Natural California Hot Springs

I moved to Southern California in September 1999, and am stationed at Point Mugu Naval Air Station. California also has some very nice hot springs (onsen in Japanese) although several of the nicest ones closest to me are closed due to being on private property or sensitive wildlife habitat. I have been to several though, including Gaviota, west of Santa Barbara, Little Caliente, north of Santa Barbara, and Miracle, N.E. of Bakersfield. Click on a thumbnail for a larger photo.


Long Valley Caldera Hot Springs

The Long Vallley is located near Mammoth Lakes. If I took a photo of you and you would like your name in the caption, please e-mail me. For much more detailed information on access, topographic maps, and more photos, please see Steve Karl's link at the bottom of the page.

Crowley Hot Spring, a.k.a Wild Willy's. Another view of Crowley. My family at Crowley.

Crowley is quite clothing optional. Hot Creek. Another view of Hot Creek.

Hilltop Hot Spring, near Wild Willy's. A Hilltop Hot Spring bather pointing out Mt. Ritter. The opposite bank of Hot Creek.

Someone's pet iguana enjoying Hot Creek. The iguana trying the water. Keough hot ditch.

My family at Hilltop. The Tub hot spring. Me at Hilltop.

Warnings from the Forest Service.

Little Caliente Hot Spring

Little Caliente is located a mere 7 miles from the ocean, directly north of Santa Barbara. The road, however takes about an hour and a half from Santa Barbara, is quite windy, and about half of it is dirt. Due to it's relatively isolated location you don't need to worry about crowds.

The main pool. 2 Japanese Ground Self Defense Force members (they don't have an "army"). The view from the bath.

The surrounding hills. A panoramic view from a 2500' hill nearby.

Big Caliente Onsen

Big Caliente is about 8 kilometres east of Little Caliente in a different canyon. The road is currently closed to protect sensitive wildlife habitat, and as a result you need to either walk or bike into the hot spring. There are 2 tubs at Big Caliente, a rectangular one near the parking lot and a nicer, more natural pool upstream. The Big Caliente photos are rather large, 300-600 kilobytes.

The clothing optional gang at the upper pool. Clothing optional Dave in the rectangular tub. My family in the upper pool.

Daniel and the gang. Heading back to our car.

Kern River Onsen

The Kern River Canyon N.E. of Bakersfield has some nice baths. Miracle Onsen is one of the prettiest onsen that I have ever been to. There are four fairly large pools located next to the Kern River with a beautiful view of the mountains. I would recommend going there on a weekday if possible, however, due to the fact that it is invaded by hoardes of somewhat noisy and rude individuals of a certain ethnic group (I suppose I should be P.C. and not specify which one) during the day on weekends. It is CLOTHING OPTIONAL. Recently I've been seeing how fast I can clear out a pool by going in au natural. Usually it only takes about 5 minutes or so.

John Nicholson, the director of the Miracle Hot Springs Preserve, would like to encourage naturists to visit Miracle. NUDE BATHING IS COMPLETELY ACCEPTABLE AND LEGAL HERE, as long as it is low key and there is no lewd conduct.

In addition to Miracle there are at least 4 other riverside onsen in the lower Kern River Canyon below Lake Isabella. Delonegha is in the process of being rebuilt by a man that calls himself Jahad that has a mining claim 800 metres upriver. There is still some controversy about the control over the spring. I was there over Thanksgiving Weekend 1999. It was partially destroyed by an developer of the same ethnic group and I'm not sure of the exact legal status. Anyway, I'll leave you folks to finding these other ones!

Miracle Hot Spring. John Nicholson, the director of Miracle Hot Springs Preserve. Dave in the steam with Mr. and Mrs. Kunio Kodaka.

The welcoming comittee along the road to Miracle. Annelise and Doug, clothing optional. The pools at Miracle.

John assisting some visitors at the entrance to Miracle. Dave and Japanese visitors Mr. and Mrs. Kunio Kodaka (photo by Ichiro Kodaka).

Jahad, the unofficial caretaker of Delonegha Onsen . Kevin in the "jungle spring" in the Kern River Canyon. Another pool at the jungle spring.

For a topographic map of the Miracle area, click here.

A Miracle regular surveys the pools. The regular sunning himself on a rock.

Gaviota Onsen

Gaviota is located west of Santa Barbara on highway 101 near the Vandenberg AFB exit. After parking in a small parking lot, you need to walk up the trail about 10 minutes to the pool which is underneath some trees. The water temperature is little lukewarm, but it's worth a stop if you happen to be driving by.

The pool. Mountain lions supposedly inhabit the area.

For a much more comprehensive and detailed site on California hot springs, check out Steve Karl's California's Natural Hot Springs! He has topographic maps, too. If you need topographic maps from anywhere in the continental U.S. you can download them from

For more of my unusual photos of Japan and many other countries throughout the world, please go to my other page, Dave's Bonny Scotland.

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