Where: Apple Valley, CA 92308. Located by Hesperia in San Bernadino County in the northern part of the Mojave Desert
Distance: 6 miles out and back, roughly 2-2.5 hours, although the return trip definitely takes a little longer.
Elevation: The trail drops over 1000 ft to the hot springs (at least on the path we took!), and is a reverse hike. It’s a steep climb back, so get your legs ready!
Parking: The main entrance to the trail we took is a Bowen Ranch. At the little house, you pay $5/person to enter, and $10/person for overnight. There you will find a fun little map, and a parking lot down the way!
Difficult Level: Difficult. The difficulty level pertains to the steepness of the drop/incline mixed with how sandy the terrain is. For every step up, it felt like you were sliding 3 feet back in the sand. It’s definitely a difficult hike, and especially in the sun, it makes it a slightly grueling one.
So… during this trip, we climbed a freakin mountain, swam with catfish, had a chat with naked Jesus, saw a jack rabbit, braved a crazy dirt road, and transported ourselves back to the 60s. No lie. If you’re looking for adventure, then here it is.
One of my co-workers had told me about this hike, and when I heard the words “hot springs,” I was completely sold, but I had no idea all the goodies that this hike actually had in store! It was a bit of a trek from the Los Angeles area; it is a 2 hour car ride toward the Las Vegas direction up Rte.15, but with the right crew, it’s simply part of the adventure! And of course, I had the right crew!
The best way to access this hike is through Bowen Ranch, located at 6100 Bowen Ranch Road. You should note that once you turn onto Arrowhead Lake Road, the road will turn from pavement into dirt, and it will be an 8 mile drive up an extremely rocky terrain with a few big abrupt dips in the road. I drove my poor little Hyundai Accent, and we made it without popping a tire; however, next time I will certainly take a car with 4 wheel drive instead.
As I said before, this is a reverse hike, so it’s almost all downhill to the springs. The path gets a little bit hard to figure out, so you may find yourself asking someone to point you in the right direction. The trail is also extremely sandy, and in some parts steep, so you might find yourself sliding down through the sand instead of walking. Go slow and give yourself some distance between people, and you’ll be okay!
Now for the fun part! I had read about how nudists usually visit this area, but didn’t realize that they would ABSOLUTELY be there, and that there would be a ton of them! I give total props to nudists. I personally, am not that free (at least not yet). But I will also tell you that they are some of the most personable and kind people I’ve ever met. Each person was definitely a hippie-type person, free in spirit, and just content chilling out and enjoying the fresh air.
The minute we made our way down to the hot springs, we were greeted by naked Jesus doing yoga on top of a giant boulder. At first we were embarrassed and didn’t want to make eye contact, but he wasn’t at all phased and simply started up a conversation inquiring about who we were and where we came from. After he pointed us in the direction of the main beach we began to relax and enjoy the environment. We quickly adjusted to all the nudity and decided it was time to join in the fun and take a swim!
Don’t forget your SAMwiches!
There is one main pool for swimming, which is regular temperature cool water. It contains little baby catfish and some other little water critters, but it is also really refreshing and a great way to cool off after being in the desert heat. Surrounding this body of water are all the hot springs. There are multiple springs that all sit at different temperatures in different secluded locations. We jumped from spring to spring to get a feel for what each had to offer.
I’m a shark!
Angela being swanky in the hot springs
Naked man tight rope walking! that’s skill!
Regardless of where you sit, you will be stunned by the beauty of these springs that seem to just exist in the middle of nowhere. You are surrounded by blue skies, giant rocks, and smiling people. It is truly an oasis. There is a tight rope over the water that many people try to conquer (without much success), and there is a fresh water tap that runs out of the rocks that is readily available for you to fill your water bottle with.
Deep Creek is also a site stop for thru hikers that are hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, which you can see from the hot springs. This was extremely thrilling for me. I spoke to one man who was hiking the PCT, and hearing about his trip certainly inspired me to keep my dream of doing the same next year.
After spending a good amount of time at the springs, we decided to head back, and let me tell you, we were not mentally prepared for the uphill climb. The hike back was definitely a challenge. It was sandy, hot, and a killer on your hamstrings and quads! It is important to make sure you have plenty of water before the climb, and good enough shoes to keep you from completely sliding backward down the mountain.
We did it though! We pushed through, kept the hiking morale as high as possible, and killed it! The physical sense of accomplishment easily equated the spiritual and aesthetic rewards from earlier. Once we got to the car, we made our way back down that crazy dirty road, and B-lined toward the first gas station in sight, in order to grab some Gatorade and chug our way back to complete hydration! I was very sore for a couple days after, so I highly recommend a nice stretch session!
All in all, this hike was difficult, but the rewards were well worth the climb! If you’re afraid of naked people, I’d probably stay away, but if you can roll with it, I think the trip out to the desert is one that everyone should experience! Make some (nude) friends, have some fun, and get a great workout! It’s an all win situation!