Vanalden Caves

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Looking up through the roof of the Vanalden Cave

Looking up through the roof of the Vanalden Cave

Vanalden Caves

  • Location: San Fernando Valley.  From Highway 101, take the Tampa Ave. exit and head south (left if you’re coming from L.A., right if from the west).  Take a quick left on Ventura Blvd., go 0.2 miles and turn right on Vanalden Ave.  Follow Vanalden three miles to a dead end, where the trail starts.
  • Agency: Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy
  • Distance: 0.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 150 feet
  • Suggested time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Best season:  Year round
  • USGS topo map: “Canoga Park”
  • Recommended gear: insect repellent
  • Recommended guidebook: Day Hikes In the Santa Monica Mountains
  • More information: Article here; Yelp page here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 4
0:00 - Trailhead at the end of Vanalden Ave. (Click thumbnails to see the full sized pictures)

0:00 – Trailhead at the end of Vanalden Ave. (Click thumbnails to see the full sized pictures)

Like Bonita Canyon Falls in the San Gabriels, the Vanalden Caves on the south edge of the San Fernando Valley is an example of how something that seems too good to be true is just that.  In this case, the destination is a large sandstone cave, with several holes in the top that allow looking in from above, only a short drive from the Valley.  The catch: graffiti, trash, and lots of it.  Still, the trail makes a nice excursion and allows San Fernando Valley hikers to see some interesting geology, even if it’s not exactly as nature intended it. The Vanalden Trail also serves as an access point to longer hikes on Dirt Mulholland and the northern end of Topanga State Park.

0:05 - Turn left at the junction (times are approximate)

0:05 – Turn left at the junction (times are approximate)

From the end of Vanalden, head south on the single-track trail. At 0.2 miles, head left at the fork (the right trail heads up to the dirt road.) Follow the trail around the side of the ridge, and descend into a wooded area. The trail drops to a creek bed and continues east, but you will turn right and head south into a small canyon. A short walk along the left side of the creek bed brings you to the cave.

0:08 - Entering the woodland (head left and down to the creek bed)

0:08 – Entering the woodland (head left and down to the creek bed)

The cave is large, and you can see the sky through some holes in its ceiling. If you are feeling brave, you can climb a narrow trail along the right side of the cave, to its roof. The trail is short and easy to follow, but it also leads along the very edge of a 20-foot drop, so be careful.

0:10 - Turn right and head into the canyon toward the cave

0:10 – Turn right and head into the canyon toward the cave

On top of the cave, you can see through the holes–again being careful–providing an interesting perspective. A few informal trails lead up to Dirt Mulholland if you want to extend your hike. Despite the graffiti and trash, the uniqueness of the geology and the convenient location make this a good hike to know about.

0:14 - Outside the cave

0:14 – Outside the cave

Text and photography copyright 2013 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. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

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Green Valley Falls

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Lower level of Green Valley Falls

Pines and manzanitas on the way to Green Valley Falls

Green Valley Falls

  • Location: Cuyamaca Mountains, eastern San Diego County.  From I-8, 40 miles east of San Diego, take Highway 79 north for 7 miles to the Green Valley Campground.   (Note the sharp left turn after 2 miles on Highway 79; follow the signs for Cuyamaca Rancho State Park).  From Julian, take Highway 79 south for 15 miles and turn right into the parking area.  Day parking is $8 per vehicle.  Once you’re in the park, follow the signs to the picnic area, staying left at both intersections.  Park in the dirt area, a total of 2.7 miles from the park entrance, and begin hiking on the trail.
  • Agency: Cuyamaca Rancho State Park
  • Distance: 0.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 100 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 30 minutes
  • Best season: Year round (best in the spring, or after rains)
  • USGS topo map: Cuyamaca Peak
  • Recommended guidebook: California Hiking
  • More information: Trip report here; maps here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 6

Stonewall Peak may be the big draw for hikers in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, but if you’ve come this far, make sure you check out Green Valley Falls.  It can be reached from the end of the Green Valley Falls campground with a short, quarter mile walk, but for hikers who want to explore more, there’s a lot to see in this corner of the park.

0:07 – Upper level of the waterfall (Times are approximate)

From the small parking lot at the picnic area, look for the signed Green Valley Falls trail heading downhill into a forest of oaks, pines and manzanitas. (The fire road at the other end of the lot also leads to the falls, but the trail is more scenic.) After a tenth of a mile, head right at a T-junction, where you soon arrive at the upper level of the waterfall. If you are careful, you can cross rocks and sit at the top of the waterfall, or you can scramble down the rocks to get a closer view.

0:10 – On the side of the canyon between the two waterfalls

The trail continues along the stream and descends through the woods, soon reaching the lower waterfall. The rocks can be deceptively slippery, but you can carefully traverse them to get a nice look at the two-tiered waterfall, about 15 feet tall, which spills into a wide pool.   After enjoying the pleasant sound and sights of the grotto, you can either retrace your steps, or continue to the trail, which soon reaches the fire road, where you’ll head right to return to the parking area.

0:13 – Lower level of the waterfall

Interestingly, the pleasant creek is actually a tributary of the Sweetwater River, which flows underneath I-8 a few miles west of Highway 79.  On your return, while heading toward San Diego on I-8, keep an eye out for a sign indicating the river; it may seem hard to believe that the same water flowing through the dry landscape has trickled down the waterfall you just saw.

