Deep Creek Hot Springs via Bowen Ranch
- Location: Northwest San Bernardino Mountains between Hesperia and Lake Arrowhead. From I-15 in Hesperia, head east on Main Street for 7.2 miles. Just as the road bends south, take a right on Rock Springs Road, which becomes Roundup Way after 2.8 miles. Continue for 4.3 miles on Roundup Way (the last mile or so is dirt) and turn right on Bowen Ranch Road. Follow Bowen Ranch Road for a total of 5.4 miles to the signed entrance to the ranch (stay right at the junctions with Coxey Creek Road and Oak Hill Road). The road is overall in decent condition but there are a few rough spots; high clearance and 4WD vehicles are best but not required. After paying a $5 per person fee (or $10 per person for overnight use) continue 0.7 miles to the trail head. As of this writing, the last few hundred yards of the road are in rough condition so if you’re uncomfortable taking your car over it, you can park in a small turnout shortly before and walk the rest of the way. Trail head coordinates are N 34 21.510, W 117 09.881.
- Agency: San Bernardino National Forest/Arrowhead Ranger Station
- Distance: 3.6 miles
- Elevation gain: 1,000 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 2 hours
- Best season: September – May
- USGS topo map: Lake Arrowhead
- Recommended gear: Hiking poles; sun hat; sunblock
- Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire
- More information: Deep Creek Hot Springs information here; trip description here; Everytrail report here; Yelp page here; photos and videos of the hike here
- Rating: 7
The most popular way to reach Deep Creek Hot Springs is from the north, starting at Bowen Ranch. This route is also the easiest, covering the shortest distance and the least amount of elevation gain compared to the routes via the Pacific Crest Trail and Bradford Ridge. It is also arguably the most scenically interesting, providing dramatic views of the creek on the descent. There are a few caveats, though: the descent is steep and exposed, often over somewhat loose terrain. Temperatures in the area can be notoriously hot, making for difficult ascents from the springs for those who don’t plan accordingly. Getting to the trail head is somewhat tricky, requiring almost seven miles of driving on dirt roads. This is also the only route that requires payment; $5 per person (not per vehicle). Lastly, unlike the other two approaches, this one requires fording Deep Creek to visit the hot springs. If the water levels are low, the creek is fairly easy to traverse but caution should still be exercised. Despite these potential challenges, this is an enjoyable hike to a unique destination; its popularity is understandable.
From the parking area, follow the trail south. You soon reach an overlook with a pair of interpretive plaques that sadly have been vandalized beyond the point of recognition. There is, however, an impressive view of the eastern San Gabriel summits (Baldy, Telegraph, etc) and of the western San Bernardino Mountains.
At 0.3 miles, the trail drops sharply, making a steep descent over loose terrain into a wash. At the bottom, bear right and follow the trail to a dirt road. Turn left, walk a few hundred feet to an alternate trail head (0.5 miles from the start) and begin hiking the “official” Deep Creek trail, signed 3W02.
You follow the trail through a canyon, getting a glimpse of Deep Creek’s gorge at about 0.8 miles. Vegetation includes mesquite, Manzanita and cat’s claw. At 1.1 miles, you get your first view of the creek itself, cutting its serpentine path through the mountains. From here, the trail begins another steep descent, making a switchback that provides an impressive view to the west and finally dropping to the sandy shores of Deep Creek (1.8 miles.) The year-round stream supports a diverse array of plants, including cottonwoods, sycamores and even a lone pine.
If you are nervous about crossing the creek, this can be a nice spot to sit and enjoy the scenery before heading back. Adventurous hikers can wade through water that is likely to be at least knee-high to the pools on the south side of the creek.
Text and photography copyright 2015 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.