Deep Creek Hot Springs » Southern California’s Best Kept Secret

While I am totally in love with the beach-living set-up in West LA, sometimes it just feels necessary to hit the road for a weekend away. Luckily, Southern California is one of those rare regions offering almost any landscape imaginable within a reasonable radius.

In the Northern Mojave Desert – and only a two-hour drive from Los Angeles – is the San Bernardino National Forest. Home to Lake Arrowhead, a year-round vacation spot for locals and tourists alike, the Mojave Desert can get up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit in Death Valley. But, if you’re traveling for the holidays, pack a heavy coat; areas of this same desert can plummet down to below freezing in the winter. I had the chance to visit this National Forest for the first time last fall (I know, I know, I’ve lived here almost seven years!) This turned out to be the perfect time of year to go – temperate, with just enough sunshine and breeze to keep us comfortable. We had a mission: Wander our way through the Mojave and find the Deep Creek Hot Springs, a secret swimming hole, right here and basically in our ‘back yards’.

The Northern Mojave Desert is the driest in all of North America!

After staying the night in a vacation rental near Lake Arrowhead, my friends and I woke up before the sun to hit the road…if you could call it that. We quickly noticed the winding mountain roads turn to craggy desert paths, and our monster-of-a-truck barely handled the roller-coaster-like terrain. In fact, we almost rolled it twice!

We knew we were looking for a trail head, but it turned out to be quite the feat to find it. After hopping in and out of the truck to attempt to get it over hill after bumpy hill, we decided we’d be better off – and safer! – to go the rest of the way on foot. Leaving our trusty stead behind, we embarked on a quest for any semblance of the start of a trail. After a number of false alarms, we began our two-and-a-half-mile hike through the desert.

The coolest part was traversing both pointed ridges and deep, shaded valleys, all along the same path.

We were grateful to have worn sturdy hiking shoes, as we were getting a bit fatigued from the already adventure-filled day; but, after spotting an Arroyo desert toad and a variety of desert birds (plus, drinking lots of water and re-applying plenty of sunscreen), we could feel we were about to be rewarded for our efforts. Rounding our last corner on the edge of the dusty cliff, we began to hear water flowing. With sudden bursts of energy, we picked up our pace and were greeted by a sprawling, clear, still-water pool. Heading down into the ravine, we could hardly get into our bathing suits quickly enough.

Deep Creek Hot Springs, entering-ravine
We were so excited to dive in!

The first pool we saw – and plunged haphazardly into – gave us quite the surprise at a chilling 60 degrees Fahrenheit (so, when your long hike is through, if you’re feeling a bit tired, you can be sure that this swimming hole will perk you right up!) As we gazed up the other side of the ravine, however, we noticed a series of smaller pools cascading down into one another. Making our way up each pool, the water grew warmer and warmer, until we made it to the hottest of the bunch. Heated by geothermal springs from deep in the earth’s crust, the hottest pool maintains its 105-degree Fahrenheit water temperature, the perfect contrast to the refreshing dip from the start of your afternoon.

Deep Creek Hot Springs, in-the-ravine
We found out much later that, for a fee, you can park on local ranchers’ land, closer to the springs…

These hot springs are technically “clothing optional”

If you tire of simply lounging in the springs, you can try your hand at slacklining, a popular sport that entails balancing along the suspended length of a flat rope, tensioned between two anchors, much like tightrope walking. Or, for the more daring, cliff jumping is safe into the 10-feet-deep main pool. Fortunate enough to show up on a day with no other people around (or if you’re comfortable in your skin no matter the company)? These hot springs are technically “clothing optional”, so enjoy a dip in your birthday suit for an even more all-encompassing experience!

Deep Creek Hot Springs, slacklining
Slacklining over a beautiful natural pool may just become your next favorite hobby!

Deep Creek Hot Springs
Spending the whole afternoon with nothing to do but enjoy the increasingly hot springs.

Deep Creek Hot Springs, pool

Though I’m a huge fan of all-things LA, I think I’m expanding my mantra: Southern California truly has it all. So, if you’re in the neighborhood of San Bernardino, strap on your best hiking boots and a bathing suit, and venture out into the desert to find nature’s spa. The Deep Creek Hot Springs are surely this National Park’s hidden treasure. 