Text and photography copyright 2012 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. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Blufftop Trail: Palos Verdes Drive West to Paseo del Mar

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Looking north on the Blufftop Trail

Ocean view from the Blufftop Trail

Blufftop Trail: Palos Verdes Drive West to Paseo del Mar 

  • Location:  Palos Verdes Estates, on the corner of Paseo del Mar and Palos Verdes Drive West.  From I-110, take the Pacific Coast Highway exit and head north/west for 5.6 miles.  Turn left onto Calle Mayor, go 1.3 miles and turn right on Palos Verdes Blvd.  Go 0.5 miles and turn right on Palos Verdes Drive West and go 1.8 miles to the intersection with Paseo del Mar.  Park either on Paseo del Mar or in the small lot on the corner.   From the LAX area, follow Pacific Coast Highway/Sepulveda Blvd. south from I-105 for 8 miles, and turn right on Palos Verdes Blvd.  G0 1.4 miles and turn right on Palos Verdes Drive West and go 1.8 miles to the intersection with Paseo del Mar.
  • Agency: City of Palos Verdes Estates
  • Distance: 1.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 150 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 45 minutes
  • Best season: Year-round
  • USGS topo map:  Redondo Beach
  • More information: video of the trail here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 4

The Blufftop Trail is a non-contiguous path that circles the western and southern edges of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, providing great coastal views. The short section described here is similar to the trails at nearby Point Vicente, although it’s dirt, not paved. On clear days, you can see the Santa Monica Mountains in the distance. This part of the trail makes for a nice little excursion, and you can easily extend your trip on the nearby streets or other segments of the trail. The luxury homes that overlook the trail make it hard to forget about all the nearby development, but it’s far enough off the main road so that peace and quiet can be expected.

From the corner of Palos Verdes Drive West and Paseo del Mar, look for a trail heading toward the ocean, dipping down below the road. It follows Paseo Del Mar, briefly rejoining it, and then splitting off again. You walk along the top of the cliffs (there’s no railing, so be careful), taking in some nice views of Bluff Cove and the western peninsula coastline.

At 0.7 miles, shortly before the trail once again joins Paseo del Mar, you come to a small clearing where a tree–its roots exposed by soil erosion–provides some shade while enjoying the panoramic perspective in both directions. This makes a good turnaround point, although you can continue farther south on Paseo del Mar and visit the southern segments of the trail.

Text and photography copyright 2012 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. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Chaparral Neighborhood Trail & Native Plant Garden (Lytle Creek)

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Looking west toward the mountains on the Chaparral Neighborhood Trail

Gazebo in the Native Plant Garden

Chaparral Neighborhood Trail & Native Plant Garden 

    • Location: Lytle Creek Ranger Station, 1209 Lytle Creek Road, Lytle Creek.  From I-15 in Fontana, take the Sierra Ave. exit and head northwest (turn left if you’re coming from the south, right if you’re coming from the north) for 4.9 miles.  Sierra becomes Lytle Creek Road.  The ranger station will be on the right.
    • Agency:  San Bernardino National Forest/Lytle Creek Ranger Station
    • Distance: 0.6 miles
    • Elevation gain: 100 feet
    • Suggested time: 30 minutes
    • Difficulty rating: G
    • Best season: Year-round (hot during the summer)
    • USGS topo map: Devore
    • Recommended gear: sun hat
    • More information: here; Everytrail report here
    • Rating: 4

Located at the Lytle Creek Ranger Station, the Chaparral Neighborhood Trail and the nearby Native Plant Garden offer a convenient escape into nature. While the sights of overhead power lines and forest service buildings, and the sounds of traffic on Lytle Creek Road prevent it from feeling like a true wilderness experience, the views of the mountains are good, and it feels pretty isolated for being only five miles from the freeway. It can get hot during the summer, but the trail is short enough so that heat isn’t likely to be a big problem.

From the ranger station, head east on an unsigned dirt road. Shortly before it reaches a power installation, head left on a single-track trail that ascends gradually. You cross another service road and continue to a T-junction, where you’ll turn left (west). As you follow the trail, you’ll get nice views of the eastern slope of the Three T’s (Timber, Telegraph and Thunder Mountains).

You cross a wash and then the trail ends unceremoniously at a parking area for forest service vehicles, where some debris has been strewn around. However, the scenery gets better at the Native Plant Garden, on the opposite side of the paved road. A few paths lead through the garden, where interpretive plaques describe the plant life, including chaparral, coastal sage and more. An ivy-covered gazebo makes a nice place to sit and relax. And don’t worry about the large silhouette of a bear – it’s just a prop.

After visiting the garden, return to the ranger station and the parking area. If you have time, and are looking for a little more of an adventure, check out Bonita Falls, farther up Lytle Creek Road.

Text and photography copyright 2012 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. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Wheeler Gorge Nature Trail

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View of the Topatopa Ridge from the Wheeler Gorge Nature Trail

View of the Topatopa Ridge from the Wheeler Gorge Nature Trail

Along Matilija Creek, Wheeler Gorge Nature Trail

Along Matilija Creek, Wheeler Gorge Nature Trail

Wheeler Gorge Nature Trail

    • Location: North of Ojai in the Los Padres National Forest.  From Ojai, take Highway 33 north for 8.5 miles (half a mile past the Wheeler Gorge Campground).    Park at a small dirt turnout on the right side of the road, just after crossing a bridge.
    • Agency: Los Padres National Forest/Ojai Ranger District
    • Distance: 0.5 miles
    • Elevation gain: 150 feet
    • Suggested time: 30 minutes
    • Difficulty rating: G
    • Best season: Year round (best after recent rain)
    • USGS topo map: Wheeler Springs
    • Recommended gear: hiking poles; insect repellent
    • Recommended guidebook: Day Hikes Around Santa Barbara
    • More information:  here; here ; Everytrail report here
    • Rating: 6

This short loop explores both the riparian canyon of Matilja Creek and a ridge that provides some nice views of the Los Padres foothills. If you’re vacationing in Ojai, it makes for a fun excursion; it’s also a nice, easy getaway from Ventura and Oxnard.  Interpretive plaques along the way describe some of the plants and trees, including laurel sumac, flowering ash, toyon, chamise and more.  The only bummer about the trail – besides how short it is – is the amount of graffiti, at least near the beginning.  Seriously, people!

From the parking area, look for a short trail heading uphill, just before the bridge.  You climb to the beginning of the loop which can be hiked in either direction, but many might prefer starting with the lower stretch along the stream before climbing to the ridge.  To do this, head right.

Follow the trail along Matilija Creek (keep an eye out for poison oak), beneath the shade of oaks, sycamores and chaparral. There are a couple of places where the terrain is a little rocky, so families with young kids might want to exercise caution.

Soon, the trail swings uphill, climbing to a ridge where you get nice views of the surrounding mountains, and perhaps a glimpse of the road. Then it heads back down, making some switchbacks before completing the loop.  The last stretch cuts quite close to the side of the hill, so exercise caution.  At the junction, follow the short spur back down to highway.

If you’re interested in more things to do north of Ojai, check out the Potrero John and Piedra Blanca trails, farther north on Highway 33. You can also stop by the Wheeler Springs Post Office,  the “smallest post office in the U.S.”

Text and photography copyright 2012 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.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Las Virgenes Open Space Loop

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On the trail in the Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve

Las Virgenes Open Space Loop

    • Location: Calabasas.  From the 101 Freeway, take the Las Virgenes Road exit and head north for 1.4 miles.  Parking is available at the end of the street.
    • Agency: Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy
    • Distance:  2.3 miles
    • Elevation gain: 250 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: G
    • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
    • Best season: Year-round (hot during the summer)
    • USGS topo map:  Calabasas
    • Recommended gear: sun hat
    • More information: Trail map here; trip report here
    • Rating: 6

This short loop in the southern end of the popular Las Vergenes Canyon Open Space makes for a great before- or after-work hike.  It’s short enough that it can be done even during the summer, although be advised that there’s little shade along the route.  If you have time, there are plenty of other trails to explore in the preserve.

From the end of Las Virgenes, head north into the park on the fire road. After 0.3 miles, you arrive at a junction, marking the beginning of the loop. Done clockwise, as described here, you get a chance to get warmed up before beginning the ascent.

Head straight, crossing a creek which may or may not have water. You pass by an electric generator, and soon you come to another junction. Our route heads right, passing another creek, and entering a wide meadow reminiscent of nearby Palo Comado Canyon. The area is dotted with huge oak trees.

At the next junction, where there’s a Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area sign, head right and begin the only significant ascent of the trip. A climb of 200 feet brings you to a saddle, where you get nice views of the rolling Simi Hills. Several false trails branch off, but the main route should be pretty obvious. You head downhill, soon meeting up with the East Las Virgenes Canyon Trail. Head right, descending gradually. Stay right at the next two junctions, and two miles from the start, you rejoin the first trail. Head left and retrace your steps to the parking area.

Note: this loop should not be confused with the nearby Las Virgenes Overlook and Las Virgenes Trails in Malibu Creek State Park.

Text and photography copyright 2012 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. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Oak Tree Loop (Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve)

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In the Engelmann oak grove

On the Trans-Preserve Trail, Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve

Oak Tree Loop (Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve)

    • Location: Murrieta, in southwest Riverside County.  From I-15, take the Clinton Keith road exit.  Turn right and head southwest for 5.1 miles.  Once you are in the reserve, take a  sharp right onto Tenaja Road.  Go 0.7 miles and park at the Hidden Valley Trailhead on the left side of the road.   Admission fee is $3 per adult or $2 per child.
    • Agency: Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve
    • Distance:  2.1 miles
    • Elevation gain: 100 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: G
    • Suggested time: 1 hour
    • Best season:  Year-round (hot during the summer)
    • USGS topo map:  Wildomar
    • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Orange County
    • Recommended gear: sun hat
    • More information: here; park map here
    • Rating: 6

Most hikers know the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve near Murrieta for the seasonal vernal pools that can be seen in the spring. Logic would seem to dictate that the area is too hot for summer hiking, but the short oak tree loop can be an enjoyable trip even when the weather is warm.

From the Hidden Valley trail head, make your way south east on the Coyote Trail. You climb through a grassland, with nice views of the area’s characteristic rolling hills. If the air is clear, you will get nice views of San Jacinto and San Gorgonio. The noise from traffic on the nearby road soon fades away.  In half a mile, you meet up with with the Trans Preserve trail. Take a left and head up hill on a narrower trail, arriving at another split in a quarter mile. This is the start of the Oak Tree Loop.

The Oak Tree Loop is named for the rare Engelmann oaks. The oaks in this groove are thought to be about 300 years old. Head left, downhill through the grove, soon coming up to the bend in Clinton Keith Road. Take a sharp right to complete the loop. You will head through a very attractive part of the grove, with a lot of shade from the large oaks.  The Engelmanns are larger and tend to have longer, more convoluted branches than their more common cousin, the coast live oak. During the wet months, Cole Creek trickles through this grove.

After completing the loop, you return to the Trans-Preserve Trail. Take a left, and retrace your steps back to the hidden valley trailhead.

