Bear Divide Trail

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View from Bear Divide, western Angeles National Forest

Looking northwest from the top of Bear Divide

View from Santa Clara Divide Road, Angeles National Forest

View of the high desert from Santa Clara Divide Road

Bear Divide Trail

  • Location: Western Angeles National Forest between the San Fernando Valley, Santa Clarita Valley and Little Tujunga Canyon. From I-210 in Pacoima, take the Osborne St. exit. Cross the freeway on Foothill Blvd. and turn left on Osborne St. Follow it for 11.4 miles. (Osborne becomes Little Tujunga Canyon Road) to the Bear Divide Picnic Area. Turn left on Santa Clara Truck Trail and follow it 0.2 miles and park in a dirt turnout on the right side of the road. From the 14 Freeway, exit at Placerita Canyon Road and follow it east for 5 miles to its end at Sand Canyon Road. Turn right on Sand Canyon, which becomes Little Tujunga Canyon, and follow it 3 miles to the Bear Divide Picnic Area. Turn right on Santa Clarita Truck Trail and follow it 0.2 miles to the turnout on the right. The unsigned trail starts right next to the road. Though no signage indicates that a National Forest Service Adventure Pass is needed to park here, most of the trail heads in the area do require it so if you have one, consider bringing it to be safe. Click here to purchase one.
  • Agency: Angeles National Forest, Los Angeles River Ranger District
  • Distance: 4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,200 feet
  • Suggested time: 2.5 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG-13 (elevation gain, steepness)
  • Best season: October – June
  • USGS topo map: San Fernando
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles; insect repellent
  • More information: Trip description here; video about the hike here
  • Rating: 7
Start of the Bear Divide Trail, Angeles National Forest

0:00 – Bear Divide Trail head (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

Considering its proximity to the Santa Clarita, Antelope and San Fernando Valleys–and its excellent views of them–it’s surprising this trail isn’t better known. Adding to the appeal are the tall pines and black oaks on the north facing slope, providing welcome shade from the Antelope Valley heat.

Bear Divide Trail leading through chaparral, Angeles National Forest

0:03 – Right turn on the Bear Divide Trail (times are approximate)

Bear Divide is a ridge that stretches westward from Little Tujunga Canyon, rising above the San Fernando Valley to the south and the Antelope and Santa Clarita Valleys to the north. The unsigned Bear Divide Trail starts off inauspiciously with a steep climb up a loose and rocky incline. At just over a tenth of a mile (and 150 vertical feet of climbing) it bends to the right where it enters the shade of chaparral. A steep trail continues straight; intrepid hikers can use this as an alternative ascent or descent, making the hike into a loop.

Oak growing out of the rocks on the Bear Divide Trail, Angeles National Forest

0:19 – “Ninja oak!”

The trail follows the north side of the ridge, providing excellent views of the Santa Clarita Valley. The steep ascent continues before finally leveling off at about 0.4 miles from the start. Soon after you enter an attractive grove of black oaks and Coulter pines. Keep an eye out for one rogue black oak in particular, growing nearly sideways from the rocky ridge.

Footbridge on the Bear Divide Trail, Angeles National Forest

0:28 – Footbridge

Shortly before a mile, you cross a footbridge and soon after you begin a steep set of switchbacks. Fortunately you’re still in the shade, making the 400-plus feet of elevation gain in less than a mile more tolerable. The majestic pines make it seem as if you’re higher up than your actual altitude of about 3,400 feet.

Looking north from Santa Clarita Truck Trail, Angeles National Forest

0:51 – Looking north from Santa Clara Truck Trail

At 1.5 miles, you rejoin Santa Clara Truck Trail. Bear right and follow it past the fire station. At a junction where Santa Clarita heads downhill and continues west, follow the left fork to a high point (about 4,000 feet above sea level) on the ridge with several communications antennas. Just before a fence blocks the road, a trail leads a short distance to a big, flat summit where you can enjoy a panoramic view. If visibility is good, expect to see Catalina Island, the Hollywood Hills, the Santa Monica Mountains, the Topatopa Mountains, the Liebre Mountains and more.

