Sykes Camp / Sykes Hot Springs

IMPORTANT ROAD CLOSURE, FOREST CLOSURE/REOPENING, FIRE RESTRICTIONS, and CAMPING INFORMATION (updated November 8, 2017)

ROAD CLOSURES: Replacement of the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge just south of Big Sur Station is complete. Highway One is open from Carmel to Gorda. However, due to the Mud Creek slide, the road is closed from just south of Gorda from the north and just north of Ragged Point from the south ... making access to the Silver Peak Wilderness difficult. In the northern Ventana, Palo Colorado Road to the trailhead at Bottchers Gap is closed. The Big Sur Information facebook page, updated by the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce, is a reliable source for up-to-the-minute road conditions in the Big Sur area. As is the Caltrans Road Closure page for Monterey County. 

FOREST CLOSURE/REOPENING: Los Padres National Forest officials issued a forest order on 11/07/2017 maintaining a temporary closure of the lower Pine Ridge (Forest Trail No. E306), Terrace Creek (Forest Trail No. 3E22) and Ventana Camp (Forest Trail No. 2E14) trails, as well as Barlow Flat, Sykes, Redwood, Terrace Creek and Ventana Camps. The remainder of the Soberanes Fire closure instituted last December on the Monterey Ranger District HAS BEEN LIFTED. Other than the closure of the trails listed above, you are welcome to roam most of the Ventana Wilerness and all of the Silver Peak Wilderness. Please do so responsibly. 

Please review these links for details, and if you have questions, call the Monterey Ranger District of Los Padres National Forest at (831) 385-5434 before visiting the Ventana Wilderness.

US Forest Service Memo regarding Pine Ridge Trail Closure

Map of Pine Ridge Trail Closure (Ventana, Terrace Creek, Barlow, Sykes, and Redwood Camps)

FIRE RESTRICTIONS: Effective June 14, 2017, Fire Restrictions are in place. Campfires are prohibited in the backcountry. Stoves are permitted with a valid permit which can be obtained hereCampfires are NEVER permitted along roadways or at unauthorized camping sites in Big Sur.  Bottom line, do not camp illegally and do not have a campfire unless you are 100% sure it is legal.  

LEAVE NO TRACE: With much of the Forest reopened, visitation to the Monterey Ranger District of Los Padres National Forest will increase. It is up to all of us to tread lightly on the land. Now more than ever, it is critical that all visitors practice Leave No Trace principles. 

CAMPING is NEVER permitted along Highway 1 and Nacimiento-Fergusson Road in Big Sur. Plan your trips well in advance to secure reservations at State Park and National Forest campgrounds. There is no reservation system for backcountry camps. Only use established camps. Never make new campsites.   

STATE PARKS: Many State Park trails in the Big Sur area are also CLOSED. Call the State Park that you wish to explore to determine if trails are open. A handy list of State Park phone numbers can be found at the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce Camping Guide.

Current conditions for Big Sur area State Parks. 

 

sykes map and brochurepdfClick to download a Sykes map and brochure (5 MB). Prints best on legal size (8.5 x 14) paper.

(Note: Sykes Camp remains closed indefinitely. Please read the official US Forest Service press release announcing the Forest Closure.) You may have heard stories about a fantastical place in the Ventana Wilderness with redwoods, a clear-running mountain stream and magical natural hot springs. That’s all true. But another truth is that human visitation at Sykes has a profound impact on this special place. We need your help to keep Sykes from being “loved to death.” Everyone who hikes to Sykes needs to commit strongly to Leave No Trace ethics to help protect this fragile place.

 

Please consider the following before you decide to go to Sykes:

  • Sykes is a very popular camp. Over 200 people have been seen camping there on holiday weekends, despite the official capacity of only seven campsites. This overuse is not compatible with wilderness values.
  • The 10-mile trail from Big Sur Station to Sykes is strenuous. Elevation gain and loss is considerable, and trees often fall across the trail making passage difficult.
  • Be prepared to cross the chilly Big Sur River numerous times to get to the camp and hot springs, and always use caution. The river can become impassable during winter and spring due to high, swift water.
  • As for the “hot springs,” several small tubs (maintained in violation of the Wilderness Act) averaging 102 degrees Fahrenheit can be found downstream from camp. Each tub can hold 4-6 people. It is quite likely that the tubs will be occupied when you arrive, especially on weekends.

