Deep Creek Hot Springs is located in southern California in the San Bernardino National Forest. The hot springs are located in a fork of the Mojave River known as Deep Creek. The area is one of great biological and geological significance and is home to some of the most diverse vegetation and wildlife habitats of the National Forest. In particular, Deep Creek is home to the endangered Southwestern Arroyo Toad.
Located in the northern Mojave Desert, vegetation surrounding the Deep Creek Hot Springs transitions from the desert-like flowering shrubs of creosote and chamise, and the flowering California buckwheat grasses at low elevations, to pinyon and oak woodlands mixed with coniferous trees at the higher elevations. The springs are located in what is considered a “rain-shadowed” valley, meaning the area stays relatively dry regardless of rainfall, as it is located on the leeward side of a mountain. The area, a mix of desert chaparral and woodlands is known as transiticoniferous.
Deep Creek is fed by a state designated Wild Trout stream. Those fishing are limited to two fish of a minimum eight inches each. As with all southwestern desert areas, visitors should be alert for rattlesnakes. Other significant wildlife in the area includes the endangered Southwestern Arroyo Toad. The small 2.5 inch toad buries itself in the mud during the day, and hunts at night. Otherwise known as the Arroyo Toad, the species is endemic to southern California and northern Baja, Mexico. Fewer than 3,000 breeding toads exist today, mostly due to habitat destruction.
From the north of the springs in the city of Apple Valley, the easiest access to Deep Creek Hot Springs is via Bowen Ranch Road, a graded dirt road through private land that descends a steep 2.5 miles down into Deep Creek. Alternatively, hikers may opt for a 6-mile hike via the Pacific Crest Trail, heading east from Arrowhead Lake Road. Visitors to the site should wear adequate footwear, carry plenty of their own water, and don appropriate protection for the elements. In the summer months, air temperatures can easily rise above 100 degrees. Not accessible for those with limited mobility, the hiking trail to the hot springs descends over 950 vertical feet, making for a steep climb on the way out.
The springs offer both hot and cold pools. Guests are advised not to submerge their heads or drink the water of the springs, which is high in fecal coliform counts due to the warm temperature of the water, and as with most hot springs, also contains a bacteria known to cause encephalitis. All bathing at the relatively secluded site is clothing optional, public nudity once again becomes prohibited 10 miles upstream of the hot springs site.
History: When gold was found in the San Bernardino Mountains in 1855, the influx of miners, ranchers and the timber industry took a heavy toll on the land. Streams were silting over and water quality was declining, overgrazing and the harvesting of lumber was decimating the forests, and the surrounding citrus industry was demanding more and more water. In 1866, the Board of Forestry published a report that suggested a more “intelligent supervision of the forest.” Soon after, The Forest Reserve Act of 1891 was passed, and the San Bernardino National Forest was designated in 1907. The National Forest conserves important natural resources such as timber, livestock range, water, minerals and wildlife, while offering opportunities for public recreation.
San Bernardino National Forest protects over 800,000 acres in southern California just east of San Bernardino city, over 150,000 acres of which is designated wilderness. The National Forest headquarters are located in the city of San Bernardino, while the Deep Creek Hot Springs are situated towards the northern border of the National Forest range.
Ongoing Programs and Education: Seven visitor centers are located throughout the San Bernardino National Forest, and offer a range of programming and events. Past events have included kayak and canoe programs, naturalist-guided hikes and campfire ranger talks, or crafting programs for making birdhouses and panning for gold.
What’s Nearby: The Pacific Crest Trail crosses Deep Creek twice, over two elevated bridges. The 16 miles of trail which spans Lake Arrowhead to the Mojave River Forks Dam is just one small part of the greater 2,650-mile national scenic trail, which begins in San Diego and heads to the northern border of the United States via the state of Washington.
Pacific Crest Trail, Apple Valley, CA 92308, Phone: 909-382-2600
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