Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.
- Location: Agoura Hills. From the 101 freeway, take the Kanan Road exit and head south for a mile and look for a turnout at marker 2.60, right before the intersection with Silver Creek Road.
- Agency: City of Agoura Hills
- Distance: 2 miles
- Elevation gain: 1,150 feet
- Suggested time: 2.5 hours
- Difficulty rating: PG-13 (Steepness, trail condition, navigation, elevation gain)
- Best season: November – May
- USGS topo map: “Thousand Oaks”
- Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
- More information: trail map here; photos and trip report here
- Rating: 8
Compared to Mt. Baldy, Sandstone Peak and Old Saddleback, Ladyface may not be a household name, but it’s certainly recognizable to the residents of the Agoura Hills area. It is also a very challenging hike that offers an alpine experience unusual for such a short peak (2,031 feet), and the summit views are some of the best in the Santa Monica Mountains.
The peak gets its name from an alleged resemblance to the female form when viewed from the side. In the family tree of So Cal hiking, Ladyface might be considered a middle sister between shorter but also steep Castle Peak nearby and the taller, more challenging Frankish Peak in the San Gabriel Range.
From the parking area, look for a trail heading uphill, near the sign for Silver Creek Road. The trail ascends steeply, bares left, and mellows out a little bit before reaching a junction with a fire road. Now the real work begins. You climb over a rock and continue to follow the trail, which heads west on the ridgeline. There are a few spots where the trail becomes ambiguous, but it more or less follows the ridge, so when in doubt, go up. (Navigation isn’t a huge issue, but some hikers may feel better leaving trail ducks or some other such marker).
The good news is that every time you stop to catch your breath, you will have great views, including the Santa Monicas and the Simi Hills. A precarious stretch that resembles Mt. Baldy’s infamous Devil’s Backbone leads you to the beginning of the rock climbing portion of the hike. (A false trail leads to the left, but really, the only way to go at this point is up.) The rock walls look intimidating, and should not be underestimated (especially on the descent), but there are a lot of handholds, so if you are careful, you shouldn’t have a problem.
The ascent continues, and the dirt becomes looser (this is where your hiking poles will be useful). You continue to follow the ridge, with steep drops on both sides, before arriving at the shorter, east summit. Head left around the side and make another ascent over rocks (not quite as challenging as the previous one). The ridgeline makes a steep dip that’s easy to miss (be careful), and then a relatively easy final stretch brings you to the summit.
Here, your efforts are rewarded with views that include the Sandstone Peak/Boney Mountain complex to the southwest, the Simi Hills to the north and Malibu Creek State Park and a small piece of the ocean to the southeast.
As of this writing, plans are in the works to make an easier trail to Ladyface. That said, despite all of the challenges this trail presents, it is quite popular, and should be doable for anyone in reasonably good shape. If you are worried about the rock ascents, go with someone who has more experience. One last note: when researching this hike, I came across an article about a bunch of 5th graders who climbed this mountain. So remember, if the 5th graders can do it, so can you.