Hernandez Ranch (Peck Park)

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View of the Long Beach ports from Hernandez Ranch


Woodlands in Hernandez Ranch


Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Hernandez Ranch (Peck Park)

  • Location: San Pedro, on the corner of Upland Ave. and Dunn St.  From the end of I-110, take a right on Gaffey and an immediate left on Summerland Ave. Go half a mile and turn right on Leland Ave.  Go 0.2 miles and turn right on Upland.  Park on the corner of Upland and Dunn.
  • Agency: City of Los Angeles department of parks and recreation (Peck Park)
  • Distance: 0.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 150 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested  time: 30 minutes
  • Best season: Year-round
  • USGS topo map: San Pedro
  • More information: Peck Park site here; article about the reopening of Hernandez Ranch here
  • Rating: 3
Hernandez Ranch is a recently re-opened part of Peck Park in San Pedro, the main part of which is currently undergoing restoration.  The trails of Hernandez Ranch, including the short loop described here, are a pleasant surprise in an area not known for having much open outdoor space.  Hikers looking for a true wilderness experience will want to keep on looking, but for many, Hernandez Ranch is an enjoyable introduction to the outdoors and proof that many great trails in L.A. are right under our noses.

From the trailhead at the corner of Dunn and Upland, head left (the right trail, an option if you want to extend your trip, dips down into the canyon and comes out on the other end of Upland.) The trail follows the side of the neighborhood, providing nice views of the Long Beach port.

Soon you come to a split. Head downhill (right), cross the bridge and head left. The trail now becomes pleasantly secluded and quiet, especially considering the houses nearby. A short climb brings you to another bridge. You can extend the hike into Peck Park by walking on either side of the canyon, but to complete this loop, cross the bridge and turn left. You leave the wooded area and climb some more, taking in a nice aerial view of the ranch. Soon you reach the split, where you retrace your steps to the trail head.

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West Bluff & West Portal Loop (Ocean Trails Ecological Reserve)

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Aerial view from the West Portal Trail

Ocean view from the West Portal Trail

Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

West Bluff & West Portal Loop (Ocean Trails Ecological Reserve)

  • Location: On the south side of Palos Verdes Drive South, near the Trump golf course.  From the end of the I-110 freeway in San Pedro, take Summerland Ave. for a mile and turn left on Western.  Go 2 miles and turn right on 25th St.  Drive a total of 2.2 miles (25th becomes Palos Verdes Drive South) and turn left into the parking lot on the corner of Conqueror Drive.
  • Agency: Palos Verdes Land Conservancy (Ocean Trails Ecological Reserve)
  • Distance: 0.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 100 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 30 minutes
  • Best season: Year-round
  • USGS topo map: San Pedro
  • More information: here (scroll down to “Ocean Trails Ecological Reserve”)
  • Rating: 3
This short loop is an enjoyable and easy way to beat the heat.  It provides nice aerial views of the ocean and the trademark geology of the Palos Verdes Peninsula.  It can also be combined with other hikes in the area.

Start by heading west on the dirt road leading from the parking lot.  The beginning of the trip, which parallels Palos Verdes Drive South on one side and the golf course driving range on the other, may not seem that promising, but once you take a left and access the West Portal trail, you get some nice peace and quiet.  The trail heads down past a small overlook with benches and goes right up against the edge of the bluffs.   You get a nice view down into the canyons, and can see the cliffs of Abalone Cove to the right.

After a short distance, the trail heads back uphill through a somewhat overgrown brush and then draws up along the golf course.  Head left at the next junction and follow a dirt road back to the beginning of the loop, and then retrace your steps along Palos Verdes Drive South.

