Category Archives: General information: Dogs allowed

Indian Mountain


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Looking southwest from Indian Mountain's summit

Looking southwest from Indian Mountain’s summit

Old Saddleback and the San Gabriels from the road to Indian Mountain

Old Saddleback and the San Gabriels from the road to Indian Mountain

Indian Mountain

    • Location:  San Jacinto Mountains north of Idyllwild.  From I-10, take Highway 243 southeast for a total of 15.8 miles to the Indian Vista parking turnout on the right side of the road, just past mile marker 14.0 and about half a mile past Lake Fulmor.  (If you’re coming from the west, make sure you follow the turns to stay on Highway 243 off the freeway).  Although the trail is on San Bernardino National Forest land, at no point is any requirement of an Adventure Pass mentioned.
    • Agency: San Bernardino National Forest/Idyllwild Ranger Station
    • Distance: 5.8 miles
    • Elevation gain: 1,300 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (distance, elevation gain)
    • Suggested time:  3 hours
    • Best season: October (or first winter rain) – June (closed from July – first winter rain)
    • USGS topo map:  Lake Fulmor
    • Recommended gear: sun hat; insect repellentsunblock
    • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire
    • More information: Trip report here, Summitpost page here; Everytrail report here
    • Rating: 8
0:00 - View of Indian Mountain from the start of the hike, Highway 243 (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – View of Indian Mountain from Highway 243(click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This enjoyable hike visits one of the most westerly of the major San Jacinto summits.  At 5,790 feet, Indian Mountain isn’t high enough to have the Sierra-like feel of the taller San Jacinto area peaks, but it still offers excellent views of almost all of So Cal.

0:31 - At the bottom of the hill, before the main ascent (times are approximate)

0:31 – Bottom of the hill, beginning of the main ascent (times are approximate)

The fire road (4S21) starts a few dozen yards north of the parking area. The hike begins easily enough with 1.3 miles of descent. You’ll see Indian Mountain’s rounded, forested bump in front of you. The trail makes a few switchbacks, providing great views of San Jacinto Peak and its neighboring summits.  Below you get a nice aerial perspective on the deep canyon carved by the north fork of the San Jacinto River.

0:41 - Looking south from the fire road

0:41 – Looking south from the fire road

At 1.3 miles, you reach the low point of the hike and begin the ascent, climbing about 900 feet over the next mile and a half. A substantial portion of the ascent is shaded by pines and black oaks, although there are a few exposed spots.

1:05 - Stay left at the junction below the summit

1:05 – Stay left at the junction below the summit

At 2.7 miles, stay left as a spur branches off. Soon after you reach the high point of the road, just south of the peak. Follow any of several informal trails to the top. There may be some bushwhacking involved, but nothing too strenuous. A cluster of boulders marks the highest point on Indian Mountain where you can climb as high as you want and enjoy excellent views of San Gorgonio, the San Gabriels, the Santa Anas, Thomas Mountain, the Palomars and if visibility is good, the ocean.

1:10 - Leave the fire road at its highest point and scramble toward the summit

1:10 – Leave the fire road at its highest point and scramble toward 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.

1:15 - Boulders on the summit of Indian Mountain

1:15 – Boulders on the summit of Indian Mountain

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West Horsethief/Trabuco Canyon Loop


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Lake Elsinore as seen from Main Divide Road

Lake Elsinore as seen from Main Divide Road

Live oaks and sunlight in Trabuco Canyon

Live oaks and sunlight in Trabuco Canyon

West Horsethief/Trabuco Canyon Loop

  • Location: Trabuco Canyon, eastern Orange County.  From I-5 in south Orange County, take El Toro Road northeast for 6 miles.  At Cook’s Corner, take a hard right onto Live Oak and drive four miles.  Shortly past O’Neill Park, right after Rose Canyon Road, take a left on Trabuco Creek Road, an unmarked dirt road.  Note that vehicles with high clearances are recommended.  Drive for 5.7 miles to the end of this rough dirt road, about a mile past the Holy Jim Trailhead.  Before the gate that ends the road, there is a small parking area with room for about six cars.  A United States Forest Service adventure pass ($5 per day or $30 per year) is required. Click here to purchase.
  • Agency: Cleveland National Forest, Trabuco Ranger District
  • Distance: 10 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2,600 feet
  • Suggested time: 5.5 hours
  • Difficulty rating: R (Distance, elevation gain, steepness)
  • Best season: November – April
  • USGS topo map: “Santiago Peak”; “Alberhill”
  • Recommended gear: Sunblock; Sun Hat; Insect Repellent; hiking poles
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Orange County
  • More information: Trip descriptions here and here; Meetup description here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 9
0:00 - Trailhead at the end of Trabuco Creek Road (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

0:00 – Trailhead at the end of Trabuco Creek Road (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

This challenging hike is one of the most scenic and varied in Orange County, if not all of So Cal.  Highlights include panoramic views (pending good visibility) of San Jacinto, San Gorgonio, Baldy, Catalina and more; shaded canyons filled with oaks and sycamores, pine groves, geology and more.

0:08 - Abandoned car (times are approximate)

0:08 – Abandoned car (times are approximate)

The trail starts at the end of Trabuco Canyon Road, almost a mile past the Holy Jim trailhead. Cross the gate and begin hiking on the Trabuco Canyon Trail which makes its way gradually uphill through towering oaks and sycamores. The trail goes in and out of a meadow, crosses the stream bed twice and follows the north side of the canyon. Keep an eye out for pine trees on the opposite ridge as you ascend. At 1.4 miles, stay left as a false trail branches off to the right.

0:44 - Junction with the West Horsethief Trail

0:44 – Junction with the West Horsethief Trail

About a quarter mile later you reach a junction with the West Horsethief Trail. If it’s late in the day you might want to ascend on the more gradual Trabuco Canyon Trail (right), but if it’s early and you want to get the most labor-intensive climbing out of the way, head left on the Horsethief Trail. The distance from the junction to Main Divide Road is about the same as from the trailhead to the junction – but it gains almost twice as much elevation. The good news is that the trail is primarily on western-facing slopes, so with an early start, you won’t have to deal with the sun. The higher you climb, the better the views are; the slice of Trabuco Canyon below you is particularly striking. That being said, however, the intensity of the ascent is likely to test the morale of even experienced hikers.

1:42 - Ocean view from the West Horsethief Trail

1:42 – Ocean view from the West Horsethief Trail

After climbing over a thousand feet in about a mile and a quarter, the trail starts leveling out. You may be encouraged to see Main Divide Road on your left, and the remainder of the climb to it is more gentle, traveling through an attractive grove of pines. At 3.2 miles from the start you reach Main Divide Road where you’ll turn right and head east. Through a “window” in the pines, you get a good look at San Gorgonio Mountain and a little bit later, after passing by the turnoff for the East Horsethief Trail (“landlocked” by private property at the lower end), you get as good a look at Lake Elsinore as you’re likely to ever see.

1:46 - View of Main Divide Road from the West Horsethief Trail

1:46 – View of Main Divide Road from the West Horsethief Trail

You continue following Main Divide for a total of 2.6 fairly easy miles (watch out for dirt bikes) to Munhall Saddle, 5.9 miles from the start and at 4,194 feet, the highest point in the loop. From the saddle you can enjoy a nice view to the south before beginning the next leg of the hike, the upper end of the Trabuco Canyon Trail.

1:57 - Turn right on Main Divide Road

1:57 – Turn right on Main Divide Road

Take a hard right and begin your descent, traveling through a thick grove of pines and black oaks. There may be parts of Orange County that feel more remote, but it’s hard to imagine where; this is truly a place to get away from it all.

3:06 - Looking south from Munhall Saddle

3:06 – Looking south from Munhall Saddle

At 6.6 miles, the trail makes a switchback, briefly leaving the woods and providing a nice view of Santiago Peak. You continue down through more woods before emerging at a tree which (as of this writing) is seasonally decorated. Ignore the spur leading to the right and make a hairpin left turn, continuing your descent. The next stretch of Trabuco Canyon closely hugs the wall, providing dramatic views below.

3:34 - Merry Christmas!

3:34 – Merry Christmas!

At 8.4 miles, you reach the bottom of Trabuco Canyon and return to the junction. Turn left and retrace your steps back down the lower end of the Trabuco Trail, 1.6 miles to the parking area.

4:00 - View of Santiago Peak from the Trabuco Canyon Trail

4:00 – View of Santiago Peak from the Trabuco Canyon Trail

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.

4:27 - Sycamores in Trabuco Canyon, just before the return to the junction with the West Horsethief Trail

4:27 – Sycamores in Trabuco Canyon, just before the return to the junction with the West Horsethief Trail

Zev Yaroslavsky Las Virgenes Highland Park


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View from near the top of the Yaroslavsky Open Space

View from near the top of the Yaroslavsky Open Space

Oak woodland in the Yaroslavsky Open Space

Oak woodland in the Yaroslavsky Open Space

Zev Yarosolavsky Las Virgenes Highland Park

  • Location: Las Virgenes Road north of Highway 101 in Calabasas.  From Highway 101, head north on Las Virgenes Road (left if you’re coming from Ventura; right if from L.A).  Take a U-turn at Mureau Road (0.2 miles north of the freeway).  Park in the dirt lot on the right side of the road.
  • Agency: Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy
  • Distance: 1.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 650 feet
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty rating: PG
  • Best season: Year round (hot during the summer)
  • USGS topo map: Calabasas
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
  • More information:  Here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 5

Named for recently retired L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, whose career was defined by ongoing efforts to preserve open space in the Santa Monica Mountains and elsewhere in Southern California, this park features a short – but quite steep – trail, leading up to a hill with panoramic views. Like nearby Heartbreak Hill, this hike is a study in calf-burning. Its views aren’t quite as varied as on Heartbreak Hill, but it’s still worth a visit if you live or work in the area and want a short but challenging workout.

0:00 - Leaving the parking area on Las Virgenes (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

0:00 – Leaving the parking area on Las Virgenes (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

From the parking area on Las Virgenes, follow the fire road uphill past a fence and into the park. The trail ascends steadily for a quarter mile before briefly leveling out. A few oaks provide some shade, although the majority of the trail is exposed. When you stop to catch your breath, you can turn around and get a nice view of Highway 101 and the San Gabriels in the distance.