 

Practice these Sykes-specific Leave No Trace principles:

 

optionsPlan Ahead and Prepare

  • “Know Before You Go.” Check the US Forest Service site for the Los Padres National Forest or call (831) 385-5434 for current fire restrictions in the Los Padres National Forest. Click this link to secure a Campfire Permit which is required for both fires AND stoves.
  • Check the VWA’s Trail Conditions page for the Pine Ridge Trail prior to departure. Post a trail report upon your return.
  • Allow approximately 6 hours of hiking time to get from Big Sur Station to Sykes Camp.
  • Keep your group size to 4 people or fewer if possible.
  • Bring food you can cook with a stove (not a fire).
  • Avoid visiting Sykes on a weekend. The US Forest Service recommends a one-night-only stay at Sykes due to the large number of visitors.
  • Alternate camps to consider include Barlow Flat (3 mi. before Sykes) and Redwood (2.5 mi. past Sykes).
  • There is no reservation or permitting system for camping in the Ventana Wilderness. Sites are available on a first come, first served basis.

 

surfacesTravel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

  • Camp at least 20 feet away from the water’s edge.
  • Do not camp directly across from the hot baths.
  • Do not alter the camp sites and fire rings.

 

 

campfireMinimize Campfire Impacts

  • During Fire Restrictions (usually from June thru October) campfires and smoking are not permitted ANYWHERE in the wilderness, and during extreme conditions even stoves are not permitted. (See "Plan Ahead" section above on obtaining a Campfire Permit.)
  • Help to minimize impacts by only using existing fire rings. Do not build up fire rings or create new ones.
  • Keep fires small. Use only sticks found on the ground that can be broken by hand.
  • Use water (not rocks or dirt) to put your fire DEAD OUT. Test your ashes with your hands to make sure they are cold.
  • Even when campfires are permitted, consider reducing your impact by not having one.

 

wildlifeRespect Wildlife

  • Protect wildlife and your food by securely storing rations and trash.
  • Never feed or handle wildlife.
  • Please consider leaving your dog at home. If you do bring your dog, please use a leash.

 

 

considerateBe Considerate of Other Visitors

  • Respect the wilderness experience of others and let nature’s sounds prevail.
  • Keep your campsite small and focus activity where vegetation is absent.
  • Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
  • Do not add sandbags and other materials to the hot springs.
  • Avoid loud voices and noises.
  • Playing amplified music on the trail or in camp is simply not acceptable. Please let nature’s sounds prevail.

 

disposeDispose of Waste Properly

  • The Big Sur River is designated by Congress as a Wild & Scenic River. Please help to protect this special waterway.
  • Whatever you pack in must be packed out. There is no garbage service in the Wilderness. Consider leaving Sykes better than you found it by packing out trash left by previous visitors.
  • Use the wilderness toilets provided. They are the only appropriate places to defecate.
  • Pack out all hygiene products (including toilet paper). Disposable towelettes are NOT biodegradable, and toilet paper causes the toilets to fill more rapidly. Bring a dedicated plastic bag to pack out these materials.
  • Do not put soap of any kind (even biodegradable) into the river or tubs. Wash yourself and your dishes as far from the river as possible.

 

leavewhatyoufindLeave What You Find

  • Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
  • Do NOT build structures or furniture or dig trenches.
  • Do not stack rocks.

 

 

Thank you for planning ahead for your trip! Thank you for practicing Leave No Trace ethics in the backcountry.

 

Be sure to report any inappropriate or illegal backcountry behavior when you return to Big Sur Station.

 


 

Following are some great alternate choices for a wilderness experience in the Ventana region.

 

Barlow Flat Camp and Redwood Camp provide space and solitude not found at Sykes.

Carmel River Camp provides a wonderful river experience.

Pico Blanco Public Camp is renowned for its amazing waterfall and grotto.

Pat Spring has a wide angle vista of Pico Blanco, the Pacific Ocean and the Ventana opening out to the east.

Pine Valley is a rare treat with its expansive meadow, beautiful cliffs and ponderosa pines.

Additional Resources:

Excellent Big Sur/Ventana Mapping Tools: http://bigsurtrailmap.net/

Big Sur Station to Sykes Elevation Gain/ Loss Profile - See a graphic representation of the up and down nature of the 11 miles to Sykes.

 

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