View of the San Fernando Valley from Santa Clara Truck Trail

1:01 – The San Fernando Valley from just past the fire station

Text and photography copyright 2014 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.

Looking southwest from the top of Bear Divide, Angeles National Forest

1:10 – Southwest view from the “summit” of Bear Divide


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Grape Avenue Trail Loop (Crafton Hills)

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San Bernardino Peak as seen from the Grape Avenue Trail, Crafton Hills, Yucaipa CA

San Bernardino Peak as seen from the Grape Avenue Trail

East Reservoir as seen from the Grape Avenue Trail, Crafton Hills, Yucaipa, CA

East Reservoir as seen from the Grape Avenue Trail

 Grape Avenue Trail Loop (Crafton Hills)

  • Location: Crafton Hills near Yucaipa.  From I-10, take the Live Oak Canyon Road/Oak Glen Road exit and head northwest for 4.2 miles to Bryant St. Turn left and go 1.1 miles to Grape Avenue. Turn left and go 0.5 miles to an unsigned trail head on the left side of the road.
  • Agency:  Crafton Hills Open Space Conservancy
  • Distance:  4.5 miles
  • Elevation gain:  1,000 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 2 hours
  • Best season: October – April
  • Recommended gear: hiking polessun hat
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire
  • USGS topo map: Yucaipa
  • More information: Trip description here
  • Rating: 6
Grape Avenue Trail Head, Crafton Hills, Yucaipa, CA

0:00 – Trail head on Grape Avenue (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This loop, which explores the eastern end of the Crafton Hills, is proof that a hike doesn’t have to go into the wilderness to feel rugged and wild. Although the sights and sounds of civilization are always at hand, this route’s dramatic mountain views (of San Bernardino Peak in particular), sharp switchbacks and up-close aerial perspectives on Highway 38 make it more visually interesting than many hikes that are more geographically remote.

Descending from a ridge on the Grape Avenue Trail, Crafton Hills, Yucaipa, CA

0:09 – The trail descending from the ridge (times are approximate)

From Grape Avenue, take the unsigned trail into a patch of chaparral and climb to a ridge (0.3 miles). Follow it briefly and look for a trail leading downhill to the right. You drop down to a service road, cross it and pick up the trail which climbs to another ridge, providing views of the East Reservoir. The trail merges into a paved service road which you follow a short distance.

Right before the road curves sharply downhill, leave it and follow the trail to a junction (0.9 miles from the start). This is the beginning of the loop, which can be hiked in either direction. By hiking clockwise, as described here, you can knock off the majority of the climbing early on. (The left fork is signed for Zanja Peak; the right fork is signed as the 38 Loop due to its proximity to that highway).

Junction on the Grape Avenue Trail, Crafton Hills, Yucaipa, CA

0:27 – Start of the loop

Bear left and head uphill, zigzagging your way across the eastern slope of the Crafton Hills. In addition to the imposing view of San Bernardino Peak and the Yucaipa Ridge, you also get an aerial view of the reservoir and in the distance, if visibility is good, you may even be able to pick out the Palomar Mountains of San Diego County.

Descending the Crafton Hills on the Grape Avenue Trail

0:54 – Starting the descent from the junction at the top of the loop

After almost a mile of steady climbing, you reach a junction (1.8 miles from the start). This is the high point of the loop. You can extend your trip to Zanja Peak by heading left, but to continue with the loop, take the right fork and begin your descent. On the way down, you get a good view of the eastern San Gabriel Mountains.

The twisting descent follows both sides of a ridge, dropping down into a canyon and coming out at the service road (3 miles). Turn right and follow the road briefly to pick up another trail, which climbs back up to the junction, completing the loop. From here, retrace your steps back to Grape Avenue.

The San Gabriel Mountains as seen from the north side of the Crafton Hills, Yucaipa, CA

1:00 – View of the San Gabriel Mountains

Text and photography copyright 2014 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.

North side of the Crafton Hills on the Grape Avenue Trail, Yucaipa, CA

1:10 – Following the north side of the ridge

Pratt/Foothill Loop (Ojai)

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Panoramic view of the Los Padres National Forest from the Pratt Trail

View of the Topatopa Mountains and fall foliage from the Pratt Trail

Sunset from the Foothill Trail, Los Padres National Forest, Ojai, CA

Sunset from the Foothill Trail

Pratt/Foothill Loop (Ojai)

    • Location: Foothills north of Ojai. From Highway 101, take Highway 33 north for 13.2 miles to downtown Ojai. Follow Ojai Ave (Higway 150) for a mile and turn left on Signal St. Follow Signal St. for 0.5 miles to an intersection with Grand Avenue and bear left to stay on Signal Street. Follow it 0.4 miles more to the signed Los Padres National Forest trail head. Turn left and go 0.2 miles on a semi-paved road to a circular parking lot. From Highway 126 in Santa Paula, take Highway 150 northwest for 16.7 miles. Turn right on Signal St. and follow it to the trail head.
    • Agency: Los Padres National Forest/Ojai Ranger District
    • Distance: 5.4 miles
    • Elevation gain: 1,450 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain, steepness)
    • Suggested time: 3 hours
    • Best season:  October – June
    • USGS topo maps: Matilija; Ojai
    • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat; sunblock
    • Recommended guidebook: Day Hikes Around Santa Barbara
    • More information: Area trail map here; Tripadvisor page here
    • Rating: 7
Pratt Trail Head, Los Padres National Forest, Ojai, CA

0:00 – Pratt Trail beginning (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This challenging, scenic hike explores the foothills north of Ojai, providing excellent mountain and valley views. The lower portion of the Pratt Trail, which starts at a debris basin and weaves through several private properties and service roads, might not be all that inspiring, but once you get higher up, the scenery becomes well worth the effort.

Sign on the Pratt Trail, Los Padres National Forest

0:19 – Sign on the Pratt Trail (times are approximate)

From the parking area, follow the signed Pratt Trail as it makes its way past the debris basin and through a grove of eucalyptus trees. Much of the view is blocked by chaparral, although you do get an occasional glimpse of the valley below. After crossing two service roads, you merge onto Foothill Road and follow it a short distance to a gate (just under a mile from the start, and about 550 feet higher). Just beyond the gate is a water tank, and it’s here that the loop portion of the hike begins.

Sycamores on the Pratt Trail, Los Padres National Forest, Ojai, CA

0:28 – Sycamores on the Pratt Trail just after the junction with the Foothill Trail

If the temperature is high, consider heading left on the more moderate Foothill Trail. If it’s a cool day and you want to get most of the elevation gain behind you quickly, continue on the Pratt Trail, as described here. The counter-clockwise route is good too if you get a late afternoon start; the sun will be hidden by Magic Mountain to the west of the Pratt Trail.

View from the Pratt Trail, Los Padres National Forest

1:00 – Looking west from the saddle

Continue your steady climb, staying straight as the Fuel Break Trail branches off to the right. At about 1.5 miles from the start, the trail briefly levels out as you enter a grove of oaks. Keep an eye out for a short trail leading to a picnic table beneath a sycamore.

The ascent resumes, reaching a saddle two miles from the start. You now get a nice view to the west, and the majority of the climbing is behind you. The Pratt Trail makes a hard right and continues uphill but your route descends, following the north slope of Magic Mountain. After a quarter mile, take a hard right and continue the descent, making an S-curve into oak-shaded Cozy Dell Canyon.

Oaks in the Los Padres National Forest

1:25 – Descending through the oaks in Cozy Dell Canyon

Leaving the woodland, make a hairpin left turn on the signed Foothill Trail (just over 3 miles from the start). You make a short but steep climb, gaining 250 feet in less than half a mile and arriving at a meadow. From here, the trail follows a basically level profile along the ridge, with a few glimpses of the valley to the south. One more ascent brings you to a saddle where you can see the higher peaks of the Topatopa range to the east.

Foothill Trail, Los Padres National Forest, Ojai, CA

1:37 – Hard left on the Foothill Trail

From here, you make a steep descent to a T-junction. Turn right on a connector trail leading back to the Pratt Trail and retrace your steps a mile down the hill to the parking lot.

View from the Foothill Trail, Los Padres National Forest

2:00 – Descent on the Foothill Trail toward the Pratt Trail

Text and photography copyright 2014 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.