For more info about the Deep Creek Hot Springs, check the website.
*All photos were shot by Enoch Kim

*Shae is our guest blogger from Los Angeles. An educator whose lust for experience influences her teaching, she travels with the desire to immerse herself in diverse cultures, seeking new adventure and inspiring others to engage with compassion and expand their world view. Follow Shae on Instagram! @seekvantage

The BEST Breakfast Sandwich You’ll Ever Have in LA

Los Angeles is a city of transplants, as many of us have uprooted ourselves from where we were born and bred to create lives in the Southern California sun. We come together to share traditions from our pasts, form new ones of our own, and are lucky enough to sincerely call this City of Angels home.

With the influx of people from all over bringing with them their unique backgrounds and cultural flavors, it’s no wonder the restaurant and bar scene has such an improvisational air to it. New hot-spots pop up almost daily; and, if you ask anyone for their advice on the U.S. cities with the most dynamic food, it’s no doubt that Los Angeles ranks high. But, what better to help a new place begin to feel like home than a dependable and familiar neighborhood go-to? I recently sung the praises of one of my top-choice beachy eateries, Playa Provisions (see the post here!) Still, with so many options right outside my doorstep, my list inevitably continues. Another contender for my favorite menu is nestled comfortably on Abbott Kinney Boulevard in Venice, and it’s a perfect reminder of the melting-pot that L.A. truly is.

Gjelina Take Away
Together forming a foodie trifecta in Venice are three restaurants, Gjelina, Gjelina Take Away, and Gjusta (the latter is the youngest addition to the family – a bakery inspired by an east-coast Jewish/Italian deli). Co-owned by Shelley Kleyn, Travis Lett, and Fran Camaj (Gjelina is named after Camaj’s mother, and Gjusta, after his aunt!), this trio of restaurants seamlessly combines traditional Italian cuisine with the contemporary farm-to-table California taste. The little sister to its neighboring restaurant, Gjelina, Gjelina Take Away (affectionately known as GTA) serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week. Offering a quicker experience than dining-in next door, GTA has all the perks of this popular establishment without the wait.

GTA’s interior

Walking into GTA in the morning never fails to intrigue me, as the eclectic mix of patrons is rarely repeated. And, those who stumble upon this hidden spot find themselves faced with a gorgeous spread of daily items displayed to entice each passerby, and all made from seasonal, local ingredients.

Behind the counter

In my quest to find the best breakfast sandwich in LA, GTA caught – and kept – my attention. Braised kale, melted gruyere, a crisp, yet runny, fried egg, thick-cut bacon, and hot sauce (if you want it!) on a grilled English muffin…this sandwich may look small, but it’s packed with mighty flavor. And, when I decide to give-in to my need for a treat, GTA’s version of the popular granola and yogurt option beats out its competition. Served with honey and seasonal fresh fruit, the granola is made in-house and is perfectly chewy, sweet, and salty.

Gjelina Take Away-breakfast-sandwich
THE Breakfast Sandwich — so good.

Gjelina Take Away-yogurt
Satisfying house made granola, fresh fruit, and creamy yogurt.

So, if you’re planning a trip to L.A., you’ll be able to find authentic food from all over the world, no matter your taste. But, if a reliably-delicious breakfast is what you’re after, with market-driven ingredients and beautifully delivered dishes, this eatery has everything you’d hope to experience during a treat-yourself morning out.

Travelers’ Bonus: Gjelina Take Away puts you smack in the middle of one of the hippest shopping streets in Los Angeles, Abbot Kinney Boulevard. After you clean the butter and egg yolk off your face and fingers, pop into the boutiques and art galleries for trendsetting fashion, clever gifts, and musings of all sorts. You could easily spend a couple hours taking it all in as you digest your mouthwatering morning meal.

Gjelina Take Away (GTA)
1427 Abbot Kinney Blvd. (two blocks north of Venice Blvd.)



*Shae is our guest blogger from Los Angeles. An educator whose lust for experience influences her teaching, she travels with the desire to immerse herself in diverse cultures, seeking new adventure and inspiring others to engage with compassion and expand their world view. Follow Shae on Instagram! @seekvantage

Malibu: The California Dreamer’s Paradise

There’s a 27-mile stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway that dips and rises, drops then peaks, allowing its riders both the feeling of being enveloped in the coastal cliffs and the exhilaration of cruising above the endlessly blue and shimmering Pacific. Malibu, California is only 30 miles from the bustling downtown LA, and myriad movie stars, Hollywood elites, and affluent Angelinos are lucky enough to call its beaches and bluffs home. With a Mediterranean climate and breathtaking estates sprinkled across its hills, Malibu manages to make an average day feel like a holiday.