0:07 - Hollow tree (times are approximate)

0:07 – Hollow tree (times are approximate)

At just over half a mile, you come to a T-junction. A large oak provides some shade; it’s a nice place to sit and rest before making the steep push to the summit. Take the right fork (the left one follows a ridge to a spot that overlooks the freeway; it’s a worthwhile detour if you have time, but the best views are higher up.)

0:17 - Turn right and head uphill at the T-junction

0:17 – Turn right and head uphill at the T-junction

After 0.2 more steep miles, climbing almost 200 feet, the trail finally levels out, and you reach the summit. The land drops off sharply to the west as Highway 101 rolls by, more than 600 feet below. The trail continues, eventually reaching Cheeseboro Canyon Park, an option if you have more time.

0:30 - Looking southwest from the top

0:30 – Looking southwest from the top

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.

Altadena Crest Loop


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View of L.A. from the Altadena Crest Trail

View of L.A. from the Altadena Crest Trail

Hugging the hill side on the Altadena Crest Trail

Hugging the hill side on the Altadena Crest Trail

Altadena Crest Loop

  • Location: 2260 Pinecrest Drive, Altadena.  From the 210 Freeway, take the Altadena Drive exit and go north for 2.7 miles.  Turn right on Crescent and make another quick right onto Pinecrest Drive.  From the Inland Empire, take the 210 Freeway to Rosemead  Blvd.  Go north on Rosemead for 0.7 miles and turn right on Sierra Madre Villa Ave.  Go 0.3 miles and stay straight to go onto New York Drive.  Go 1.3 miles and turn right on Altadena Drive.  In 1.2 miles, turn right on Crescent.  Note: Weekend parking is not allowed on Pine Crest by the trail head, and week day parking is limited to 2 hours.   To avoid these restrictions, follow Pinecrest up to the intersection of Bowring, where you can park.
  • Agency: Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy
  • Distance: 3.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 750 feet
  • Suggested time: 2 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG
  • Best season:  October – June
  • USGS topo map: Mt. Wilson
  • Recommended gear: sun hat; hiking poles
  • More information:  Arroyos & Foothills page here; Everytrail report here; trip descriptions here and here
  • Rating: 6
0:00 - Trail head on Pinecrest (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

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

The Altadena Crest Trail is a pleasant surprise for hikers who think that they’ve seen it all when it comes to the San Gabriel Valley and foothills.  As suburban trails go, it’s on the challenging side and despite its proximity to the residential neighborhoods of Altadena, it often feels quite rugged.  On clear days the views include the entire L.A. basin, in particular the downtown skyline, the Verdugo Mountains, the San Rafael Hills and the Hollywood Hills.

0:05 - Turnoff for the Altadena Crest Trail (times are approximate)

0:05 – Turnoff for the Altadena Crest Trail (times are approximate)

As of this writing the Altadena Crest Trail is non-contiguous. Several different routes in various configurations are possible. The trip described here is a loop featuring the southeastern 2.3 miles of the trail and 1.2 miles on city streets. Assuming you start on Pinecrest, you begin by walking through a metal gate and descending a paved road toward the Mt. Wilson Toll Road. Just before the bridge, turn left on the signed Altadena Crest Trail and begin ascending switchbacks on the single-track. The trail climbs quickly, gaining 300 feet in less than half a mile. Views to the south, east and west open up as you hug the side of the hill.

0:28 - Fire fighters' memorial

0:36 – Fire fighters’ memorial

At about 0.8 miles, the trail brushes up against a fire break at a spot where you get excellent views of L.A.; a nice place to catch your breath before taking a hard right and continuing up the hill.  At 1.1 miles, you reach one of the two high points on the trail (just under 1,800 feet). You descend into a canyon, past a memorial honoring two firefighters and reach a T-junction. Turn right (the left fork leads to private property) and enter a very narrow canyon where no signs of civilization can be seen (save for some power lines high overhead).

0:31 - Into the narrow canyon

0:41 – Into the narrow canyon

The trail switchbacks out of the canyon, once again reaching 1,800 feet at 1.9 miles from the start. Turn right on a paved road, passing by a private residence at the end of Zane Grey Terrace. The trail becomes dirt again and makes a few switchbacks down into another canyon, this one pleasantly wooded. Stay straight as a makeshift trail branches off to the right, reaching a spur off of Zane Grey Terrace at 2.3 miles.

1:00 - Switchbacks heading down into the canyon past the private home at the end of Zane Grey

1:00 – Switchbacks heading down into the canyon past the private home at the end of Zane Grey

The remainder of the hike is on city streets. Turn right on Zane Grey and follow it 0.1 miles to East Loma Alta. Turn left and begin the last leg of the loop, heading east on Loma Alta. At 3.2 miles, Loma Alta merges with Pinecrest. Follow Pinecrest back your car.

1:08 - Wooded canyon just before the trail emerges onto Zane Grey Terrace

1:08 – Wooded canyon just before the trail emerges onto Zane Grey Terrace

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.

Coyote Trail (Puente Hills)


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View of the San Gabriels from the Coyote Trail

View of the San Gabriels from the Coyote Trail

Trees on the Coyote Trail

Trees on the Coyote Trail

Coyote Trail (Puente Hills)

  • Location: Hacienda Heights.  From route 60, take the 7th St. exit and go south for 0.7 miles to its end at Orange Grove.  Park in the lot on the south side of Orange Grove.
  • Agency: Habitat Authority
  • Distance: 3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 700 feet
  • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Best season: September – June
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
  • USGS topo map:  El Monte
  • More information: Hacienda Hills Trails Yelp page here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 4
0:00 - 7th St. Trail Head (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – 7th St. Trail Head (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

Like the Skyline Trail Loop, with which it shares the 7th St. trailhead, the Coyote Trail offers a good workout conveniently located to the San Gabriel Valley, east Los Angeles and north Orange County.  Like most of the trails in the Puente Hills, this one is pretty much always within earshot and sight of the freeways and the suburban sprawl and it also suffers from trash and graffiti, but on clear days, it offers excellent views of the San Gabriel Mountains.  If visibility is good you can see San Jacinto and San Gorgonio far off to the east.

0:08 - Turnoff for the Coyote Trail (times are approximate)

0:08 – Turnoff for the Coyote Trail (times are approximate)

From the 7th St. trailhead, pass through the gate and begin your ascent on a gravel walkway, passing by an outhouse.  At 0.3 miles you reach an information board, where the Coyote Trail branches off.  Turn left and begin your ascent, steeply at first, passing by the backs of some houses.  The Coyote Trail heads uphill, makes a few switchbacks and provides some nice views into the canyon below.

0:36 - Following a ridge near the top of the Coyote Trail

0:36 – Following a ridge near the top of the Coyote Trail

After a mile, the grade levels out somewhat. You continue to head generally southwest, reaching a ridge at 1.3 miles. You make a final ascent, reaching the trail’s end at the Skyline Trail, 1.5 miles from the start. Here you can sit and enjoy a good view of Mt. Baldy (ignoring the barbed wire fence in back of you). You can turn around here or extend your hike along the Skyline Trail in either direction, accessing more of the Puente Hills’ extensive network of trails.

Oaks near the top of the Coyote Trail, shortly before the turnaround point

Oaks near the top of the Coyote Trail, shortly before the turnaround point

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.

Skyline Mountain Way/Brand Motorway Loop (Verdugo Mountains)


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San Gabriels from the Verdugo Fire Road

San Gabriels from the Verdugo Fire Road

Los Angeles skyline from the Brand Motorway

Los Angeles skyline from the Brand Motorway

Skyline Mountain Way/Brand Motorway Loop (Verdugo Mountains)

    • Location: Intersectionof Via Montana and Camino de Villas, Burbank.  From L.A. take I-5 to the Olive Avenue exit.  Turn left on First St. and then right on Olive, and drive a total of 1.5 miles.  (Olive becomes Country Club Drive).  Turn right on Via Montana, go 0.2 miles and park where available on the street.  (Check the signs for parking restrictions).  From the north, take I-5 to Verdugo Avenue.  Turn left on Front St., cross under the freeway and merge onto Verdugo Avenue.  Go 0.4 miles to Glenoaks, turn left and go 0.2 miles to Olive.  Turn right and drive 1.1 miles to the intersection with Via Montana, turn right and go 0.2 miles to the intersection with Camino De Villas.
    • Agency:  City of Glendale Parks & Recreation
    • Distance: 8.4 miles
    • Elevation gain: 2,000 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain,  distance, trail condition)
    • Suggested time: 4 hours
    • Best season:  November – April
    • USGS topo maps: “Burbank”
    • Recommended gear: sun block; sun hat; hiking poles; long sleeved shirts and pants
    • More information: Verdugo Mountains Yelp page here; description of the Skyline Mountain Way portion of the hike here; Verdugo Mountains Summit Post page here; Everytrail report here
    • Rating: 7
0:00 - Start of the hike; cross over to the Skyline Mountain Way (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Start of the hike; cross over to Skyline Mountain Way (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This is one of the more challenging of the many possible hiking routes in the Verdugo Mountains.  It features an interesting mix of abandoned and modern fire roads, fire breaks and city streets.  Like the other hikes in the Verdugo Mountains, if the air is clear, the views are extensive, including downtown L.A., Catalina Island, the San Gabriels and much more. The loop can be hiked in either direction but when done clockwise, as described below, the ridge shields you from the morning sun on the western-facing ascent.

0:40 - Lone oak on the Skyline Mountain Way (times are approximate)

0:40 – Lone oak on  Skyline Mountain Way (times are approximate)

From the corner of Via Montana and Camino de Villas, head across a dirt lot and climb a steep embankment to the Skyline Mountain Way, an abandoned fire road. The hike starts of gradually but soon begins a steady ascent; you’ll climb about 1,600 feet in less than three miles. As you get higher the views open up. The trail becomes more overgrown although the going shouldn’t be too difficult.