Mesa Lila Extension Trail (Henderson Canyon)

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On the Mesa Lila Extension Trail

Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Mesa Lila Extension Trail (Henderson Canyon)

  • Location: North Glendale.  From I-210, take the Pennsylvania Ave. exit and head south for 0.5 miles.  Just after the road bares right and becomes Honolulu Ave, take a right on Whiting Woods Road.  Take a quick left on El Lado Drive and a quick right on Mesa Lila Road.  Park at the end of Mesa Lila Road (note that there is no parking allowed between 7am and 4pm on Mondays).
  • Agency:  Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy
  • Distance: 1.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 250 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 30 minutes
  • Best season: Year round
  • USGS topo map:  Burbank
  • Recommended gear: sun hat
  • More information:  here
  • Rating: 2

The fire-road extension of residential Mesa Lila Road provides Glendale hikers with a quick, convenient workout.  This isn’t the place for solitude – the street noise is hard to ignore, as are the overhead power lines – but the scenery includes a nice mix of the Verdugo and San Gabriel Mountains, and the urban landscape of Glendale and Burbank.

From the end of Mesa Lila Road, head up the fire road into Henderson Canyon.  Stay left as a false trail branches off, and follow the road as it makes a steady ascent.  In half a mile, the trail makes a hairpin turn, ascends some more and levels out at a small clearing.  Here, a giant support beam helps hold up the power lines above.  If you don’t mind this, you’re sure to enjoy a panoramic view of the canyons below and the Verdugo Peaks above.

Like the nearby Oakmont Loop, this is a good trail to visit when summer heat makes hiking in the San Fernando Valley difficult.  For non-hikers or newbies, it’s a good introduction to the outdoor areas that are just beyond the edge  of  the suburbs.

San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary: South Loop

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Pond at the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary: South Loop

  • Location: 5 Riparian View, Irvine.   From the 405 Freeway, take the Jamboree exit.  Go south for 0.9 miles on Jamboree, turn left on Campus.  Drive a mile to University, make a U-turn and turn right on Riparian View, and follow the signs to the parking area.
  • Agency:  Sea and Sage Audubon Society
  • Distance: 1.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: Level
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Best season:  Year round
  • USGS topo map: “Tustin”
  • More information:  here
  • Rating: 2

Like the Madrona Marsh of Torrance, the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary offers a quick and convenient urban escape, where people can walk in nature and check out some marshlands and wildlife.  Although it’s hard to ignore the sounds of the nearby 405 freeway and Jamboree Road, the trees block out much of the urban landscape.

There are quite a few trails to choose from here.  The South Loop, which is 1.4 miles, tours a few of the sanctuary’s large ponds.  To get there, walk through the garden where interpretive plaques describe some of the wildlife in the area and provide interesting trivia (such as that bees in some way effect one out of every three bites of food we take.)

After strolling through the garden, you pick up the South Loop Trail.  It can be hiked in either direction.  Along the way, you pass several side trails that you can explore, although the main route should be obvious.  There area  few spots where the trees open and you can get a nice look at the ponds.  The South Loop circles ponds 1, 2 and 5, and passes by 3, before returning.  (You can pick up a map in the garden to follow your route, and check out some of the other trails in the park.)

It should come as no surprise that the sanctuary doesn’t present much of a wilderness experience, but for busy commuters who want to get out into nature on their lunch break or before or after work, it’s perfect.  Even veteran hikers should keep this trail in mind for beating the summer heat and getting their outdoor fix between bigger trips.

Gum Grove Park

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Super Macro Lens fun in Gum Grove Park

On the trail in Gum Grove Park

Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved.  Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability.  All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here.   Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Gum Grove Park

  • Location: Seal Beach.  From Pacific Coast Highway, go northeast (right if you’re coming from the south, left if from the north) on 5th St.  Take an immediate left on Coastline, a quick right on Catalina and a left on Avalon and drive to the end of the street.  The trail can also be accessed from the parking lot on Heron St. at Seal Beach Blvd.
  • Agency:  Los Cerritos Wetlands
  • Distance: 1.2 miles
  • Elevation gain Level – 100 feet
  • Suggested time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty rating: G
  • Best season: Year round
  • USGS topo map:  Seal Beach
  • More information: here; video of walking dogs in the park here
  • Rating: 1

Though it is not very well known outside the area, Gum Grove Park of Seal Beach is a popular destination for dog walking, bird watching and seeing springtime wildflowers.  Located between a residential neighborhood and an industrial area of Long Beach, the small park provides a nice, shady getaway.