Rock Mountain (Fallbrook)

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View from Rock Mountain, north San Diego County

Morning sun near the top of Rock Mountain

Looking north from Rock Mountain

Looking north from Rock Mountain

Rock Mountain (Fallbrook)

    • Location: North San Diego County, between Fallbrook and Temecula. From the Inland Empire, take I-15 to Rancho California Road in Temecula. Turn right and go 2.5 miles to Avenida del Oro. Turn left and go 0.3 miles to Sandia Creek Road. Turn left and go 7.3 miles and look for a small dirt parking lot and the trail head on the right (De Luz Heights Road = too far.) From the south, take I-15 to Old Highway 395. Turn left and go 0.2 miles to East Mission Road. Go 4.9 miles and turn right on Pico, which becomes De Luz and then Sandia Creek. In 4.2 miles, just after De Luz Heights Road, look for the trail head on the right. From Highway 76, 12.6 miles east of Oceanside, head north on South Mission Road. In 6.7 miles, turn right on West Mission Road and then almost immediately turn left on Pico. Follow it 4.2 miles to the trail head as described above.
    • Agency:  Fallbrook Land Conservancy
    • Distance: 1.2 miles
    • Elevation gain: 550 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG
    • Suggested time: 1 hour
    • Best season: October – May
    • Recomended gear: sun hat
    • USGS topo map: Temecula
    • More information:  All Trails page here; Flickr photo gallery here
    • Rating: 5
0:00 - Rock Mountain Trail Head (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Rock Mountain Trail Head (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This short but steep hike yields some panoramic views of north San Diego County and southern Riverside County. The hike sadly loses points due to graffiti (particularly on the summit) and trash, but the scramble up the rocks to the summit is still worth doing if you’re in the area. Expect to use your hands as much as your feet and allow extra time for the descent.

Following the trail up Rock Mountain, San Diego County

0:09 – Hard left at the junction (times are approximate)

From the parking lot, follow the signed trail up a wooden staircase. The first half of the hike is fairly easy going as the trail winds around the base of Rock Mountain. There are no shade trees but the slope faces west, so if you get off to an early start the sun will be blocked out.

At about a quarter mile, stay straight as a trail branches off to the right. Soon after, take a hairpin left turn and head west, soon arriving at a clearing (about 0.4 miles from the start) where an abandoned car sits.

Steep stretch of trail on Rock Mountain

0:12 – Steep climb after the abandoned car

From here, the hike becomes challenging. Head straight, climbing up a loose, rutted slope and continue your steep ascent for another tenth of a mile. The trail, sometimes faint but usually pretty obvious, appears to dip downhill and fade out at this point. Look for a use trail on the right, heading straight up through the sage scrub, soon arriving at a saddle where you get some striking aerial views of the landscape below. You also see the summit of Rock Mountain on your left.

Climbing through the brush on the way to Rock Mountain's summit

0:16 – Follow the “use trail” through the brush, about half a mile from the start

Head left and follow a thin ridge toward the peak and then pick your way up over the boulders to the summit. Your exact route may vary but you will generally stay on the south side of the peak, keeping it on your left.

View of Rock Mountain, San Diego County

0:20 – Rock Mountain’s summit, as seen from the saddle

On the top, you can sit on any of the jumble of boulders and enjoy an excellent view which on clear days may include the Palomar Mountains and the ocean. You also get a bird’s eye look at Sandia Creek Road, winding its way through the hills below. When you’re done enjoying the view head back down, respecting the steep and loose terrain on the descent.

View from just below the summit of Rock Mountain

0:22 – Looking south from the ridge below the summit

Text and photography copyright 2014 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.

