Sykes Hot Springs is fun first time backpackers who are reasonably fit. The destination has some nice hot springs and a trout filled stream. The hike is pretty. The trip is long enough that people have a sense they have accomplished something, but short enough that it's not overwhelming for most. The trail is easy enough to follow that no maps are needed and there is little to no risk of getting lost. The trail head is at the far end of the parking lot of the Big Sur Forest Service Station.
There are a number of clear milestones, so people can easily see that they are making progress. The conditions tend to be moderate year round so there is never a bad time to go. Sykes is only a two hour drive from the bay area, so it can easily be done in a 24 hour period, though some people like to take several days by the hot springs and/or the river. For people who are fit, It's also doable as a day hike. The only down side is that you aren't going to find solitude, except maybe Tue-Thu in the middle of the winter.
near a redwood stand 10 miles inland from Big Sur's jagged coast and just above the chilly Big Sur river and by a comfortable Venana Wilderness campground popular with locals. The springs themselves are fairly small, fitting groups of three to five people. Jumping in and out of the rushing river is a refreshing way to pass the afternoon, but Sykes is at its best at night, when the area is most quiet. Visitors should just be advised that this is Northern California and nudity is common in the springs.
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Sykes Hot Springs
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