From the parking area, you can head east on either a dirt fire road or, for a more enjoyable trip, on a single-track trail that leads under the trees.  The path splits several times, heading up the slight incline in some places and down toward the fire road in others, but all routes eventually join up again, so pick whichever you want.

After half a mile, the trail leaves the woods and comes to a split.  The main road continues toward the parking area off of Seal Beach Blvd., the turnaround point, but you can also extend your walk by visitin the Heron Pointe cultural center.  Here, interpretive plaques describe the history of the area.

Though it’s not a hike, per se, the nearby old town area of Seal Beach and its pier make a great stop either before or after visiting Gum Grove.   Hardcore veteran hikers will probably not need to treat Gum Grove as a “must do”, but for people who want to get their kids–or themselves–off the couch and out into nature, it’s an enjoyable and accessible place to do so.

Sycamore Canyon Park (Diamond Bar)

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Nature trail in Sycamore Canyon Park

Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Sycamore Canyon Park (Diamond Bar)

  • Location: Diamond Bar, on Diamond Bar Blvd. across from Steep Canyon Road.  From the 57/60 freeways, take the Grand Ave. exit.  Go southeast on Grand for a mile.  Turn left on Diamond Bar Blvd., go 0.4 miles and make a U-turn at the intersection with Steep Canyon Road.  The parking lot will be immediately on your right.  From Riverside, take the 60 freeway to Diamond Bar Blvd.  Go south for 1.4 miles and the entrance will be on your right.
  • Agency: River & Mountains Conservancy
  • Distance: 0.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 150 feet
  • Suggested time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty rating: G
  • Best season:  Year-round
  • USGS topo map: “San Dimas”
  • More information:  here
  • Rating: 2
Sycamore Canyon Park in Diamond Bar is a pleasant neighborhood park that happens to have a short but sweet hiking trail.  The trail can be accessed from the lower end of the park as well as from the upper end, as described here.From the parking lot, take the trail to a steep staircase heading down to the right.  At the bottom, continue along the path as it descends into the canyon.  The trail continues under oaks and sycamores, alongside a seasonal stream.  A nice viewing area with benches off to the right makes for a good place to stop and enjoy the scene.  The trail continues before emerging in the lower parking lot, near the main area of the park.

Of course, it’s hard not to wish that the trail was longer, but it just goes to show that when it comes to nature and outdoor spaces, a little bit is better than none.  Like other neighborhood trails, Sycamore Canyon is a great place to take young kids, and it makes for a nice, convenient walk after or before work, or even during a lunch break.  It can also easily be combined with the Steep Canyon Loop, which is just around the corner.

Galster Wilderness Park (West Covina)

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Black Walnut trees in Galster Wilderness Park

Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Galster Wilderness Park

  • Location: West Covina.  From I-10, take the Azusa Ave exit (highway 39) and head south for 1.7 miles.  Turn left on E. Aroma Drive and go 0.4 miles.  Park in the lot on the corner of Aroma Drive and Galster Way.  From highway 60, take the Azusa Ave. exit and go north for 3.7 miles.  Turn right on Aroma Drive.
  • Agency: San Gabriel Mountains Regional Conservancy
  • Distance: 1 mile
  • Elevation gain: 350 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 30 minutes
  • Best season: Year round
  • USGS topo map: Baldwin Park
  • More information: here
  • Rating: 3

Pint-sized (42 acres) Galster Wilderness Park is located on the slopes of the San Jose Hills, a range that runs parallel to the better-known Puente Hills to the south.  The park contains a few trails that can be strung together for a short but surprisingly challenging loop.  There is an unfortunate amount of trash and graffiti on the trail, but the thick cover of trees, including black walnuts, creates a sense of isolation from the nearby houses and traffic.