Aerial view of the Fallbrook, CA area from Rock Mountain

0:25 – Looking down from the summit of Rock Mountain

Arroyo Burro Loop

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Dusk on the Arroyo Burro fire road, Los Padres National Forest, Santa Barbara

Sunlight through the trees on Arroyo Burro Road

View of the Santa Ynez River Valley, Arroyo Burro Road

View of the Santa Ynez River Valley, Arroyo Burro Road

Arroyo Burro Loop

    • Location: Los Padres National Forest north of Santa Barbara. From Highway 101, take Highway 154 north for 7.8 miles to East Camino Cielo. Take a hard right and follow the winding road for 6.2 miles. Park in a large dirt turnout on the left side of the road.
    • Agency: Los Padres National Forest/Santa Barbara Ranger District
    • Distance: 7.4 miles
    • Elevation gain: 1,700 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain, distance, terrain)
    • Suggested time: 3.5 hours
    • Best season:  October – June
    • USGS topo maps: San Marcos Pass; Little Pine Mountain
    • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat; sunblock
    • More information: Trip description (slightly different route) here; photos here
    • Rating: 8
Start of the Arroyo Burro Loop, Los Padres National Forest, Santa Barbara

0:00 – View from the trail head (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

Not to be confused with the section of the Arroyo Burro Trail in Santa Barbara’s front country, this hike explores the hills above the Santa Ynez River Valley, providing panoramic views and a good amount of shade from several thick oak groves. The loop, which is comprised of a single-track trail and a fire road, can be hiked in either direction, but since the single-track is far steeper, hiking the loop clockwise, as described here, allows for a more moderate ascent. This is a reverse hike, although it can also be done as a slightly longer conventional hike starting from Paradise Road in the valley below. With a car shuttle, it can also be done point-to-point.

Start of the Arroyo Burro Trail, Los Padres National Forest, Santa Barbara

0:05 – Turnoff for the Arroyo Burro Trail (times are approximate)

From the parking area, follow the dirt road past a metal gate. You pass by a shooting range and  another gate before reaching a junction with an easy-to-miss trail on the left. This is the Arroyo Burro Trail, which takes a hard left away from the road and begins its largely shaded descent.

Stream crossing on the Arroyo Burro Trail, Los Padres National Forest, Santa Barbara

0:35 – Stream crossing

You drop steadily, crossing Arroyo Burro and its various tributaries several times, making your way in and out of oak woodlands. As you enjoy the shade and seclusion, keep an eye out for poison oak.

At about 2.5 miles from the start, you reach a T-junction. Head right, soon reaching a dirt road where you again stay right, passing a water tank and the upper end of White Oak Camp.

Trail junction in Arroyo Burro Canyon, Los Padres National Forest, Santa Barbara

1:10 – Turn right at the T junction at the bottom of the Arroyo Burro Trail

Arroyo Burro Road then begins its long climb back to the trail head. The ascent is steady but never too steep, providing ample time to enjoy the wide-ranging views of the valley. After about a mile of ascent (about 4 miles from the start), stay straight as a trail heading toward Matias Potrero Camp branches off to the left. Soon afterward you enter another attractive stand of oaks and the majority of the hike’s remainder is shaded.

Arroyo Burro Road, Los Padres National Forest, Santa Barbara

1:18 – Approaching Arroyo Burro Road; start of the ascent

More ascent brings you to the upper reaches of Arroyo Burro Road where you complete the loop and return to Camino Cielo. Arroyo Burro’s name likely comes from its history as a miners’ supply route and the burros that carried the equipment.

Oak woodland on Arroyo Burro Road, Los Padres National Forest, Santa Barbara

2:00 – Into the woods on the Arroyo Burro Road ascent

Text and photography copyright 2014 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.

2:25 - VIew from near the top of Arroyo Burro Road

2:25 – View from near the top of Arroyo Burro Road

Big Laguna Trail

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View of the Anza-Borrego Desert from the Pacific Crest Trail, eastern San Diego County

View of the Anza-Borrego Desert from the Pacific Crest Trail

Panoramic view of Big Laguna Meadow, Cleveland National Forest, eastern San Diego County

Big Laguna Meadow

Big Laguna Trail

  • Location: Eastern San Diego County in the Cleveland National Forest, near the town of Mt. Laguna.  From San Diego, take I-8 to exit 47 (Sunrise Highway or County Road S1).  Head north (left) for 14.6 miles and park at the Penny Pines Trailhead on the right side of the road.  From Julian and points north take highway 79 to Sunrise Highway/S1 and head southeast (left) for 9.2 miles.  The Penny Pines Trailhead will be on the left.  A National Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 for a day or $30 for the year) is required for parking. Click here to purchase.
  • Agency: Cleveland National Forest/Descanso District
  • Distance: 10 miles
  • Elevation gain: 900 feet
  • Suggested time: 5 hours
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (distance)
  • Best season:  All year
  • USGS topo maps:  Monument Peak
  • Recommended gear: sun hat; sunblock
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield San Diego County
  • More information: Trip descriptions here and here
  • Rating: 8
Start of the Noble Canyon Trail in the Laguna Mountains, San Diego County