Text and photography copyright 2012 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. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

West Coyote Hills Tree Park (Fullerton)

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View from the top of the Coyote Hills Tree Park

On the trail in the tree park

West Coyote Hills Tree Park  (Fullerton)

    • Location: Coyote Hills Drive and Vintage Way, Fullerton.  From the 91 Freeway, take the Beach exit (highway 39) and head north for 3 miles.  Turn right on Rosecrans, go 1.2 miles and turn left on Gilbert.  Make a quick right on Coyote Hills Drive, and go 0.6 miles to the corner of Vintage Way.  From the 57 Freeway, take the Imperial Highway exit and head west for 4.3 miles.  Turn left on Idaho, and go 1.2 miles (Idaho becomes Gilbert along the way).  Turn left on Castlewood, go 0.2 miles and turn right on Coyote Hills.  Go 0.3 miles to Vintage.
    • Agency: City of Fullerton Parks and Recreation
    • Distance: 0.5 miles
    • Elevation gain: 100 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: G
    • Suggested time: 30 minutes
    • Best season: Year-round
    • USGS topo map: Anaheim
    • More information: here; Everytrail report here
    • Rating: 2

Located in a quiet residential neighborhood, West Coyote Hills Tree Park is a great little place for an urban oasis. While the larger nature reserve nearby is still entangled in a legal controversy as the public fights for access, hikers can enjoy a nice stroll before or after work, or even during their lunch break, on a half-mile loop through this park.

From the corner of Vintage Way, take the path into the park and turn left. You follow the wide fire road through a pleasant grove of trees, and then bear right and begin heading uphill. The trail leads to North Parks Road, but you can make your route a little more interesting by turning right on a rough, single-track trail that has been cut through the bushes. You zigzag up the side of the hill and meet another trail. Head right, and follow the upper rim of the hillside, under the shade of more trees.

This brings you to a wide fire road that descends at a surprisingly steep angle. You get nice views of the Fullerton area, and possibly farther beyond if the weather is clear, but take care as you make your way down. At the bottom, turn right to complete the loop.

Like Fullerton’s other trails and natural areas, the West Coyote Hills Park is a nice place to know about if you want to get outdoors. It’s also a good way to keep kids active during the summer.

Text and photography copyright 2012 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.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Airport Loop Trail (Catalina Island)

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This post is made possible with support from the Catalina Island Conservancy.

View from the Airport Loop Trail on Catalina Island

Soapstone quarry on the Airport Loop Trail

Airport Loop Trail

      • Location: Airport in the Sky, Santa Catalina Island.  Catalina Express operates boats to Avalon from Long Beach, San Pedro and Dana Point.   Catalina Flyer operates boats from Newport Beach to Avalon and Two Harbors.  Once in Avalon, walk to the Conservancy office at 125 Claressa Ave for your free hiking permit.  Then, walk to the nearby Island Plaza to pick up the bus.  The schedule is always subject to change, and while reservations are not required, it is recommended that you call them at least an hour in advance, at 310-510-0143, to confirm that you will have a ride.
      • Agency: Catalina Island Conservancy
      • Distance: 2.3 miles
      • Elevation gain: 250 feet
      • Difficulty Rating: G
      • Suggested time: 1 hour, plus travel time from Avalon or Two Harbors to the airport.
      • Best season: Year-round (hot during the summer)
      • USGS topo map: “Santa Catalina”
      • Recommended gear: Sunblock; Sun Hat; Dramamine (boat ride)
      • More information: Airport area trail map here; bus schedule here (call 310-510-0143 for up-to-date fare and schedule information); Airport in the Sky info here
      • Rating: 7

Ten road miles from Avalon, Catalina Island’s Airport in the Sky offers great views of the island’s interior, a chance to get up close to some small planes, a nature center, and a short hiking trail. If you’re making a trip to Catalina Island, the airport and the loop trail make a nice excursion. The route is easy for inexperienced hikers–but veterans will enjoy it too, undoubtedly finding it to be different from most mainland trails.

From the drop-off area, head back out toward the road, past the vintage hangar. At the junction with Rancho Escondido Road, look for a trail heading downhill. You’ll meet up with the Airport Loop trail (which, at this point, is also the Trans Catalina Trail.) The hike is described here going clockwise (although you can do it either way).

Head right, enjoying nice views of Blackjack and Orizaba Mountains, the two highest points on the island, across deep Cottonwood Canyon. After crossing the road again, you climb a ridge and can see the western end of the island. You descend briefly and pass by Buffalo Springs Reservoir.

Just under a mile into the hike, you’ll arrive at a T-junction where the Trans Catalina Trail branches off to the left and heads downhill toward Little Harbor and Two Harbors. Turn right, and follow the trail as it parallels the dirt road. (You can also walk on the road if you prefer). For the next half mile, you get great views of the island’s eastern shoreline. There are a few spots where the trail is a little tough to follow; just keep in mind that it closely parallels the road.

You’ll cross the paved road again, and continue toward a junction where you rejoin the Trans Catalina Trail. Turn right and head uphill, passing a soapstone quarry where interpretive plaques describe how the natives used this resource. A few switchbacks bring you back up to the airport.

Text and photography copyright 2012 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. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Elfin Forest Nature Trail

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On the Elfin Forest Trail

Elfin Forest Nature Trail

  • Location:   Lower San Antonio Fire Station, 3000 N. Mountain Ave, Upland.  From I-210, take the Mountain Ave. exit and head north for 4 miles.  (Note that Mountain Ave. makes a few turns on the way up, so be sure to follow the street signs.)  The fire station is on the right, shortly before Mountain Ave. becomes Shinn Road and meets Mt. Baldy Road.  A United States Forest Service adventure pass ($5 per day or $30 for the year) is required for parking. Click here to purchase.
  • Agency:  Angeles National Forest/San Gabriel River Ranger District
  • Distance: 0.9 miles
  • Elevation gain: 200 feet
  • Suggested time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty rating: G
  • Best season: Year-round
  • USGS topo map: Mt. Baldy
  • More information: here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 3

This short trail takes in nice views of Mt. Baldy, San Antonio Canyon and the Inland Empire. Although it never really escapes the sights and sounds of nearby civilization, it is a nice introduction to the San Antonio Canyon area, and is conveniently located to many Inland Empire residents. It makes a fun outing with the kids on a weekend (although it does tend to get crowded), or a nice little evening hike after work; stretching your legs here surely beats sitting in traffic on the 210 Freeway.

From the parking area near the fire station, head up into the canyon. A somewhat obscure trail follows the canyon’s east wall (you’ll be climbing over rocks) before heading uphill, past the back side of the fire station and up to a viewing platform. Here, you can see Mt. Baldy to the north.

The trail continues, clinging to the side of the canyon, crossing a couple of bridges. There are also interpretive plaques describing the natural history of the area, including its recovery since the 2003 Padua Fire. Stay left at the split and continue along the trail, which continues east for a little ways before heading back. After a slight uphill grade, you descend back to the road on a few switchbacks, arriving at the fire station.

There’s plenty more to check out here; with caution, you can scramble up the rocks of the canyon, or you can walk along the fire road on the south side of the street. It’s also not far to Mt. Baldy Village and the many trails that branch off from there.

The Elfin Forest trail is also known as the Joatngna Trail, which means “Village at the Snowy Mountain.”

Text and photography copyright 2012 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. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Love Valley

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Lake Henshaw from the trail to Love Valley

Love Valley

Love Valley

  • Location: Cleveland National Forest, in the foothills southeast of the Palomar Mountains near Santa Ysabel.  From Interstate 15 south of Temecula, take highway 76 west for 30.3 miles.   Just before Lake Henshaw, turn left on East Grade Road (county road S-7).  Drive 3.3 miles and look for a big turnout on the left side of the road.  It used to be signed for Love Valley, but the sign is no longer there.  A National Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 for a day or $30 for the year) is required. Click here to purchase.
  • Agency: Cleveland National Forest/Palomar Mountain Ranger District
  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 300 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Best season: October – June
  • USGS topo map: Palomar Observatory
  • More information: Trip report here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 8

This short but very scenic trip is one of the most enjoyable in the Palomars, and the wide vistas are not unlike the famous Panorama Trail of Yosemite National Park.  Although there are no waterfalls, the views of Lake Henshaw and the Volcan and Cuyamaca Mountains to the east are quite something; very much a pleasant surprise for hikers of San Diego and elsewhere.

The actual destination of the trail, Love Valley, is a wide open meadow, and it makes a great place for a picnic.  At 3,300 feet above sea level, it’s likely to be reasonably cool even into the summer months, and there are plenty of oak trees for shade.  There’s also a big red barn, completing the Americana feel.

From the parking area, walk around the metal gate and begin heading downhill on the fire road.  Soon you get some great views of Lake Henshaw and the mountains across the way.  The trail descends for 0.8 miles before arriving at a split.  Here, you can either walk straight and head to the barn, or you can go left (south), where you soon arrive at a small knoll dotted with oaks.  A short climb over some rocks gives you nice views of the lake.  The fire road becomes a single-track and continues south for a little ways, but this makes a good turnaround point.

To be sure, this hike is a little bit short to justify driving all the way from Orange County or L.A., but it certainly makes a nice trip from San Diego.  It can also easily be combined with a visit to the famous Palomar Mountain Observatory Trail, or perhaps Cuyamaca Rancho or Anza-Borrego State Parks.   It’s well worth making the effort to visit.

Text and photography copyright 2012 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. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Cabrillo Beach & Pier

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Cabrillo Beach

Waves on the breakwater at Cabrillo Beach

Cabrillo Beach & Pier

  • Location: San Pedro.  From the south end of I-110, take Gaffey Street south for 1.4 miles.  Turn left on 19th St., go 0.3 miles and turn right on Pacific Avenue.  Turn left on Stephen White Drive and head into the park.  Parking is $1 per hour (cash only) with a daily maximum of $9.
  • Agency: City of L.A. Parks & Recreation
  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Elevation gain: Level
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Best season:  All year
  • USGS topo map: “San Pedro”
  • Recommended gear: sun hat; sunblock
  • More information: here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 4

Cabrillo Beach Park is one of several popular recreational destinations in San Pedro, along with nearby Point Fermin Park and Angels Gate Park.  The beach also shares the property with the famous Cabrillo Aquarium.  Although this is not necessarily the place to go for peace and quiet (and there’s a good amount of trash and graffiti), Cabrillo Beach offers a wide range of scenery, including Old Saddleback, the San Gabriels, Catalina Island and the characteristic marine geology of the area.

From the parking area, walk along the beach toward the pier. Make your way onto the concrete pier and walk to its end. If the surf is high, you’ll get a great view of the waves crashing over the breakwater on the right.

At the end of the pier, head back, taking in nice views of the Palos Verdes Peninsula on the way. Here, depending on how high the tide is, you can walk back along beach on the opposite (south) side of the pier, with good views of Point Fermin. At the far corner of the beach, you can walk across a footbridge to the southeast side of Point Fermin, where you can sit and enjoy the sights of the ocean and the marine geology. This is a good turnaround point, although with caution in times of low tide you can make your way around the tip of Point Fermin.

To complete the loop, head back across the footbridge and walk back to the parking lot. You can extend the trip a little bit by heading north along the beach.

While Cabrillo Beach is a little bit short to be a major hiking destination, one can easily make a day of visiting the beach, the aquarium and the other parks nearby.  Film buffs might want to visit the nearby Korean Friendship Bell at Angels Gate Park, used in “The Usual Suspects.”

Text and photography copyright 2012 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.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Rose Valley Falls

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Rose Valley Falls

On the trail to Rose Valley Falls

Rose Valley Falls

  • Location: North of Ojai in the Los Padres National Forest.  From the town of Ojai, head north on highway 33 for 14 miles (25 miles from Highway 101 in Ventura) to Rose Valley Road.  Turn right and go 3.1 miles to Rose Valley Lake Road.  Turn right and drive 0.3 miles to the end of the road and park in the campground by the signed trailhead to Rose Valley falls.   A National Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 per day or $30 for the year) is required for parking here. Click here to purchase.
  • Agency: Los Padres National Forest/Ojai Ranger District
  • Distance: 0.8
  • Elevation gain: 250 feet
  • Suggested time: 45 minutes
  • Difficulty rating: G
  • Best season: Year round (best after recent rain)
  • USGS topo map: Lion Canyon
  • Recommended guidebook: Easy Hiking in Southern California
  • More information: Trip reports here and here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 6

This is one of Southern California’s tallest–and most unusual looking–waterfalls.  Unfortunately, the spectacular upper tier, visible from the campground, is not easily accessible to hikers; the short walk through the woods brings you to the lower tier, which is not a bad consolation prize.  Even if there’s not much water–which there isn’t as of this writing–the limestone and sandstone cliffs, underneath the shade of oaks, is a nice spot for a picnic or to hang out and enjoy nature.

From the end of the campground, begin hiking uphill on the signed trail.  After crossing the creek, the trail continues to climb, mostly in the shade, occasionally providing a glimpse of the upper level of the falls.  The trail rises above the creek, passing over a smaller waterfall.   Soon, you arrive at the bottom level.  There are a few rocks that you can climb to get a good view of it.

Obviously, Rose Valley Falls is a very short hike to do if you’re driving a long way to get to the Los Padres National Forest, but there are quite a few other good trails in the area to check out, such as Potrero John and Piedras Blancas.  With time off for the upcoming holidays, and traffic likely to be lighter than usual, L.A. hikers might want to consider making a trip up here to check out Rose Valley Falls and some of its neighbors.

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.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Vista Del Norte Trail

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View from the Vista Del Norte Trail

Ascending the Vista Del Norte Trail

Vista Del Norte Trail

  • Location: Rolling Hills Estates, on the corner of Indian Peak Road and Norris Center Drive. From I-405, take the Hawthorne Blvd. exit and drive south for 8.5 miles.  Turn left on Indian Peak Road, go 0.4 miles and park in the lot at the Norris Center, on the right.  From I-110, take the Pacific Coast Highway exit and head north (west) for 3 miles.  Turn left on Crenshaw Blvd., go 3 miles and turn right on Indian Peak.  The parking lot at Norris Center will be on your left, in 0.4 miles.
  • Agency: Palos Verdes Land Conservancy (Vista Del Norte Reserve)
  • Distance: 0.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 250 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 30 minutes
  • Best season: Year-round (any day with clear skies)
  • USGS topo map: San Pedro
  • More information: here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 3

If you like instant gratification, check out the Vista Del Norte, where a short climb gives you some great views of the L.A. Basin.  The Vista Del Norte Reserve is one of the many small parcels of land on the Palos Verdes Peninsula operated by the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy.

From the parking area by the Norris Center, head east along the sidewalk on Indian Peak Road.   Almost immediately, turn right and follow the single-track trail leading uphill.  Take a right on the Vista Del Norte Trail, which switchbacks up the side of the hill.  (The Indian Peak Loop Trail, which heads straight, is poorly maintained and hard to follow.)

As you climb, the views get wider and wider.  After a quarter mile, you arrive at a bench, just below the communication towers, where you can sit and enjoy the view.  If you prefer you can continue past the bench to a summit where clear-day vistas include the Santa Monica Mountains, the ocean, the San Gabriels, San Gorgonio and more.

Obviously, this trail is a little bit short to be a major hiking destination, but if you do the route a couple of times, making it nature’s version of a stair climb, it can be a good workout; it’s also near several other trails on the peninsula that are worth visiting.  While the trail never escapes the sights and sounds of civilization nearby, it just goes to show that even in places that seem unlikely, one can still get out into nature.

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. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Harriet Wieder Park

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Wetlands in Harriet Wieder Park

Harriet Wieder Park

  • Location: 19521 Seapoint Ave, Huntington Beach.  From the traffic circle in Long Beach, take Pacific Coast Highway south for 10.2 miles.  Turn left onto Seapoint Ave, drive a mile to Garfield Ave (past the park entrance) and make a U-turn.  Head back toward P.C.H. and enter the parking lot on your right.  From downtown Huntington Beach, take Pacific Coast Highway north for 2.3 miles and turn right on Seapoint.
  • Agency: Orange County Parks
  • Distance: 1.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 100 feet
  • Suggested time: 45 minutes
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Best season:  All year
  • USGS topo map: “Seal Beach”
  • More information: here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 1

Harriet M. Wieder Park, in the northwestern corner of Huntington Beach, is Orange County’s newest regional park. As of now, the park is open to the public but not yet fully developed. There is no formal trail system here, but there are quite a few footpaths that are easy to follow. The route here samples some of the park’s scenery. The wetlands are similar to those at nearby Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. The coastal views aren’t as dramatic and the wildlife isn’t quite as varied as at Bolsa Chica, but Wieder Park is still worth a visit if you’re in the area. It is also dog friendly, which Bolsa Chica is not.

From the parking area, look for a dirt trail heading south toward Seapoint Avenue. Turn right on a wide trail that heads across an open space and then down to a creek. Crossing the creek is the only tricky part of this route, but it’s not too difficult; you work your way through some bushes and arrive at another trail which runs parallel to a fence.

Head up the hill, following two large metal pipes. (Don’t complain; this land could easily have become a golf course.) Soon you’ll see a small path leading downhill to the right. Walk over the pipes and follow this path, carefully crossing over the top of some small bluffs.

Soon you reach the back of the park, marked by another fence. Make a loop, heading back toward the houses. Soon you come to a split where the main road continues toward the park entrance, but you can make your trip a little more interesting by heading left on a single-track trail. This trail completes a loop, soon arriving at a junction where you head right and retrace your steps back to ward the dirt road. Rejoining the dirt road (with the pipelines), you continue retracing your steps. This time, however, before you get to the creek, head right and follow another trail heading back toward Seapoint. When you get there, head left and return to the entrance of the park.

If the route sounds a little convoluted, remember that there are many possible trips you can take at Wieder Park. It will be interesting to see the evolution of one of Orange County’s newest outdoor spaces.

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. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Windes and Pacifica Loop Trails (Santiago Oaks Regional Park)

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Ascending the Windes Trail, Santiago Oaks Regional Park

View from the top of the Pacifica Trail

Windes and Pacifica Loop Trails (Santiago Oaks Regional Park)

  • Location: Northeastern Orange County, east of the city of Orange.  From route 55, take Katella east (it becomes Villa Park Road and then Santiago Canyon Road) for three miles to Windes Drive.  Go left on Windes and follow it for about 3/4 of a mile into the park (the road is narrow and has a lot of sharp turns, so be careful).  The parking fee is $3 for the day, or $5 on weekends and $7 on holidays.
  • Agency: Santiago Oaks Regional Park
  • Distance:  0.8 miles
  • Elevation gain:  350 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time:  30 minutes
  • Best season: All year
  • USGS topo maps: Orange
  • More information: here; park map here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 5

If you only have time for a short hike at Santiago Oaks Regional Park, this is a good one to do.  The figure-8 shaped double loop provides a nice amount of scenic variety and a pretty good workout in the bargain.

From the far end of the main parking lot, walk up the stairs past the nature center and follow the signs to the Windes Loop. The short loop ascends quickly up the side of the hill, providing nice vistas of the Anaheim Hills and the canyon below. After climbing, the Windes Trail descends to a junction with the Pacifica Loop. Head left to a split where you head uphill. A steep climb brings you to the top of a knoll, where on clear days you can see the ocean and the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

The trail heads downhill steeply, soon completing the loop. Continue downhill, past the end of the Windes Loop, finishing off by the nature center.

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. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Linden H. Chandler Preserve

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Woodlands in the Linden Chandler Preserve

Linden H. Chandler Preserve

  • Location: Palos Verdes Peninsula.  From Los Angeles and points north, take I-110 south to Pacific Coast Highway.  Turn right and go 1.5 miles to Western.  Turn left and go 0.8 miles to the five-way intersection and take a right on Palos Verdes Drive North.  Go 1.3 miles and turn right on Dapplegray.  Take a quick left on Bucksin, follow it to its end and park by the fence.  From the Vincent Thomas Bridge, stay straight to get onto Summerland St.  In a mile, turn right on Western.  Go 2.1 miles and turn left on Palos Verdes Drive North.
  • Agency: Linden Chandler Preserve/Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy
  • Distance: 1.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 300 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 30 minutes
  • Best season: Year-round
  • USGS topo map: San Pedro Hills
  • More information: here
  • Rating: 3

Tucked between the Rolling Hills Country Club and Palos Verdes Drive North, the 28-acre Linden Chandler Preserve provides a nice quiet getaway with a good variety of scenery. Hikers can do the short loop described here, or easily extend their trip on a number of bridle trails that radiate outward from the preserve.

From the end of Buckskin Lane, follow the path into the park. From this vantage point, your clear day views include the Los Angeles basin and the San Gabriel Mountains. Take a hard right on a path that heads downhill, and almost immediately, take a left and make a small loop around the end of the golf course. At a T-junction, head right and downhill. You can take a somewhat rough single-track trail that branches off (be careful), or stay on the fire road. At the bottom, head right and into a pleasantly shaded area. This is an example of the riparian habitat the preserve was formed to protect. You climb out of the wetlands and soon reach another junction with the signed Dale’s Trail.

Head left (you can extend the trip by going right, downhill and into a short loop) and soon arrive at the Empty Saddle trailhead. Head left onto the Howard Trail (again you can extend things on the bridle trail that heads straight from here, leaving the preserve.) A steep descent brings you to another trailhead and a dirt road. Head left, past the baseball field and continue through some more woodlands. Stay straight and begin a steep climb back up to the trailhead at the end of Buckskin. You can extend the route on the Dapplegray Trail, which continues east, making a few ups and downs before ending at Palos Verdes Drive East.

In case you were wondering, Linden Chandler (1900-1995) was a concrete and gravel magnate who lived in the area.

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. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Serrano Creek Park (Lake Forest)

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Crossing Serrano Creek

Eucalyptus grove in Serrano Creek Park

Serrano Creek Park (Lake Forest)

  • Location: 25101 Serrano Road, Lake Forest.  From I-5, take the Lake Forest Drive exit.  Head northeast (right if you’re coming from the south, left if from the north) and go 2.2 miles to Serrano Road.  Turn left and go 0.2 miles, and the park is on the right.
  • Agency: City of Lake Forest
  • Distance: 2.1 miles
  • Elevation gain: 100 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Best season: Year round
  • USGS topo map: El Toro
  • More information: here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 3

This fun neighborhood hike is great for people who want to get out into nature but may be a little intimidated by longer trails.  Even veteran hikers who live in the area will find it to be an easy and convenient getaway into nature, and the variety of scenery is pretty impressive for a small park in the middle of suburbia.

