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  • Aria Zoner

How HARD is The Hot Springs Trail?

Greetings Whole Food Hikers!

In this video, I’d like to address a question that I’ve been getting a lot lately, which is “how hard is the Hot Springs Trail?” Well, the first thing to understand is that the answer you’ll get from me, or anyone, is only an opinion and NOT a genuine fact. This is because the level of difficulty of this trail, or any trail, is not a matter of the trail itself, but is a matter of your own abilities when traveling on it. Each of us has a different makeup of strengths and vulnerabilities, and hiking a long-distance trail can bring these out. Let’s take a deeper look at the Hot Springs Trail and identify 7 aspects that may arise which could cause you stress or anxiety.

1. Big Up’s and Downs:

Leaving the Pacific Ocean, and only a few miles into the Hot Springs Trail, you’ll visit the summit of the first mountain range, the Santa Ynez. Continuing from it, additional summits, some as high as 10-13 thousand feet will also be topped. This requires elevation gains and losses which can be as high as 8,000ft. Some of these summits have detours around them which usually involves taking a road to get to the other side. If you plan on sticking to the trail, during these times, your pace may be slower. Plan ahead by being in good shape, having extra food, and carrying a light load.

2. XC /Navigation

Otherwise known as XC, cross-county or trail-less travel seems to be of the most concern here. In my opinion, cross-country travel on the Hot Springs Trail is easy, as far as navigation goes, because it’s either made in the crux of a drainage, or on the crest of a divide. Some of these segments have detours around them as well, which also require hiking on roads. Stay on-trail during these times by knowing how to use your compass and being able to detect game trails.

3. Distance Between Resupplies

To hike the Hot Spring Trail in its entirety, you’re going to need to replenish your food supply at points along the way. To accomplish this, at times you may need to hitch-hike out or mail yourself a package containing what you’ll need. There are many different types of resupply options directly along the Hot Springs Trail. These range from gas stations, restaurants, and resorts to farmer’s markets, grocery stores, and places where wild food grows. Some of the distances between these resupply points are up to 130 miles in length. Knowing your dietary needs and having enough food to make it thru each section will greatly increase your comfort and joy overall.

4. No Official Signs

Currently, there are no signs officially marking the Hot Springs Trail, there are however, plenty of signs on-trail which are described in the guidebook. Please understand though that these things can change - due to fire, improvements, or vandalism. By following the map and confirming details as you go along, you should be able to stay confident of your location.

5. Mixed Trail Tread

Trail tread on the Hot Springs Trail varies along the way, and can range from padded trails, to packed roads, to complete cross-country. At times, there is sand to get past, and talus to get across. Be ready for this mixing of terrain by having light, versatile foot-ware and hiking poles.

6. Water, or a lack there of

Water on the HST is found in 3 forms. 1. Sources that you drink from. 2. Waters that need to be crossed thru…or soaked in. And 3. Water which is waiting for you at the other end of a dry section. Some of these waterless sections are 20-40 miles in length, depending on the season. Avoid dehydration by utilizing each water source as you go, traveling in the cool of morning and evening, and having a 3-4 liter capacity for during these occasions.

7. The Elements

During a thru-hike of the Hot Springs Trail, you will encounter everything from sunny southern California mornings, to blustery Nevada afternoons, to chilly Idaho nights. Be prepared by carrying enough gear to keep you not only warm, but dry. By checking the weather forecast before heading out into the wilderness, you can know what you’ll be going up against. If need be, take a day off to let the clouds pass. Also be aware that wildfires have affected parts of this trail, and that these things can happen at any time.


So how HARD is it?

If these 7 issues present little or no concern to you, then this trail, should be your playground! However, if there’s something here that does concern you, it doesn’t mean that the trip is over either. Each of these 7 things can be minimized with strategy and logistics. Also, by visualizing yourself getting over these challenges, you can more easily thrive in the face of them when they arrive.

The fact is, only you can decide how hard the Hot Springs Trail is. But in my opinion, the hardest part, is just getting out of the pool!


Have a question about The Hot Springs Trail? Ask it here >>>


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