0:00 – Start of the hike at the Penny Pines Trail Head (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This long but moderately graded loop showcases the scenic variety of the Laguna Mountains, including meadows, pine woodlands and dramatic views of the Anza-Borrego Desert to the east. There are several possible starting points, but this post assumes you will hike from the Penny Pines trail head near mile marker 27.5 on the Sunrise Scenic Highway and go clockwise. This saves the best views for last and allows you to warm up with four virtually flat miles; advantageous for hikers sensitive to altitude (the trail head is a mile above sea level.) The Big Laguna Trail is actually a network of trails and the route described here (6 miles on the Big Laguna and 4 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail) doesn’t have to be followed exactly for an enjoyable experience; do as much or as little as your time and energy allow.

Junction on the Big Laguna Trail, San Diego County

0:24 – Junction at the top of Big Laguna Meadow (times are approximate)

From the Penny Pines trail head, pick up the Noble Canyon Trail on the west side of the highway. Go through a gate and pass by an information board and soon reach a junction where you’ll turn left on the Big Laguna Trail and follow it through a pleasant woodland of Jeffrey pines and black oaks.

Black oaks and pines on the Big Laguna Trail, Laguna Mountains, San Diego County

0:50 – Black oaks and pines, Big Laguna Trail (stay straight at the junction)

Just under a mile from the start, you enter the upper end of Big Laguna Meadow and reach a junction.  Both trails are part of the Big Laguna system but the quickest route is to stay straight, following the eastern side of the meadow (it will be on your right).

Little Laguna Meadow, Cleveland National Forest, eastern San Diego County

1:03 – Bear left at the junction in Little Laguna Meadow

After entering the woods again, stay right at the next junction, a spur leading to a campground. At about 2.5 miles, you reach a T-junction where you’ll head left and walk through a smaller meadow. If there have been recent rains, Little Laguna Lake will come to life. The trail splits but both forks soon reconnect. At 2.8 miles, you reach a fence where you will turn right and cross over a boardwalk (on the opposite side of the fence, the trail continues toward the Laguna Campground.)

Boardwalk on the Big Laguna Trail leading through a meadow, Cleveland Natinonal Forest

1:10 – Take a walk on the boardwalk

Follow the trail with the fence on the left to a service road under a telephone line. Bear left, go a short distance and make a hard left on the Big Laguna Trail which now travels through an attractive grove of tall pines. At about 4 miles from the start, you make another hard left and begin the first significant climbing of the entire route, crossing dirt Los Huecos Road in half a mile. Beyond, the trail passes a primitive campsite and follows a road bed through pines and oaks; when the trail bends north you may get a glimpse of the Cuyamaca Mountains to the west. After a little while the trail splits off to the left and descends toward the Sunrise Scenic Highway.

Service road, Cleveland National Forest, eastern San Diego County

1:27 – Bear left at the junction with the service road

At 5.5 miles you cross the road and ascend for another half mile to meet the Pacific Crest Trail. This is an alternative starting point. Turn left and follow the P.C.T. out of the woods and up to a ridge, where you will get good views of the Cuyamaca Mountains. If visibility is good you may even get a glimpse of the ocean. The rocky outline of Garnet Peak dominates to the north.

Big Laguna Trail heads through pines, Cleveland National Forest, San Diego County

1:41 – Up hill through the pines

Soon you reach a saddle where you get some excellent views of Storm Canyon and the desert below. The P.C.T. meanders through the meadow, dropping into a ravine and climbing to a spot where you can observe the view either from a bench or a wooden deck (8.8 miles from the start). This is also an optional trail head.

Pines on the Big Laguna Trail, Cleveland National Forest

2:02 – Leave Los Huercos Road and follow the Big Laguna Trail to the highway

Past the bench, the P.C.T. continues, switch backing once again down into a canyon and continuing north before finally reaching a spur that leads back to the Penny Pines trail head.