0:45 - Difficult terrain on Skyline Mountain Way

0:45 – Difficult terrain on Skyline Mountain Way

At about 1.6 miles you pass a solitary oak; this is a nice spot to take a breather. Soon afterward you encounter a tricky stretch where the trail is washed out. Expect to use your hands and feet as you make your way across this short but potentially treacherous section, climbing up a particularly steep and loose embankment before making a hairpin right turn and continuing the climb.

1:15 - Enjoying the view of the San Gabriels from the top of the loop

1:15 – Enjoying the view of the San Gabriels from the top of the loop

The ascent becomes more moderate and at 2.5 miles, you meet up with the Verdugo Fire Road, the main route across the top of the range, at a saddle with some great views of the San Gabriel Mountains. You can bear left on the fire road or head uphill on a steeper fire break. The two routes soon meet at a junction where a bench allows you to enjoy views both to the north and the south.

2:30 - Sycamores near the bottom of the Brand Motorway

2:30 – Sycamores near the bottom of the Brand Motorway

The rest of the hike is rather tame by comparison; some hikers might want to turn around at this point and return via the same route. However, for those who want to continue and make the hike a loop, start your descent on the Brand Motorway. It drops steadily for the next 3.3 miles, winding around the ridges. At 6 miles from the start, the road becomes paved; stay right at a junction and continue your descent, arriving at Brand Park, where you can take a look at the former estate of the Brand family and the public library dating back to the early 1900s.

2:50 - The road becomes paved above Brand Park

2:50 – The road becomes paved above Brand Park

At 6.8 miles, you pass through a gate and end up on Mountain Street. Turn right and follow it for 1.2 miles, during which it becomes Sunset Canyon. Several blocks do not have sidewalks, so exercise appropriate caution. When you reach Tujunga Avenue turn right and begin a steep climb uphill (again, no sidewalks so watch out for cars, especially since this section of the road has several blind curves.) Tujunga becomes Camino de Villas, which you will follow back to your starting point.

3:00 - Back to civilization: Brand Park

3:00 – Back to civilization: Brand Park

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.

Sierra Pelona Loop


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Baldy and the San Gabriels from Sierra Pelona

Baldy and the San Gabriels from Sierra Pelona

Rolling hills below Sierra Pelona

Rolling hills below Sierra Pelona

Sierra Pelona Loop

  • Location: Sierra Pelona Mountains west of Palmdale and north of Santa Clarita.  From L.A. take the 14 Freeway to the Red Rover Mine exit.  Merge onto Ward Road, go 0.3 miles and continue onto Sierra Highway.  Go a mile and bear right on Shannondale Road.  Go 0.7 miles and turn right on Shannon Valley Road.  Go 0.8 miles and turn left on Via Famero.  Go 0.1 miles and turn right on Shannon View Road, a narrow single-lane that climbs up the side of the mountain (be careful).  Along the way it becomes Telephone Road.  After a total of 2.6 miles, just past a run-down metal gate, you reach a junction with the Sierra Peloma West Mountainway.  Park in a small dirt turnout at the junction.
  • Agency: Ritter Ranch Park
  • Distance: 10 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2,100 feet
  • Suggested time: 4.5 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG-13 (distance, elevation gain)
  • Best season:  October – June
  • USGS topo maps: Sleepy Valley; Ritter Ridge
  • Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat
  • More information: here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 8

The Sierra Pelona Mountains lie between the Santa Clarita Valley and Antelope Valley.  If the weather is clear, views of both are great and you can also see the San Gabriel Mountains, the Santa Susanas and a little bit of the Tehachapis.  This loop–entirely fire roads and paved roads–tours Ritter Ranch, a large park under the jurisdiction of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.  There is no shade but depending on the time of day, the sun may be blocked by the hills.  Since the loop reaches a mile above sea level, it can be cold (and windy) during the winter so plan accordingly.

0:00 - Start of the hike on the Sierra Pelona West Mountainway (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Start of the hike on the Sierra Pelona West Mountainway (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

The loop can be hiked in either direction but this post will describe the counter-clockwise direction, allowing a scenic ascent through a canyon (as opposed to an exposed climb on a fire road). Though the loop never gets too far away from civilization–notably due to its proximity to the 14 Freeway and the high presence of power lines and communications towers–it often feels pleasantly rugged and isolated.

0:46 - Bear left at the junction (times are approximate)

0:46 – Bear left at the junction (times are approximate)

From the junction of Telephone Road and the Sierra Pelona West Mountainway, head right and start a long, crooked descent along the eastern side of the ridge. On the way down you are treated to wide-ranging views of the Antelope Valley and the San Gabriel Mountains. Ignoring several short spurs that branch off (when in doubt, keep descending), you arrive at a junction at 2 miles. Bear left and continue to a 5-way junction where you will follow the second fork from the left, resuming the descent.  The trail makes a few switchbacks as it drops into a shallow canyon, reaching a T-junction 3 miles from the start.

0:54 - Left turn at the 5-way junction

0:54 – Left turn at the 5-way junction

Turn right and begin a gradual descent down the canyon. Unlike the higher terrain, the canyon is pleasantly wooded, with a grove of juniper trees on the left side. The trail heads north and then west, entering a wide pasture with a nice view of the rounded hills ahead.

1:17 - Turn right and follow the trail down the canyon

1:17 – Turn right and follow the trail down the canyon

At about 3.8 miles, you begin a long, steady ascent, first heading southwest into a canyon and then making a twisting ascent along the north side of the ridge. At 5.4 miles, stay left as you join the Ana Verde Motorway.

Continuing your ascent, you arrive at a saddle after about 1,200 feet of climbing (6.7 miles from the start). Here you are rewarded for your efforts with nice views to the west. When you’re ready to continue, turn left on the Ana Verde Motorway. Stay left again at the next junction and resume your ascent, following a portion of the shorter Ritter Ranch Loop.

2:15 - Stay left at the junction with the Ana Verde Motorway

2:15 – Stay left at the junction with the Ana Verde Motorway

Your long ascent finally ascends at 8.3 miles as you reach the top of Sierra Pelona. There’s not much of a summit, per se, but at the top of the ridge you get excellent views in both directions. The next mile or so is more or less level as you pass some communication towers before making a final descent back to the parking area.

3:00 - View from the saddle (turn left)

3:00 – View from the saddle (turn left)

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.

4:00 - Antennas near the top of Sierra Pelona

4:00 – Antennas near the top of Sierra Pelona

Sierra Peak


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Looking east toward San Jacinto and San Gorgonio from Sierra Peak

Looking east toward San Gorgonio and San Jacintofrom Sierra Peak

Skyline Drive, the route to Sierra Peak

Descending from Sierra Peak via Skyline Drive

Sierra Peak

  • Location: Corona.  From the south, take I-15 to El Cerrito.  Turn left and go a total of 4.4 miles on El Cerrito, which becomes Foothill Parkway.  At Trudy Drive, make a U-turn and park on Foothill Parkway facing east in one of the few spots designated for the Skyline Trail.  From the 91 Freeway, take the Lincoln Exit and head south (left if you’re coming from the west, right if from Riverside) and go 2.6 miles to Foothill Parkway.  Turn right and go 0.7 miles to the intersection with Trudy Drive, make a U-turn and park where available facing east on Foothill Parkway.
  • Agency: Cleveland National Forest, Trabuco Ranger District
  • Distance: 15 miles
  • Elevation gain: 3,000 feet
  • Suggested time: 7 hours
  • Difficulty rating: R (Distance, elevation gain)
  • Best season: November – March
  • USGS topo maps: Black Star Canyon, Corona South
  • Recommended gear: Sunblock; Sun Hat; Insect Repellent
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Orange County
  • More information: Trip description here;  Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 9
0:00 - Beginning of Skyline Drive (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

0:00 – Beginning of Skyline Drive (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

Sierra Peak (elevation 3,045) is the northernmost major summit of the Santa Ana Mountains.  On clear days, the views both on the ascent and at the summit are outstanding.  Though it requires significant endurance to reach the summit, the terrain and navigation couldn’t be easier, making this a good training hike.

From the parking area, follow the paved Skyline Drive trail south then west around the back of a residential neighborhood. While this first part of the hike is less than truly inspiring, once you leave the houses behind at half a mile, passing by a metal gate into Cleveland National Forest land, the terrain becomes more scenic as you make your way up Tin Mine Canyon.

0:25 - Heading up Tin Mine Canyon on Skyline Drive past the metal gate (times are approximate)

0:15 – Heading up Tin Mine Canyon on Skyline Drive past the metal gate (times are approximate)

At just over a mile, Skyline Drive makes a sharp right turn and begins its ascent. For the next 3.3 miles, it winds along the side of a ridge, alternately providing nice views of the Inland Empire and all three major ranges (San Gabriels, San Bernardinos and San Jacintos) and of the Santa Anas themselves. As you make your way higher, you’ll see the ridgeline of Main Divide Road.

0:25 - Beginning of the ascent past the Tin Mine Canyon turnoff

0:25 – Beginning of the ascent past the Tin Mine Canyon turnoff

At 4.3 miles, the trail dips down to a saddle before climbing back to reach a junction called Oak Flat, with several communications towers (5 miles.) Head right on Main Divide Road, threading your way between two parcels of private land. For the next 2.5 miles, the trail continues to follow a ridge. Although Sierra Peak is only 350 feet higher than Oak Flat, several significant ups and downs along the way add up to over 1,000 feet of total elevation gain coming and going.

1:00 - View of the San Gabriels from Skyline Drive

1:00 – View of the San Gabriels from Skyline Drive

The great views to the east continue, and if you’re lucky you may get a glimpse of Catalina Island. You’ll also likely notice Sierra Peak’s antenna-covered summit ahead of you to the north. At 6.6 miles, stay straight as another fire road branches off to the left. You make a significant drop to a saddle and then one final climb to a short spur leading to the summit.

2:00 - Oak Flat; turn right on Main Divide

2:10 – Oak Flat; turn right on Main Divide

As on Santiago Peak, the antennas block the view, but it’s still possible to find places to sit and enjoy the panorama. You get a nearly aerial perspective on the Chino Hills and north Orange County, with the 91 Freeway slipping by below.  After resting your legs return via the same route.

2:30 - View of Catalina Island and Orange County from Main Divide

2:30 – View of Catalina Island and Orange County from Main Divide

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.

3:05 - Summit of Sierra Peak (looking west)

3:15 – Summit of Sierra Peak (looking west)

Forster Ridgeline Trail (San Clemente)


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Looking west from the Forster Ridgeline Trail

Looking west from the Forster Ridgeline Trail

Ocean view from south of the Rock Garden, Forster Ridgeline Trail

Ocean view from south of the Rock Garden, Forster Ridgeline Trail

Forster Ridgeline Trail (San Clemente)

    • Location: San Clemente.  From I-5 take the Camino Estrella.  Head northeast (left if you’re coming from the north; right if from the south) and go a total of 2.5 miles (Camino Estrella becomes Camino De Los Mares).  Parking is available on Camino De Los Mares just past the intersection with Diamante.
    • Agency: City of San Clemente; City of San Juan Capistrano
    • Distance: 7.4 miles
    • Elevation gain: 1,250 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (distance, elevation gain)
    • Suggested time: 3.5 hours
    • Best season: October – June
    • Recommended gear: sun hat; sunblock
    • USGS topo map:  San Clemente
    • More information: San Clemente information page here; Everytrail report here; Yelp page here; trail map here
    • Rating: 6
0:00 - Trailhead at the north end of Camino De Los Mares (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Trailhead at the north end of Camino De Los Mares (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This hike is basically a longer and more challenging version of the nearby Rancho San Clemente Ridgeline Trail.  There isn’t a whole lot of scenic variety but you do get some nice views of the ocean, the hills of south Orange County and if the weather is good, the San Gabriels and Catalina Island.  It’s basically an urban hike; the sights and sounds of civilization are with you throughout, but it provides a very good workout that’s conveniently located to south O.C.

0:06 - Sharp right on the connector trail toward Forster Ridgeline (times are approximate)

0:06 – Sharp right on the connector trail toward Forster Ridgeline (times are approximate)

From the north end of Camino De Los Mares, pass through the gate and begin hiking on the Los Mares Trail (part of the San Juan Capistrano trail system.) At 0.2 miles, make a sharp right on a trail that will bring you to the Forester Ridgeline Trail. It dips down into a grove of eucalyptus trees, passes a treatment facility and rises to a bend where you get a nice view of the ocean to the south.

0:48 - Ocean view from the power lines (take a hard right to continue on the Forster Ridgeline Trail)

0:48 – Ocean view from the power lines (take a hard right to continue on the Forster Ridgeline Trail)

From here, the trail begins its first major ascent, steadily climbing over 400 feet. At 1.9 miles you reach a clearing beneath power lines where the Talega Trail branches off to the left. Take a hard right to continue on the Forster Ridgeline Trail, which descends, now heading south.

1:18 - Ocean view from the "Rock Garden" (turn left and head south to continue on the Forster Ridgeline Trail)

1:18 – Ocean view from the “Rock Garden” (turn left and head south to continue on the Forster Ridgeline Trail)

At 2.4 miles, you pass a spur on the right leading to Camino Del Rio. Soon after the trail splits; the steep right fork leads to a vista point while the left fork loops around the side of the hill. The trails soon rejoin.

At 2.9 miles you reach another split. Head left (the right fork leads to an alternative trailhead on Costero Risco.) You climb a place known as the Rock Garden (3.1 miles) where fossilized rocks are inscribed with inspirational quotes from the likes of William Wordsworth and Marie Curie and a short spur leads to a scenic vista point. You can enjoy a 360-degree panorama which is probably the most scenic point on the hike and a good turnaround point if you are short on time.

1:30 - Geographical trivia on the southern end of the Forster Ridgeline Trail

1:30 – Geographical trivia on the southern end of the Forster Ridgeline Trail

If you want to continue, take the left fork at the junction and continue south, descending about 300 feet over the next 0.6 miles to Avenue Vista Hermosa, the turnaround point. This last stretch has some good near bird’s eye-views of the surrounding residential areas.

1:40 - Turnaround point, Vista Hermosa

1:40 – Turnaround point, Vista Hermosa

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.

Calabasas Peak from Old Topanga Canyon Road


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Looking west from Calabasas Peak

Looking west from Calabasas Peak

Geology on the Calabasas Peak Motorway

Geology on the Calabasas Peak Motorway

Calabasas Peak from Old Topanga Canyon Road

    • Location: Eastern Santa Monica Mountains between Topanga and Calabasas.  From Pacific Coast Highway, take Topanga Canyon Blvd. (Highway 27) north for 4.3 miles.  Turn left on Old Topanga Canyon Road and drive 4.1 miles to an intersection with the Calabasas Peak Motorway and Summit to Summit Motorway.  Park in a dirt turnout on the left side of the road. From Highway 101, take the Topanga Canyon Blvd. exit and head south for 1.4 miles.  Turn right on Mulholland Drive and go 0.5 miles to Mulholland Highway.  Turn left and go 1.7 miles to Old Topanga Canyon Blvd.  Turn left and drive a total of 1.6 miles to the intersection with the Calabasas Peak and Summit to Summit motorways and park in a dirt turnout on the left side of the road.
    • Agency:  Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy
    • Distance: 4.2 miles
    • Elevation gain:  850 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG
    • Suggested time:  2 hours
    • Best season: October – June
    • USGS topo map: Calabasas; Malibu Beach
    • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
    • Recommended guidebook: Day Hikes In the Santa Monica Mountains
    • More information: Area map here; Everytrail report here; Strava page here (route goes all the way to Stunt Road)
    • Rating: 7

Calabasas Peak can be reached from the south starting at Stunt Road or from the west via the Secret Trail.  In this post, we’ll look at a third approach from the northwest, starting from Old Topanga Canyon Road.  This approach is probably the easiest of the three, although it still provides a good workout.  In addition to the 360-degree view from the summit, highlights of this hike include nice views of the San Gabriel Valley, the Topa Topa mountains north of Ojai and the San Gabriels.

0:00 - Start of the hike, Old Topanga Canyon Road (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Start of the hike, Old Topanga Canyon Road (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

From Old Topanga Canyon Road, head up the driveway, bearing left at a fork, and look for the trail branching off to the right.  You climb around the side of a ridge, soon reaching a fire road.  You make your way along the Calabasas Peak Motorway, noticing the summit itself in the distance to the south.  Also in your line of sight is the ocean, the western Santa Monicas including Ladyface, Castro Peak and the Boney/Sandstone complex, and the western San Fernando Valley.

0:06 - View from the start of the fire road (times are approximate)

0:06 – View from the start of the fire road (times are approximate)

A short but steep ascent brings you to the top of a knoll, about a mile from the start. The trail begins a descent, soon meeting with the Calabasas Cold Creek Trail (aka the Secret Trail) 1.3 miles from the start. This is a nice place to stop; there are some interesting sandstone formations to see and the view of the ocean to the south are great.

Continuing south along the motorway, you make your ascent a saddle just below the peak. At 2 miles, take a hairpin right turn and follow the ridge toward the summit.

0:36 - Outcrops at the junction with the Secret Trail

0:36 – Outcrops at the junction with the Secret Trail

After enjoying what can be one of the best views in the eastern Santa Monica Mountains, retrace your steps. This hike can also work well as a point-to-point by leaving another car at either the Stunt or Secret trailheads.

0:54 - Hard right on the ridge to the summit

0:54 – Hard right on the ridge to the summit

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.

1:00 - Looking north from Calabasas Peak

1:00 – Looking north from Calabasas Peak

Fisherman’s Camp Loop (San Mateo Canyon Wilderness)


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Fall colors in San Mateo Canyon

Fall colors in San Mateo Canyon

Sunlight through the oaks, San Mateo Canyon

Sunlight through the oaks, San Mateo Canyon

Fisherman’s Camp Loop (San Mateo Canyon Wilderness)

  • Location: Southeast Riverside County, Cleveland National Forest.  From I-15 in Murrieta, take the Clinton Keith Road exit and head southwest (right if you’re coming from the north, left if from the south).  Go a total of 6.8 miles, past the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve.  On the way, the street name changes to Tenaja Road.  Take a right at a junction to stay on Tenaja Road (if you find yourself on Via Volcano or at the Vernal Pools trailhead, you’ve come too far).  Go 4.2 miles to Cleveland Forest Road and turn right.  Go a total of 3.7 miles on Cleveland Forest Road – which is one lane so exercise caution – and look for the Fisherman’s Camp Trailhead and a small dirt turnout on the left.  A National Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 for a day or $30 for the year) are required.  Click here to purchase.
  • Agency: Cleveland National Forest/Trabuco Ranger District
  • Distance: 5.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 750 feet
  • Suggested time: 3 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG
  • Best season: November – May
  • USGS topo map: “Sitton Peak”
  • Recommended gear: sun hat; hiking poles
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Orange County
  • More information: Trip descriptions here and here (out and back to Fisherman’s Camp); Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 7
0:00 - Beginning of the Fisherman's Camp Trail (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Beginning of the Fisherman’s Camp Trail (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This enjoyable hike visits both the high and low country of the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness, providing panoramic mountain views and secluded stretches through thick woodlands.  You’re not likely to have much company here, except perhaps on busy holiday weekends.

0:20 - View of the mountains on the descent to Fisherman's Camp (times are approximate)

0:20 – View of the mountains on the descent to Fisherman’s Camp (times are approximate)

From the Fisherman’s Camp trailhead, you begin the hike by entering an attractive grove of oaks. The trail then exits the woods and follows an exposed ridge, providing good views into the canyon and of the mountains across the way. After staying more or less level for about 0.7 miles the trail begins a twisting descent into the canyon. During the fall, you get a nice aerial view of the sycamore foliage below.

0:45 - Heading north from Fisherman's Camp toward the Tenaja Falls Trailhead

0:45 – Heading north from Fisherman’s Camp toward the Tenaja Falls Trailhead

At 1.6 miles, you reach a junction. Continue a tenth of a mile to Fisherman’s Camp, an attractive spot shaded by huge oaks, where the Tenaja Trail intersects. After enjoying the quiet, retrace your steps and take the left fork, heading deeper into wooded San Mateo Canyon. You cross a rocky wash and climb out of the canyon. The trail soon drops back down to the stream bed and crosses another wash. You then reach a junction where you’ll stay left and climb out of the canyon again, soon reaching a junction with a fairly recently created trail that stays above the canyon floor, closely following the east wall. (The original trail, which branches off to the left, follows the creek, crossing it a few times.)

0:48 - Crossing the wash just north of Fisherman's Camp

0:48 – Crossing the wash just north of Fisherman’s Camp

The two trails merge in another grove of oaks, about 3.4 miles from the start. You continue to a T-junction with the Tenaja Falls Trail, where you will turn right and walk 0.1 miles back to the street. Turn right and follow the road 1.5 miles back to the Fisherman’s Camp Trailhead, completing the loop. As far as paved roads go, this one’s pretty enjoyable: traffic is usually very light (if any), and the road provides some nice vistas of the canyon.

1:00 - Bear left and climb out of the canyon

1:05 – Bear left and climb out of the canyon

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.

2:05 - Right turn on Cleveland Forest Road; follow it 1.5 miles back to your car

2:05 – Right turn on Cleveland Forest Road; follow it 1.5 miles back to your car


Engelmann Oak Loop (Daley Ranch)


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Live oaks in Daley Ranch on the Bobcat Trail

Live oaks in Daley Ranch on the Bobcat Trail

Engelmann Oak Loop (Daley Ranch)

      • Location: Northwest of Escondido.  From I-15, take the Deer Springs/Mountain Meadow exit.  Head east on Mountain Mountain (turn left if you’re coming from the north, right if from the south).  Go 2.3 miles (Mountain Meadow becomes Hidden Meadow along the way).  Turn right on Meadow Glen Way and go 0.3 miles to Cougar Pass Road.  Turn right and go 0.3 miles.  Turn right again and continue on Cougar Pass Road which is now dirt (but passable by normal passenger vehicles.)  Go 0.5 miles and park in the dirt lot on the right side of the road, opposite the signed trailhead.
      • Agency: Daley Ranch
      • Distance: 4.7 miles
      • Elevation gain: 800 feet
      • Suggested time: 2 hours
      • Difficulty Rating: PG
      • Best season:  October – June
      • USGS topo map: Valley Center
      • Reommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: San Diego County
      • More information: Trip description here; Daley Ranch Yelp page here; Everytrail report here
      • Rating: 7
0:00 - Friendly reminder at the trailhead (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Friendly reminder at the trailhead (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This enjoyable loop explores the lightly visited northern sector of large Daley Ranch on the outskirts of Escondido.  As the trail name might lead you to believe, there are plenty of Engelmann oaks (as well as the more common coastal live oaks) to be seen here – similar to those found at the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve farther north near Murrieta.

0:21 - Stay right at the first junction with the Bobcat Trail (times are approximate)

0:21 – Stay right at the first junction with the Bobcat Trail (times are approximate)

The Engelmann Oak trail only accounts for about a mile of this hike, although hiking the entire trail is one of several possible variations on the route. From the parking area, follow the Cougar Ridge Trail through a meadow, into a wooded canyon with a seasonal stream and up 200 feet to a saddle where it dips to meet a junction with the Engelmann Oak Trail. Stay straight and head into another woodland, passing by a junction with the Bobcat Trail (your return route), 0.9 miles from the start.

0:40 - Vista point at the junction of the Cougar Ridge and Engelmann Oak Trails

0:40 – Vista point at the junction of the Cougar Ridge and Engelmann Oak Trails

Staying on the Cougar Ridge Trail, you begin a steady climb along the south side of Burnt Mountain. Here you get good views south toward the rest of the park. An ascent of about 400 feet brings you to a junction with the other end of the Engelmann Oak Trail, while the Cougar Ridge Trail continues south. A short spur leads to a spot where boulders beneath oaks make a good resting point with panoramic views.

Continuing north along the Engelmann Oak Trail, now on Burnt Mountain’s east side, the trail levels out. At about 2 miles from the start, you reach a junction. Both routes are options as they will soon intersect; if you want to leave the fire road, turn left on the single-track Burnt Mountain Trail, which climbs to a saddle where you get some wide-ranging vistas northwest.

After dropping down to rejoin the Engelmann Oak Trail, head left (west). You head through some pleasant, rolling hills and meadows before reaching a junction with the Bobcat Trail (2.9 miles). Head left on this scenic single-track and descend into a quiet ravine lined with oaks. (If you’re pressed for time, you can continue on the Engelmann trail, which is a slightly shorter return to the Cougar Ridge Trail.)

1:30 - On the Bobcat Trail shortly before it rejoins the Cougar Ridge Trail

1:30 – On the Bobcat Trail shortly before it rejoins the Cougar Ridge Trail

At 3.8 miles from the start, the Bobcat Trail reaches a T-junction. Turn right and go a short distance to rejoin the Cougar Ridge Trail, which you will follow back to the parking area.

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.

Holcomb Canyon Loop (Devil’s Punchbowl)


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Geology in the Devil's Punchbowl

Geology in the Devil’s Punchbowl

Geology and foliage, Holcomb Canyon

Geology and foliage, Holcomb Canyon

Holcomb Canyon Loop (Devil’s Punchbowl)

  • Location: High desert near Pearblossom.  From Pearblossom, take highway 138 east to Longview Road.  Go right and after 2.5 miles, go left on Fort Tejon.  Drive 2.1 miles to Valyermo Road and turn right (south).  Go 2.9 miles and make a right on Big Rock Creek Road.  Drive 0.7 miles (0.2 miles past the Angeles National Forest sign) and park in either of two dirt turnouts on opposite sides of the road.  A National Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 per day or $30 for the year) is required for parking here. Click here to purchase.
  • Agency:  Angeles National Forest/Santa Clara & Mojave Rivers Ranger District
  • Distance: 4.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 750 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Terrain, navigation, trail condition)
  • Suggested time: 3 hours
  • Best season:  October – May
  • USGS topo map: “Valyermo”
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat; bug spray
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot & Afield Los Angeles County
  • More information:  Photos of Holcomb Canyon and other area trails here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 8
0:00 - View of Big Rock Creek from the parking area (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – View of Big Rock Creek from the parking area (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This is truly a hiker’s hike: in addition to the unique geology of the Devil’s Punchbowl, it features canyon scrambling, mountain views and a wide variety of plant life, including manzanitas, yuccas, cacti, pines, sycamores and oaks.  Fall colors here can be exceptional.   As far as off-trail hikes go, this one isn’t too difficult, but there are some definite challenges of terrain and navigation for which all hikers should be prepared.  If you have never done an off-trail hike, go with someone who has.

0:08 - Descent to Big Rock Creek (times are approximate)

0:08 – Descent to Big Rock Creek (times are approximate)

The loop begins easily enough, by walking 0.3 miles south on Big Rock Creek Road. After reaching another parking area, look for several use trails leading down to Big Rock Creek, which you cross on one of multiple makeshift jetties of rocks. On the other side, turn left and continue heading south along a semblance of a trail, through the woods, and reach the rocky wash of Holcomb Canyon.

0:20 - Heading up Holcomb Canyon

0:20 – Heading up Holcomb Canyon

Bear right and begin heading south, following the rocky stream bed. At 1.1 miles from the start, stay right as a tributary canyon comes in from the left. (Generally speaking, Holcomb is rocky, while the numerous smaller tributaries aren’t.) You pass by a giant tower of volcanic rock, part of the Punchbowl Formation. The canyon pinches in tightly, requiring some scrambling, before opening up.

0:45 - Giant sandstone outcrop; pass beneath it deeper into Holcomb Canyon

0:45 – Giant sandstone outcrop; pass beneath it deeper into Holcomb Canyon

You continue south, reaching a sharp right turn at 1.4 miles where the canyon enters a pleasantly wooded area. At 1.8 miles, you reach a junction with a tributary. Here you can continue up the main canyon or take the tributary to the Punchbowl Trail. Turn right and head west, passing through a grove of oaks and a canyon wash before climbing 250 feet to a saddle (2.1 miles.)

1:05 - Hooking up with the South Fork Trail (turn right/west)

1:05 – Hooking up with the South Fork Trail (turn right/west)

At the saddle, you get a great view of the Punchbowl and the high desert beyond. This spot represents a sort of point of no return; the most challenging terrain of the hike is on the descent into the unnamed canyon that neighbors Holcomb. If you’re not up for an adventure, consider turning around at this point.

For those with off-trail and canyoning experience who want to complete the hike as a loop, look for a faint, overgrown trail heading steeply downhill.  Hiking poles may be helpful, although some hikers may find them cumbersome in the close quarters of the ravine.  Follow the slope into the canyon, where your progress will be blocked by a large boulder. Slip to the left of the boulder, passing by a large oak. A smaller tributary canyon comes in at this point. Continue heading northwest, down the main canyon.

1:15 - Beginning the steep descent from the saddle, past the bushes

1:15 – Beginning the steep descent from the saddle, past the bushes

For the next half mile or so the going is fairly easy; other than the occasional fallen tree or pile of rocks to negotiate, it’s basically like a single-track trail. However, at 2.8 miles, you’ll reach the most challenging obstacle of the entire hike as you arrive at the edge of a 20-foot precipice. Hikers without much in the way of technical climbing skills or gear (such as the author) will need to crab-walk along the right (east) side of the canyon, along a rock that slopes downward.  (If you are using hiking poles and find that they’re in the way, throw them down to the bottom.)   You’ll reach a gap in the rocks where you can grab a hold on the other side and lower yourself back down to the floor of the canyon.

1:25 - Slip around the left side of the rock into the confluence of the two canyons

1:25 – Slip around the left side of the rock into the confluence of the  canyons

Leaving the cliff behind you continue north for 0.6 miles before arriving at a smaller cliff. Here, you can work your way around the right side more easily than before, dropping back into the canyon and continuing your descent.

1:40 - View of the cliff from below: Climb along the rock ledge, grab the large rock in the foreground and hope for the best

1:40 – View of the cliff from below: Climb along the rock ledge, grab the large rock in the foreground and hope for the best

At 3.9 miles, you join Punchbowl Canyon. Bear right and follow the canyon for 0.2 miles, where you will see a rock with graffiti. (There’s sadly a lot of trash and graffiti in the lower areas of this hike, but in some cases, such as this one, it can help with navigation.) A trail has been pounded out by hikers; follow it out of the canyon to Big Rock Creek. Your last task is to re-cross the creek (as before, look for the rock jetties). This brings you back to Big Rock Creek Road and your car.

2:15 - Smaller cliff; scoot along the ledge seen on the right and descend back into the canyon

2:15 – Smaller cliff; scoot along the ledge seen on the right and descend back into the canyon

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.

2:50 - Easiest location to climb out of Punchbowl Canyon, heading back to Big Rock Creek and the road

2:50 – Easiest location to climb out of Punchbowl Canyon, heading back to Big Rock Creek and the road

San Pasqual Hiking Trails (South)


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Looking west from near the top of the eastern fork

Looking west from near the top of the eastern fork

View of Highway 78 from near the top of the western fork

View of Highway 78 from near the top of the western fork

San Pasqual Hiking Trails (South)

  • Location: East of Escondido.  From I-15, take the 78 Freeway east for 1.5 miles, where it becomes Lincoln Parkway, then Lincoln Avenue.  At 0.8 miles from the end of the freeway, turn right on Ash St.  After a mile, Ash St. becomes Highway 78.  Continue for 10.2 more miles (5.3 miles past the Wild Animal Park entrance.)  The parking area and trailhead are on the right.
  • Agency: San Dieguito River Park
  • Distance: 6.2 miles
  • Elevation gain:  1,700 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain, distance)
  • Suggested time: 3 hours
  • Best season: November – May
  • USGS topo map: San Pasqual
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield San Diego County
  • More information:  here; trip description here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 7

Known also as South Clevenger Canyon, this Y-shape hike climbs from Highway 78 up a steep hillside, providing a good workout and panoramic views of the area.  The southern half of the San Pasqual/Clevenger Canyon trail network has two main routes, both of which are worth exploring given the time and energy.  The directions and time figures for this post assume that you will be taking the shorter western fork first, although it’s arbitrary.

0:00 - South trailhead (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – South trailhead (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

From the parking area on Highway 78, follow the signs to the Clevenger Canyon trailhead and begin a steady ascent, taking care to avoid the switchbacks that have been cut off. After a little more than half a mile, you reach the split between the two trails. The right fork continues its steady ascent, taking in a nice aerial perspective of the highway and the San Pasqual Valley. A few spots can be muddy or slippery after rain, and the trail cuts close to the edge of the hillside, so exercise caution.

0:14 - Junction of the two main forks of the South San Pasqual Trails (times are approximate)

0:14 – Junction of the two main forks of the South San Pasqual Trails (times are approximate)

After making a few switchbacks, you reach the first of two vista points, about 1.4 miles from the trailhead (and almost 900 feet higher). Here you get a great view to the west and north, including the ocean if you’re lucky. The trail continues to another slightly higher vista point, although this last segment is somewhat overgrown and rocky. A sign clearly marks the end of the trail.

0:37 - View from the first overlook on the west trail

0:37 – View from the first overlook on the west trail

Heading back down to the junction, turn right on the eastern trail. You enter an attractive woodland (a tributary of Santa Ysabel Creek) which unfortunately is the only shade on the hike. Climbing up from the creek, you make your way southeast, reaching a sharp left turn (about 3.2 miles from the start.) You follow the top of a ridge, passing by a dome-like boulder on the left side of the trail. The trail dips slightly, reaching a junction where you will stay left and head toward a pointy knoll.

0:42 - View from the second overlook on the west trail

0:42 – View from the second overlook on the west trail

At 4 miles from the start, you reach another junction; this is the beginning of a small loop around the tip of the knoll, the turnaround point, where you get some nice views to the east, with the Cuyamaca Mountains and Volcan distant, and toward Boden Canyon in the north. You can sit among the jumbled boulders and enjoy the panorama before heading back down.

1:10 - Oaks in a tributary canyon on the eastern trail

1:10 – Oaks in a tributary canyon on the eastern trail

In case you were wondering, the San Pasqual Valley was the site of an 1846 Mexican-American War battle. Farther west on Highway 78, the San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park commemorates the event.  You can also explore the trails on the north side of the highway (half a mile east of the south trailhead), although they are not as well maintained as these ones.

1:35 - Following the ridge on the eastern trail (turn left at the junction)

1:35 – Following the ridge on the eastern trail (turn left at the junction)

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.

1:50 - Looking east from the end of the eastern trail

1:50 – Looking east from the end of the eastern trail

Reino Road to Twin Ponds (Dos Vientos Open Space)


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Boney Mountain from Dos Vientos Open Space

Fall colors in the Dos Vientos Open Space

Reino Road to Twin Ponds (Dos Vientos Open Space)

        • Location: Southwest of Thousand Oaks.  From L.A., take Highway 101 to the Borchard Road exit.  Turn right and go 1.8 miles to Reino Road.  Turn left and go 0.9 miles, looking for a parking area on the right (just past Dunaway Drive; if you hit Lynn Road, you’re about 0.2 miles too far.)  From Ventura, take Highway 101 to the Wendy Drive exit.  Turn left on Wendy and go 0.8 miles to Borchard.  Turn right and go 0.5 miles to South Reino.  Turn left and go about a mile to the parking area.
        • Agency: Conejo Open Space Foundation
        • Distance: 8 miles
        • Elevation gain: 1,300 feet
        • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (distance, elevation gain)
        • Suggested time: 3.5 hours
        • Best season:  October – May; parking lot open daily until 4pm
        • USGS topo map: Thousand Oaks
        • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
        • More information:  Here; trail map here; Everytrail report here
        • Rating: 6
0:00 - Trail head from the parking area (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Trail head from the parking area (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This hike explores the western end of the land overseen by the Conejo Open Space Foundation.  Stringing several trails together, the route threads its way in between and around residential neighborhoods.  The rating of “6″ may be raised in the future; as of this writing, the hiking experience this trail provides suffers from the noise of housing construction and the latter part of the route is recovering from the recent Springs Fire.  If there have been recent rains, the twin ponds make a nice destination; if the weather has been hot and dry, they might seem anti-climatic after a four mile hike. All that being said, however, this trail offers a good workout with some great views of the northwestern Santa Monica Mountains and the Thousand Oaks area; on clear days, you can see the ocean.

0:25 - Bench with a iew of the Santa Monicas (times are approximate)

0:24 – Bench with a iew of the Santa Monicas (times are approximate)

From the parking area, follow the Potrero Ridge Trail as it ascends a series of switchbacks. (Don’t get too excited about the large oak trees at the bottom of the hill; there is hardly any shade on the hike.) Stay straight as trails branch off to the right. You curve around the side of the hill, heading briefly south, arriving at a bench where you can enjoy a nice view of the Satwiwa/Point Mugu area. You continue to a split; the two trails soon rejoin (the right fork is a little steeper, so if you want to conserve energy, head left, slightly downhill.)

0:31 - Crossing Las Brisas

0:31 – Crossing Las Brisas

Shortly after the trails rejoin, you reach the first of two street crossings: Via Las Brisas (1.2 miles.) There is no crosswalk or traffic signal, but traffic is likely to be light. On the opposite side, continue your hike on the Sierra Vista Trail. You soon arrive at a pair of junctions, where you will head left and then right.

0:35 - Left turn at the first junction past Las Brisas

0:35 – Left turn at the first junction past Las Brisas

At about 1.7 miles, you reach a paved service road. Bear left and follow it a few yards, looking for the continuation of the trail on the left side. You continue to follow the trail which drops down to meet Rancho Dos Vientos Drive, just south of the entrance to a gated community.

0:36 - Right turn almost immediately after

0:36 – Right turn almost immediately after

Crossing Rancho Dos Vientos (again, no stop light or crosswalk but traffic should be sparse), look for the Vista Del Mar Trail. Briefly head right and cross back through a metal fence. The beginning of the Vista Del Mar Trail is less than auspicious, passing through what looks like a vacant lot, but the trail continues west, leaving the road behind.

0:47 - Trail leaving the service road

0:47 – Trail leaving the service road

The trail leads around the back of a housing development. At 3.5 miles, another bench provides great views toward the west, past the end of Point Mugu State Park and toward the coastal plains of Ventura and Oxnard. Continuing along toward Twin Ponds, you pass through an area heavily burned in the Springs Fire, resembling Serrano Canyon and the homestead site nearby in Point Mugu State Park. A few trails branch off to the right; you can take any one of these and end up at the ponds, but the quickest and easiest way is to stay on the main trail.

1:00 - Beginning of the Vista Del Mar trail

1:00 – Beginning of the Vista Del Mar trail

At 3.8 miles you reach a T-junction. Turn right (left is likely to be gated) and head downhill, arriving at the ponds. It used to be possible to walk out onto a bridge to get a better look at the ponds, but the structure was damaged in the fire and is unsafe. Walking up the hill a little ways past the bridge provides nice views of the larger pond.

1:24 -Western view from the bench

1:24 -Western view from the bench

From here, you can either turn around and retrace your steps, or if you have time, you can continue, eventually looping back toward the Dos Vientos Open Space, creating a loop hike. You can visit the COSF’s Dos Vientos page here to get some ideas for variations on the route.

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.

1:45 - Upper pond, turnaround point

1:45 – Upper pond, turnaround point


Deep Creek Hot Springs/West Approach


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Upper pool, Deep Creek Hot Springs

Upper pool, Deep Creek Hot Springs

View from the Pacific Crest Trail en route to Deep Creek

View from the Pacific Crest Trail en route to Deep Creek

Deep Creek Hot Springs/West Approach

      • Location:  Western San Bernardino Mountains north of Silverwood Lake and south of Hesperia.   From I-15, take the Main St. exit and head east for a total of 12 miles.  Main St. becomes Arrowhead Lake Road.  At 12 miles, turn left on an unsigned spur, Saddle Dike Embankment on some maps.  (If you reach Highway 173 you’ve come too far.)  Park on the spur before the metal gate.  From the north, take I-15 to Highway 18.  Turn right and go a mile to Hesperia Road.  Turn right and go 4.7 miles to Bear Valley Road.  Turn left and go 1.3 miles to Peach Ave.  Turn right and go 4 miles to Main St.  Turn left (Main St. becomes Arrowhead Lake Road in half a mile) and go 5.2 miles to the unsigned Saddle Dike Embankment spur on the left.
      • Agency: San Bernardino National Forest/Arrowhead Ranger Station
      • Distance: 12.6 miles
      • Elevation gain: 900 feet
      • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (distance)
      • Suggested time: 6 hours
      • Best season: October – May
      • USGS topo map: Lake Arrowhead
      • Recommended gear:  sun hat;  sunblock
      • More information: Trip reports here and here (starting from a slightly different point) Everytrail report here
      • Rating: 7
0:00 - Trailhead off of Lake Arrowhead Road (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Trailhead off of Lake Arrowhead Road (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

If you want to see Deep Creek’s famous hot springs but don’t want to deal with the fees or dirt roads required to access them from Bowen Ranch or the steep descent and descent on the Bradford Ridge Path, this approach from the west is worth a look.  It’s the longest of the routes to the hot springs, but the grade is moderate and the trail offers nice views of Deep Creek, the San Bernardino and San Gabriel Mountains.  There’s an unfortunate amount of trash and graffiti, and hikers should be reminded that Deep Creek Hot Springs is popular with nudists. There are a few pockets of woodland on the trail but for the most part the route is exposed.

0:25 - Interpretive plaques on the Pacific Crest Trail (times are approximate)

0:25 – Interpretive plaques on the Pacific Crest Trail (times are approximate)

From the parking area, walk around or through the gate. The first mile-plus is on a paved walkway and a dam that crosses Deep Creek. At the far side of the dam, head right and descend to a dirt lot where you meet the Pacific Crest Trail. Interpretive plaques describe some of the wildlife in the area, such as the rare Western Arroyo Toad.

0:31 - Hard right at the top of the sitchbacks, heading east on the Pacific Crest Trail (ignore the fire breaks)

0:31 – Hard right at the top of the switchbacks on the PCT

Follow the P.C.T. as it ascends 200 feet in 0.3 miles. A few switchbacks have been cut and some fire breaks run down the hill, but you can follow the P.C.T. by keeping an eye out for its characteristic rounded triangle markers. At the top of the ridge, make a hairpin right turn and begin heading east to Deep Creek.

The trail is more or less level for the next 2.5 miles as it follows the north rim of the canyon carved by the creek.  It cuts pretty close to the edge of the cliff, but except for one or two tricky spots, the terrain is easy to negotiate, and in several places a rock wall separates hikers from the drop.

1:45 - The footbridge crossing Deep Creek

1:45 – The footbridge crossing Deep Creek

At 4.1 miles from the start, you reach a bridge that crosses the creek. On the south side, you make a few switchbacks and start ascending at a steadier pace. At 5 miles, you enter a pleasant grove of trees, but be careful of poison oak. This is the confluence of Kinley Creek and Deep Creek.

2:10 - Shade at the confluence of Kinley Creek and Deep Creek

2:10 – Shade at the confluence of Kinley Creek and Deep Creek

Leaving the wooded area, you climb to a high point at 5.8 miles. The P.C.T. rounds a bend and starts its descent. On the opposite side of Deep Creek, you may notice the route from Bowen Ranch descending the hillside. You drop about 250 feet, passing by the intersection with the Bradford Ridge Path, and at 6.3 miles, you reach the hot springs. You can soak your feet in the warm waters before making the long trip back.

2:30 - Top of the ridge; follow the P.C.T. to the left and downhill

2:30 – Top of the ridge; follow the P.C.T. to the left and downhill

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.

3:00 - Lower pool, Deep Creek Hot Springs

3:00 – Lower pool, Deep Creek Hot Springs

Lower Monroe/Poopout Hill Loop (Big Dalton Canyon)


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View of the San Gabriel Valley from the Poopout Hill Trail

View of the San Gabriel Valley from the Poopout Hill Trail

Oaks on the Lower Monroe Truck Trail

Oaks on the Lower Monroe Truck Trail

Lower Monroe/Poopout Hill Loop (Big Dalton Canyon)

  • Location: Angeles National Forest foothills north of Glendora.  From L.A. and points west, take I-210 to Grand Avenue.  Head north on Grand Avenue for 2.2 miles and turn right on Sierra Madre.  Go 2 miles and turn left on Glendora Mountain Road.  In 0.6 miles, park on the left side of the road in a dirt turnout just past the intersection with Big Dalton Canyon.  From San Bernardino/Riverside, take I-210 to Lone Hill.  Turn right on Lone Hill, go a mile and turn left on Foothill.  Go 0.5 miles and turn right on Valley Center.  Go 0.8 miles and turn left on Sierra Madre.  Make a quick right on Glendora Mountain Road and go 0.6 miles to the parking area.
  • Agency: City of Glendora/Angeles National Forest
  • Distance: 3.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 800 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time:  2 hours
  • Best season: Year-round
  • USGS topo map:  Glendora
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles
  • More information: Park map here; description of the Lower Monroe Truck Trail here; Every Trail report here
  • Rating: 7
0:00 - Start of the hike, Glendora Mountain Road (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Start of the hike, Glendora Mountain Road (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This enjoyable hike combines city streets, single-track trail, fire road and ultimately a very steep descent, providing nice variety and seclusion just a short drive from the busy San Gabriel Valley. It can be done as described here, as a point-to-point with a short shuttle or perhaps as a longer hike, continuing along the Monroe Truck Trail to Summit 2760 and beyond.

0:21 - Beginning of the Lower Monroe Truck Trail (times are approximate)

0:21 – Beginning of the Lower Monroe Truck Trail (times are approximate)

You start with a pleasant, if not terribly interesting, 3/4 of a mile on Glendora Mountain Road. While the shoulder is narrow, car traffic is likely to be light (although you’ll probably see quite a few cyclists.) As the road makes a hairpin turn to the left, cross it and look for the signed Lower Monroe Truck Trail. Truck Trail is somewhat of a misnomer as the route is a single-track. The hike instantly becomes more scenic as you work your way through the wooded canyon.At 1.4 miles, a short spur leads to an abandoned water tank with some graffiti that I will forgive because it doesn’t interfere with the beauty of the hike, and because it displays a certain wit (but because NHLA is a family blog, I cannot report what the graffiti says.)

0:45 - Beginning the ascent from the canyon

0:48 – Beginning the ascent from the canyon

Shortly afterward, you make a sharp right turn and begin your ascent from the canyon. You get nice views of the San Gabriel Valley as you make your way along the west-facing slope. At 3.1 miles, you reach a saddle where the Monroe Truck Trail continues uphill and the signed Mystic Canyon Trail heads downhill. Mystic Canyon is a slightly longer alternative route, descending a mile to Big Dalton Canyon Road, where a half-mile walk will bring you back to the parking area. This route, however, descends on the uber-steep Poopout Hill Trail. Take a few minutes to enjoy the view and make sure your legs are rested before beginning this stretch.

1:30 - Beginning the steep descent of Poopout Hill

1:30 – Beginning the steep descent of Poopout Hill

The Poopout Hill Trail is an unsigned firebreak that branches off to the right, just before the Mystic Canyon sign. You make a short but steep descent, a brief climb and another steep descent before the trail levels out for a little while. The last 0.3 miles, however, drop nearly 500 feet – requiring hiking hiking poles, or perhaps the use of the “fifth limb.” Not helping is the fact that the trail is loose and washed out in spots.After navigating down the grade, you are deposited back at the corner of Glendora Mountain Road and Big Dalton Canyon. Cross the street to return to the parking area.

1:50 - Completing the loop at the bottom of Poopout Hill, Glendora Mountain Road

1:50 – Completing the loop at the bottom of Poopout Hill, Glendora Mountain Road

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.


Ernest E. Debs Regional Park


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View of the San Gabriels and San Fernando Valley from Debs Park

View of the San Gabriels and San Fernando Valley from Debs Park

Oaks in Debs Park

Oaks in Debs Park

Ernest E. Debs Regional Park

    • Location:  Audubon Center, 4700 N. Griffin Ave, Los Angeles.  From downtown L.A., take the 110 Parkway north to Avenue 43.  Turn right and go a short distance to Griffin Ave.  Turn left and go 0.4 miles to the Audubon Center entrance.  From Pasadena, take the 110 Parkway south to Avenue 52.  Turn left on Avenue 52, which becomes Griffin Ave.  The park entrance is on the left at 0.6 miles.
    • Agency:  L.A. City Parks & Recreation
    • Distance: 2.2 miles
    • Elevation gain: 600 feet
    • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
    • Difficulty rating: PG
    • Best season: October – May
    • USGS topo map:  Burbank
    • Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat
    • More information:  here; Yelp page here; trip report (different, longer route) here; Everytrail report here
    • Rating: 5
0:00 - Parking lot at the Audubon Center (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Parking lot at the Audubon Center (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

If you think that downtown L.A. hiking begins and ends with Griffith Park, you might want to check out Ernest E. Debs Park.  Although it’s less than a tenth the size of Griffith Park and only about half the size of Elysian Fields Park, it has as nice variety of hiking trails and provides a surprising amount of seclusion.  On clear days, you get great views of downtown L.A., the Valley, the San Gabriel Mountains and more.

0:02 - Following the trail behind the Audubon Center (times are approximate)

0:02 – Following the trail behind the Audubon Center (times are approximate)

The network of trails running throughout the park includes paved roads, fire roads, single tracks and unofficial use trails and firebreaks. The route described here is a short but rigorous loop, easy to follow, taking in some of the park’s best scenery. You can easily add to it or shorten it as you see fit. Since no part of the park is very far from civilization, it can be a nice place to wander around without having to worry about getting seriously lost.

0:09 - Abandoned car

0:09 – Abandoned car

From the parking area, head toward the Audubon Center (a nice stop, with several interpretive displays) and follow a trail leading around the back side of the play area. The trail immediately enters a canyon that feels surprisingly secluded, shaded by black walnut trees. The trails soon split up and you can take either, although the left route is shorter.