There are several trails, both paved and dirt, that run through the park. The route described here may seem a little bit convoluted, but one doesn’t have to follow it exactly to enjoy the park. Wherever you are, you’re likely to be close to one of the main roads, so you really don’t have to worry about getting lost.

From Serrano Road, head down into the park and cross through the playground area. On the opposite side of the park, look for a trail heading down toward the creek. Carefully descend (the banks are washed out, so take extra care, especially if you’re hiking with little kids.) You cross the creek and pick up a slightly obscure trail that heads up toward a fire road, passing along the back side of some houses.  Head left and almost immediately look for another trail leading back down toward the creek. After making the second creek crossing, you arrive at one of the main trails through the park. Instead of walking on the paved path, you can head right on a dirt trail and follow it for a while. Shortly after it joins the main path, it branches off again.

After once more rejoining the paved path, the trail comes to a split. Head right, following the path of the creek, and once again go onto dirt when the paved road makes a U-turn. After about a mile, you arrive at Bake Parkway. Turn around and follow the bike path on the opposite side of the creek. Shortly, just as you pass a pathway leading to residential Camino Trebol on the left, look for a footpath heading back into the creek. You cross the creek and rejoin the path, heading left back toward the park entrance.

Here you can trace your exact route back, but for a little more variety, head uphill at the juncture (by the big oak tree with its limbs touching the ground.) The paved path meets a T-junction, where a dirt path heads through a beautiful grove of eucalyptus trees.  This wooded trail crosses a few other paved paths before meeting up with one of the main walkways.  Bear right and follow the walkway back to the playground area.

Regardless of which route you take at Serrano Creek Park, it’s sure to be a fun and enjoyable trip, an easy way to escape inland Orange County’s heat and enjoy some nature, peace and quiet in a place where it would seem hard to find.

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. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Viewridge Trail

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Viewridge Trail panorama at dusk

Footbridge on the Viewridge Trail

Viewridge Trail

  • Location: Off of Topanga Blvd. in Topanga Canyon.  From Highway 101, drive south on route 27 (Topanga Canyon Blvd.) for 3.7 miles.  Turn left on Viewridge and drive 0.5 miles to the end of the road. Park by the signed trail head.  From Pacific Coast Highway, head north on Topanga Canyon Blvd. for 9 miles and turn right on Viewridge.
  • Agency: Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy
  • Distance: 1.9 miles
  • Elevation gain: 300 feet
  • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Best season: Year round
  • USGS topo map: “Canoga Park”
  • More information: here
  • Rating: 5

Known also as the Santa Maria Canyon Trail, the Viewridge Trail is located in the eastern end of Summit Valley/Edmund D. Edelman Park, in Topanga Canyon.  This is the type of trail that’s great to keep in mind for a quick little getaway into nature before or after work.  It’s short, but offers a nice variety of canyon and ocean scenery, and is not as well traveled as some of the other trails in the eastern Santa Monica Mountains.

From Viewridge, look for the signed trail and begin your descent. (The lower end of the hike, Santa Maria Road, is private, so you must start up here and do it as a “reverse” hike.) You get nice views into Topanga Canyon, espeically at dusk, and the area is pleasantly quiet, with the hills blocking out much of the street noise.

The descent takes you in and out of a few wooded areas. In one, you cross Santa Maria Creek over a sturdy footbridge. Near the bottom of the trail, stay left at an intersection and enter a meadow. Soon after, the trail ends at Santa Maria Road. If you want to extend the hike, you can cross Santa Maria and continue to an overlook; you can also explore the rest of Summit Valley on the other side of Topanga Canyon Boulevard.

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. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Turner/Cooke Loop (Fullerton)

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Bud Turner Trail at Laguna Lake

On the Juanita Cooke Greenbelt trail

Turner/Cooke Loop

  • Location: Fullerton, on the corner of Yuma Way and Laguna Road, in the Sunny Hills neighborhood.  From the 91 Freeway, take the Euclid exit and drive north for 3.3 miles.  Turn right on Laguna Road (just past Rosecrans) and park on the corner of Laguna Road and Yuma Way, by the south entrance to Laguna Lake Park.  From the 57 Freeway, take the Imperial Highway exit, head west for 3.6 miles and turn left on Euclid.  Go 1.4 miles and turn left on to Laguna Road (just before Rosecrans.)
  • Agency: City of Fullerton Parks and Recreation
  • Distance: 2.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 250 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Best season: Year round
  • USGS topo map: La Habra
  • More information: Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 2

This loop uses two of Fullerton’s neighborhood trails and a short stretch on a paved road to create a trip that provides a nice workout, convenient for before or after work (or even on a lunch break).  During days when north Orange County is experiencing its notorious heat, this trip is a good way to get exercise.

From the corner of Yuma and Laguna, head north into Laguna Lake Park on the Bud Turner Trail. Follow the single-track that heads uphill, paralleling the bridle path (be careful of mountain bikers.) The trail splits a few times, but always merges back together, so you can take either way. At half a mile, you cross Clarion, and then begin a pleasant stretch along man-made Laguna Lake, a popular destination for trout fishermen.

At 0.8 miles, cross Lakeside Terrace and head right on the Juanita Cooke Greenbelt trail. This pleasant stretch of trail is largely shaded and much of the noise from the nearby streets is blocked off. You cross a railroad bridge, and soon after (1.8 miles) you arrive at Laguna Road. Head right and follow Laguna Road for a half a mile to the starting point. There is no sidewalk for most of this last stretch, so be careful of cars (although traffic isn’t too heavy here). The road makes a few twists along the way, so follow the street signs. There’s a decent sized climb before the road descends to the starting point, making you burn a few more calories before heading back to the car.

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. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.