View of the Cuyamaca Mountains from the Pacific Crest Trail

2:45 – View of the Cuyamaca Mountains from the Pacific Crest Trail

Text and photography copyright 2014 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.

View of the Anza-Borrego Desert from the Pacific Crest Trail, Cleveland National Forest, San Diego County

3:50 – View from the bench, just over a mile from the end

 

Upper Franklin Canyon Reservoir

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View of Upper Franklin Canyon Reservoir, Hollywood Hills

Upper Franklin Canyon Reservoir

Upper Franklin Canyon Reservoir

  • Location: Hollywood Hills.  From the San Fernando Valley, take the 101 freeway to Coldwater Canyon.  Head south on Coldwater for 2.5 miles and take a hard right on Franklin Canyon Drive.  Drive 0.7 miles into the park and take a left into the parking lot for the William O. Douglas Outdoor Classroom. Note that there is a camera-enforced stop sign at the intersection.  From Sunset Blvd., head north on Beverly Drive for 0.4 miles.  Take a left to stay on Beverly, and then another left 0.2 miles later.  In 0.9 miles, take a right on Franklin Canyon Drive.  Follow Franklin Canyon Drive for 1.8 miles, around the reservoir, to a T-junction. Turn right and pull into the parking lot.
  • Agency: Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
  • Distance: 0.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: Level
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 30 minutes
  • Best season: Year round
  • USGS topo map: Beverly Hills
  • Recommended guidebook: Day Hikes In the Santa Monica Mountains
  • Recommended gear: insect repellent
  • More information: here; trip descriptions (slightly different route) here and here; Franklin Canyon Park Yelp page here
  • Rating: 4
Start of the Upper Franklin Canyon Reservoir hike

0:00 – Start of the hike at the Douglas Outdoor Classroom (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

Franklin Canyon Park feels a little more like wilderness than most of the other parks in the Hollywood Hills. You’ll still see power lines overhead and hear traffic nearby but if you don’t have time to make it to Malibu Creek or the Angeles National Forest, the park is a nice little spot for an escape into nature. The short but enjoyable walk around the upper reservoir, the smaller of the two in the park, is well worth a visit if you live or work in the area, or perhaps have friends visiting from out of town who want more out of the Hollywood experience than spotting celebrities.

Trail leading toward Upper Franklin Canyon Reservoir

0:06 – Leaving the main road toward the lake (times are approximate)

Several trails branch away from the lake, making it easy to extend your hike should you want to; you can also visit the Hastain Trail at the southern end of the park. This post, however, will focus on the short loop around the lake, which can be done with a combination of single-track trails and paved roads. It can be done in either direction, but since the paved road is one-way counter clockwise to traffic, try hiking clockwise so you can always see oncoming cars.

Upper Franklin Canyon Reservoir as seen from the picnic area

0:10 – View of the lake from the picnic area

Leave the parking lot and turn left, immediately arriving at a junction. Turn left again and follow the paved road through a pleasant woodland of pines, sycamores and oaks. At 0.2 miles, cross over the concrete barrier on a wooden staircase and descend toward the lake. Make a hard left and follow the trail (listed as the Chernoff Trail on some maps) to a picnic area where you get a nice view of the reservoir from a bench.

Oak tree on the Wodoc Nature Trail, Franklin Canyon Park

0:20 – Oak on the Wodoc Nature Trail

Continuing through the woods, you reach a staircase leading to a dam at the reservoir’s southern end. Cross it, passing by a private residence and arriving at the Wodoc Nature Trail. This short paved path circles a small pool known as Heavenly Pond, popular with ducks (although feeding is not allowed).

When the nature trail rejoins the road, continue north toward the start of the hike and into a dirt parking lot. You can close the loop out on the paved road but to make it more interesting, take either of the two dirt paths leading out of the lot, both of which rejoin at another picnic area. Follow the trail past the picnic tables, under a large oak and back up to the road where you retrace your steps to the parking lot.

Picnic table, Franklin Canyon Park

0:24 – Picnic area

Text and photography copyright 2014 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.