and to bring enough water and supplies to ensure a safe and comfortable trip.

Access and Trail Information

Sespe Wilderness Loop.
Sespe Wilderness Loop.

Willett Hot Springs is located in the Sespe Wilderness, part of the Los Padres National Forest. The Sespe Wilderness is a wilderness area in the south-central Transverse Ranges, in Ventura County, California. This wilderness was established in 1992. Covering around 240,000 acres, this wilderness area is home to a diverse range of plant and animal life, including the California Condor and offers a wide variety of recreational opportunities such as hiking, camping, and horseback riding.

Hikes and Camping

The main trailhead for accessing the Willett Hot Springs is the Piedra Blanca trailhead. This is the most popular approach and the trail is well-maintained, with plenty of creek crossings, river crossings, and trail signs to guide you along the way.

Before you head out, be sure to obtain the necessary permits and plan accordingly. A wilderness permit is required for overnight camping, and a fire permit is required if you plan on having a campfire. Adventure passes are required for parking at the trailheads and should be obtained in advance. It’s also a good idea to bring a water filter and enough water to last the duration of your trip, as well as a sleeping bag, a camp stove and extra water.

Relax in the Hottest Springs

After a long hike in the wilderness, there is nothing quite like relaxing in the hot springs, surrounded by natural beauty. To make your hot spring experience extra special, bring along a homemade, wilderness-inspired hot springs soak.

To make this soak, you will need:

  • 1 cup of epsom salt
  • 1 cup of baking soda
  • 1 cup of dried lavender
  • 5-10 drops of your favorite essential oil (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until well combined, then add a few spoonfuls of the mixture to your hot spring water. The epsom salt will help to soothe sore muscles, the baking soda will soften skin, and the dried lavender will provide a relaxing, aromatic experience. The essential oils are optional but can add a nice touch of fragrance, lavender is a great option for a relaxing soak.

As you soak and allow the natural hot water to work its magic, breathe in the crisp wilderness air and take in the beauty of the natural surroundings. The sound of Sespe Creek flowing nearby, the rustling of leaves in the palm trees, and the distant calls of birds and other wildlife all contribute to the serene atmosphere of the hot springs. Take some time to explore the different pools and find the perfect one for you, whether it’s the large main pool or one of the smaller, more secluded pools.

Location and Vicinity

Sespe Creek - Wikipedia
Sespe Creek. Photo: Wikipedia

The best seasons to visit Willett Hot Springs are spring and fall, when the weather is mild and the crowds are fewer. During the summer months, the area can get quite hot and the water levels in the creeks can be low, making for difficult hiking conditions. Winter can also be challenging, with colder temperatures and the potential for snow and ice.

There are many campsites in the Sespe wilderness area nearby the trailheads, like Bear Creek campground, Willett campground, Oak flat campground and more. But the best way to truly experience the hot springs is to take a backpacking trip and spend a night or two out in the wilderness. This allows you to fully immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the area and enjoy a true wilderness experience. Just make sure to come prepared with a wilderness permit, a camping stove and enough water.

Tips for Exploring Willett Hot Springs

As you plan your adventure to Willett Hot Springs and the Sespe Wilderness, there are a few important things to keep in mind. To make the most of your trip and ensure a safe and enjoyable experience, be sure to consider the following tips:

  • If you’re planning to hike to Sespe Hot Springs, the Sespe River Trail is the most popular route. The trail is well-maintained, but can be rugged in places, so be sure to come prepared with appropriate footwear and clothing.
  • Remember that the hot springs are a natural resource and should be treated with respect. Keep in mind that the water is heated by geothermal activity deep within the earth and may contain a variety of minerals, so be aware of the temperature and chemical factors of the water before entering.
  • Willett Hot Springs is best visited as a day hike, but you can also plan a longer backpacking trip and camp overnight in the wilderness. Remember to bring a wilderness permit if you’re planning on camping overnight.
  • Willett Hot Springs is located in the Sespe Wilderness, which is just north of Ojai. The area is known for its beautiful wilderness areas and diverse plant and animal life.
  • Keep an eye out for trail signs, they will help guide you to the hot springs. While the trail is well-maintained, it can be easy to lose your way.
  • Adventure pass is required to park your vehicle, so make sure to purchase one before heading out. parking lot is also available at trailheads.
  • Willett Hot Springs is a secluded oasis, so it can get crowded on weekends, especially during the peak season. Try to avoid peak season and plan your trip for a weekday instead, or head out early in the morning.
  • The hot springs are scattered around the area, with many hot spots and old abandoned cabins nearby. Be sure to explore the different pools and find the perfect one for you, whether it’s the large main pool or one of the smaller, more secluded pools.
  • There are pit toilets available at the trailheads. But in the backcountry it’s best to pack out what you pack in.
  • The large pool is the most popular and busiest of the pools, but there are also several smaller pools that are located nearby, each with slightly different temperatures and characteristics.
  • Forest road leads to the trailheads, but they can be rugged and difficult to navigate, so come prepared with a good vehicle and be prepared for dirt roads and uneven terrain.
  • The Sespe wilderness is not suitable for beginners, it’s best for experienced backpackers. They are aware of the challenges of backcountry camping and wilderness.
  • Johnston Ridge trail, Rose Valley falls, Piedra trailhead, Tom Harrison, South side, CC by-sa, Sunday morning, main trail, red reef trail are some of the nearby trails and sights that are worth exploring.
  • Make sure to allow enough time to explore the area. The Valley floor, Rose Valley road and elevation gain are beautiful and the best way to experience the wilderness.
  • Potable water is available, but make sure to bring enough water and supplies to ensure a safe and comfortable trip.
  • There is a parking area, signed junction and elevations gain that leads to the trailheads. High water level can be a concern, so be sure to check the water levels before heading out.
  • On the trail, you will cross small creeks, short trail, and paved road. The United States offers an abundance of beautiful wilderness areas and the Sespe Wilderness is one of them. Enjoy your trip!

Bottom line

Willett Hot Springs is a must-see destination for anyone looking for a unique wilderness experience in Southern California. With its natural hot springs, diverse wildlife, and stunning wilderness surroundings, it is the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate. By following the information and recipe provided in this article, you can plan the perfect weekend getaway to Willett Hot Springs and make the most of your time in the Sespe Wilderness.

Weather forecast for next 5 days

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Local information

Address: Ojai, California 93252
GPS: 34.575822,-119.050937
Season: Year-round
Passes Required: Forest Adventure Pass or NPS Interagency Pass