So, when you wake up early on a day off in Los Angeles and are wondering over your morning coffee how to best soak up your daily dose of Vitamin D, why not head to “The ‘Bu”?

Kickstart your morning with a healthy sweat
Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or more of a nature-walker, the hills of Malibu provide a medley of trails to suit your style. Each hike has its draws, but when I want a moderate challenge and impressive panoramas, the Los Leones Trail is my top pick. This 7.2-mile hike starts in the Pacific Palisades and winds through Topanga State Park. Relatively graded, judiciously shaded, and beautifully lush, the coastal-canyon trek summits at 1,525 feet, and the ultimate view of the sprawling coast makes it so worth the sweat. You’ll know you’ve reached the top when you find a lone bench; sit, stretch, meditate, or just absorb the awe-inspiring vista. You’ve earned it!

Malibu. los-leones-summit
Stunning views on top of the Los Leones Trail

Reward yourself
Malibu Farm is a full-service restaurant and bar at the start of the iconic Malibu Pier. To best appreciate its prime real-estate, I opt to sit outside on the patio, stilted above the waves as they crash on the sandy shore. With something for everyone’s taste, the menu takes advantage of local, fresh produce, and each item comes out of the kitchen impeccably presented and reliably delicious.

Contently taking in the view chardonnay in hand


One of my favorites on the menu is the Cauliflower-Crust “Pizza” – it has just the right amount of pesto and mozzarella spread atop a perfectly crispy crust. The Chicken-Broccoli Quesadilla and Raw Brussels Sprouts Salad are two other must-orders if you’re looking for shareable starters. Or, if you want something a bit more substantial after burning calories on your morning hike, the Breaded Mustard Chicken Sandwich offers juicy chicken breast breaded ever-so-lightly in a hint-of-mustard breadcrumb mix, topped with tomato, arugula, red onion, and tomato aioli.


Care to imbibe? The General Manager, David Shoham, is also the Bar Manager and has crafted some signature cocktails just for this ocean-side eatery. Leading my list are the “Watermelon” – mixing cucumber-infused vodka, watermelon and lime juices, and organic agave; the “Coconut” – featuring toasted coconut-infused rum, coconut agave, and fresh pineapple juice; the “Smoke” – blending mescal, shishito peppers, chipotle agave, and freshly squeezed lime juice; and the “Jalapeno” – balancing Uno Dos Tres organic tequila blanco, jalapeño agave, and lime juice. Special shout-out to the Jalapeno cocktail, as it allows for the awesome flavor of this popular pepper without too much of the heat. And the best part? The agave syrup used in these masterpieces is made in-house! Or, maybe you’re feeling like a chilled glass of wine, instead; I recommend the crisp and dry Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Valley Chardonnay. Yum!

Inside-restaurant Malibu Farm
Pop inside for a Malibu Farm Cookbook or gourmet gifts to bring home.

Taster’s Tip: The Malibu Farm Café, a sister site to the restaurant and bar, is located at the opposite end of the same pier!

Catch the sunset
If you’re looking for a change of scenery after your meal (although, you’ll probably never want to leave your cozy, ocean-front seat!) and a taste of the grapes of the coast, Malibu Wines is an ideal final destination from which to watch the sun go down over the Pacific.

Wine with this view: What more could you ask for?

The Malibu Wines Tasting Room is nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains and offers two labels of wines: Semler and Saddlerock. Choose whether to take part in a tasting flight or indulge in a full bottle; either way, sip your wine on this estate’s vast lawn or at one of the rustic tables provided. Outside food is allowed, so if you’re still peckish after your bite at the Farm, stop by the Malibu Country Mart on your way for some snacks to graze on while you drink.

As you soak up the last moments of daylight, drinking your fermented grape of choice and listening to the rocking live music (it never disappoints!), you’ll wonder why you didn’t find a way to make all those other ordinary days before into extraordinary ones; and, you’ll already be planning your next unforgettable day spent in Malibu.



*Shae is our guest blogger from Los Angeles. An educator whose lust for experience influences her teaching, she travels with the desire to immerse herself in diverse cultures, seeking new adventure and inspiring others to engage with compassion and expand their world view. Follow Shae on Instagram! @seekvantage

More about California? Read Shea’s tips about hidden gem Marina Del Rey: