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.
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.
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.
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!
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