You pass by the remains of an old car on the right side of the trail, and then the trails rejoin each other at a T-junction (0.3 miles.) Turn left and begin a steep climb out of the canyon, rising about 200 feet in just over a tenth of a mile. Some parts of the trail are quite loose so take caution.

0:18 - Left turn at the top of the steep climb

0:18 – Left turn at the top of the steep climb

The trail ends at another T-junction, where you’ll head left. You follow a ridge, with nice views of L.A. on the left and the Valley on the right. After a brief ascent, you descend to a junction (0.6 miles.)

0:24 - Downtown L.A. skyline before the first descent

0:24 – Downtown L.A. skyline before the first descent

Take a hard right, continue descending and then start climbing again, steadily though not as steeply as before. The fire road gains about 200 feet in 0.4 miles, reaching a paved road at the top of the ridge. Take a left and walk to a shaded area where you can rest on some benches. You’ve come 1.2 miles at this point.

After catching your breath, head back down the paved road and continue along the fire road, descending on the east side of the ridge. Stay left at the next two junctions (at the second, at 1.5 miles from the start, you get a nearly aerial view of the 110 Parkway below.)

0:40 - Shade area at the top of the hill

0:40 – Shade area at the top of the hill

The trail continues to a 4-way junction. The left and center forks both head back to the parking lot, but the left route stays farther from the freeway. You ascend briefly before taking a right on a trail which brings you back down to the parking area, completing the loop.

0:55 - Bird's eye view from the second junction on the descent

0:55 – Bird’s eye view from the second junction on the descent

In case you were wondering, Ernest Debs was a former politician who served at the state, city and county level. He died in 2002 at age 98.

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.

1:05 - Four way junction near the bottom of the hill (left or center gets you back to the parking lot)

1:05 – Four way junction near the bottom of the hill (left or center gets you back to the parking lot)


Lizard Rock via Hill Canyon


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Sunset from Lizard Rock

Sunset from Lizard Rock

Looking south toward the Santa Monica Mountains from Lizard Rock

Looking south toward the Santa Monica Mountains from Lizard Rock

Lizard Rock via Hill Canyon

      • Location: Northwest of Thousand Oaks.  From Highway 101, take Moorpark Road north for 5.5 miles.  At a four-way intersection, stay straight to get on Santa Rosa Road.  Go 3.7 miles and turn left on Hill Canyon Road (signed for Santa Rosa Regional Park).  Go half a mile and park in the dirt lot on the right side of the road.  From Highway 23, take the Tierra Rejada Road exit and head west for 0.5 miles.  Turn left on Moorpark Road, go 1.4 miles and turn right on Santa Rosa and follow it to the park.  Note: As of September 10, 2013, a moratorium has been placed on park fees (previously $2 per car on weekdays, $4 on weekends) so parking is free.  Check the Santa Rosa Park link below for up to date information.
      • Agency: Conejo Open Space Foundation/Santa Rosa Park
      • Distance: 2,4 miles
      • Elevation gain: 900 feet
      • Difficulty Rating: PG
      • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
      • Best season: October-May (open daily from 7:30 am to between 5 and 8 pm depending on season)
      • USGS topo map: Newbury Park
      • Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat
      • More information: Video of the beginning of the hike here; Everytrail report here; Trail map here
      • Rating: 7

0:00 - Trail head, Hill Canyon Road (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Trail head, Hill Canyon Road (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

Lizard Rock is Wildwood Park’s second most famous landmark, after Paradise Falls.   The 932-foot outcrop can be reached by several possible routes starting from the park’s main entrance, but in this post we’ll look at a less traveled, challenging and scenic approach from the west, starting at Hill Canyon.

0:15 - Looking down into the canyon from one of the switchbacks (times are approximate)

0:15 – Looking down into the canyon from one of the switchbacks (times are approximate)

A single-track trail starts on the east side of the road, directly across from the entrance to the parking area. (The “official” trail beginning is a little farther down the road, but since cars aren’t allowed past the parking lot, you would have to walk there, so you can save some time by cutting across.) The single-track soon meets the main trail. Turn left and begin a steep series of switchbacks, gaining about 550 feet 3/4 of a mile. The good news is that as you climb you get better and better views, in particular Hill Canyon and Boney Mountain to the south.

0:20 - Bench for some well deserved relaxation

0:20 – Bench for some well deserved relaxation

At 3/4 of a mile, you reach a saddle where you can get some well-earned rest on a bench, enjoying a nice view of the park to the east. The trail continues ascending briefly before beginning a descent. You pass by an unofficial trail heading down into the canyon and soon begin climbing, soon reaching a Y-junction (1 mile). Bear right and begin a steep ascent on a trail that is a little overgrown in places but overall pretty easy to follow. In 0.2 miles and 200 vertical feet, you arrive on a summit. Head left and find Lizard Rock, an outcrop that is pretty easy to climb.

0:23 - Descent to the saddle past the bench

0:23 – Descent to the saddle past the bench

From Lizard Rock, you get a 360-degree view that includes Mt. Clef and the rest of the park to the east, the Santa Monica Mountains to the south and, if visibility is good, the ocean and Santa Cruz Island to the east. It’s a particularly good place to watch the sunset. You can return via the same route, or extend your hike on Wildwood Park’s network of trails.

0:27 - The split: Head right and uphill toward Lizard Rock

0:27 – The split: Head right and uphill toward Lizard Rock

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.

0:40 - Looking down from just below Lizard Rock

0:40 – Looking down from just below Lizard Rock

Thomas Mountain via Ramona Trail


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View of the Desert Divide and Garner Valley from the Ramona Trail

View of the Desert Divide and Garner Valley from the Ramona Trail

Cedars on the northern flank of Thomas Mountain

Cedars, black oaks and pines on the northern flank of Thomas Mountain

Thomas Mountain via Ramona Trail

  • Location: San Jacinto Mountains on Highway 74, 8.3 miles southeast of the intersection with Highway 243 and 28.4 miles west of Palm Springs.   The trailhead is located in a large lot signed for the Ramona Trail on the southwest side of the road (left if you’re coming from Palm Springs; right if from Idyllwild.)  A National Forest Service adventure pass ($5 for a day or $30 for a year) is required. Click here to purchase.
  • Agency: San Bernardino National Forest/Idyllwild Ranger Station
  • Distance: 12.7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2,400 feet
  • Suggested time: 6.5 hours
  • Difficulty Rating: R (Elevation gain, distance)
  • Best season:  Year-round (depending on conditions)
  • USGS topo map: “Anza”
  • Recommended gear: sun hat; sun block; insect repellent; hiking poles
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire
  • More information: Trip report here (slightly different route); here (shorter hike from Toolbox Springs Campground); Summit Post page here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 8
0:00 - Ramona Trailhead (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Ramona Trailhead (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

The long ridge of Thomas Mountain rises above Garner Valley to the south of the San Jacinto Mountains.  The hike is like a longer version of nearby Cahuilla Mountain.  There are a few parts of this lengthy trip that some might find a little monotonous, but you have several options for climbing Thomas: the loop described here, a straight out-and-back or a point to point hike with a vehicle left on top or at the base of Thomas Mountain Road, farther northwest up Highway 74.  If you’re short on time, Toolbox Springs, 3.5 miles up the Ramona Trail, is a worthwhile goal.

0:03 - Bear left and begin the ascent (times are approximate)

0:03 – Bear left and begin the ascent (times are approximate)

From the parking area, follow the Ramona Trail west, staying left at a fork with a dirt road. The trail soon begins its ascent, making switchbacks up the side of the mountain. As the steadily graded trail climbs, you get nice views of Garner Valley, the San Jacintos and the Santa Rosas. A few pines start poking up above the ribbonwoods as you ascend and you may be surprised to hear the sound of windchimes, hanging from one of them.

1:00 - Windchimes on a pine

1:00 – Windchimes on a pine

At about 2.5 miles, the trail becomes shaded by pines, black oaks and cedars. You continue your ascent, arriving at another fork (3.5 miles) where you may notice a fallen sign with the trail’s name misspelled, “ROMONA.” Take a hard right (the left spur leads to Toolbox Springs) and soon you arrive at a dirt road (3.7 miles.)

1:42 Crossing the dirt road; single track continues on the opposite side

1:42 Crossing the dirt road; single track continues on the opposite side

The shortest route to the summit from here is to head left, but to make the hike a more interesting loop, stay straight on the single-track. You follow it around the side of the mountain for a pleasant 2.1 miles, alternating between the shade of the trees and open stretches where you get a nice view of the Desert Divide across the valley. Shortly before it meets with Thomas Mountain road, you climb to a field where you get a good look at San Jacinto Peak.

2:45 - View of San Jacinto from just before the junction with the road

2:45 – View of San Jacinto from just before the junction with the road

At 5.8 miles, you reach Thomas Mountain Road. Make a hard left and follow the road a quarter mile to a junction. Turn right on the spur that leads 0.4 miles to the summit. You pass a solitary communication antenna and reach the peak, where you can sit on the foundations of an old lookout tower and enjoy the view.  Part of it is blocked by the trees, but you still can see the Anza Valley and Cahuilla Mountain to the south and the San Jacinto and Desert Divide to the north.

2:50 - Hard left on Thomas Mountain Road

2:50 – Hard left on Thomas Mountain Road

To make the hike a loop, follow the spur back down to Thomas Mountain Road and head right, passing some campsites. The road descends through the pine woodland for 1.6 miles before reaching a junction. Turn left and continue your descent for 0.4 miles, arriving back at the junction with the Ramona Trail. Follow the single-track for 3.7 miles back down to the trail head.

3:05 - Welcome to Thomas Mountain (looking southwest)

3:05 – Welcome to Thomas Mountain (looking southwest)

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.

4:30 - After enjoying the summit and descending to the east on Thomas Mtn. Road, take a left on this spur to complete the loop back to the Ramona Trail.

4:30 – After enjoying the summit and descending to the east on Thomas Mtn. Road, take a left on this spur to complete the loop back to the Ramona Trail.

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