From the parking lot, follow the trail to a junction.  Head right on a paved path that ascends steeply.  The trail arrives at a building (indicated as “Family Camp” on the map found on the park website), and continues as a fire-road.  The grade becomes even steeper, and although short, it is sure to get calves burning.  The good news is that the views get better and better as you climb.

Soon the trail levels out and heads left.  (A short spur trail branches off to the right, but it’s overgrown and the view is blocked by a fence, so it’s not really worth exploring).  You start descending gradually and arrive at “Wilderness Camp”, a building that has been completely covered in graffiti, and pass by a small amphitheater.  The descent continues on the other side of the clearing, becoming quite steep and rugged.  Be careful as you make your descent through the woods, soon arriving at a four-way split.  Head right and descend to a fire road, where you will take a left.  Soon, the trail returns to the first  junction (look for the paved road on your left), and head straight, retracing your steps to the parking lot.

Incidentally, Galster Wilderness Park apparently has a history of ghost stories and weird happenings associated with it.  For more information on that, check out this article.

Quail Hill Loop

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Hills, sky and clouds on the Quail Hill Loop

Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Quail Hill Loop

  • Location: 34 Shady Canyon Drive, Irvine.  From the 405 freeway, take the Sand Canyon/Shady Canyon exit and drive south for 0.6 miles on Shady Canyon.  Go through the rotary and look for the trail head parking lot on the right.
  • Agency: Irvine Ranch Conservancy
  • Distance: 1.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 200 feet
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty rating: G
  • Best season:  Year-round
  • USGS topo map: Tustin
  • More information:  here
  • Rating: 2

Located right off the 405 freeway, the Quail Hill Loop is a convenient workout in the hills of Irvine.  Spring rains make the hills bright green, but the hike is certainly short enough to be considered year-round.   Keep in mind, however, that there is no shade on the trail.

From the parking lot, follow the signs for the loop trail.   Head right, toward the freeway, which unfortunately will be seen and heard throughout the trip.  You pass by some wetlands (this portion of the trail tends to be a little muddy following rainy periods, so be careful).

After about half a mile, the trail starts heading up hill, and the views of south Orange County, including the Santa Anas, open up.  On the way back, you can take a short detour to a viewing area.  Following this, a somewhat steep descent will take you back to the parking lot.

As suburban hiking trails go, the Quail Hill Loop is well worth a visit if you’re in the area.  It’s a perfect route for people who want to get into hiking but aren’t sure where to start, and veteran hikers should be aware of the trailhead across the street, which leads to Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.

Wilderness Glen (Mission Viejo Open Space)

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Wilderness Glen trail in Mission Viejo

Mallard in the creek, Wilderness Glen

Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Wilderness Glen (Mission Viejo Open Space)

  • Location: Corner of Noveno and Destello, Mission Viejo.  From I-5, head northeast on El Toro Road for 2.3 miles and turn right on Trabuco.  Go 1.1 miles and turn left on Los Alisos.  Go 0.6 miles and turn left on Via Noveno, and park on the corner of Via Noveno and Destello.
  • Agency: City of Mission Viejo
  • Distance: 1.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 150 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Best season: Year round
  • USGS topo map: El Toro
  • More information: here
  • Rating: 2

This is an enjoyable neighborhood trail that follows alongside a creek.  It’s a good walk to know about, especially for those who want a quick escape into nature and don’t have the time to drive all the way up into the mountains.

The entire trail runs about two miles, so the route described here can easily be extended.  With the exception of a small paved stretch, this section of the trial is entirely on dirt (much of the route is on a bike path).

From the corner of Destello and Noveno, head downhill on a dirt fire road and enter the quiet, wooded canyon.  Although you can see houses on the left and hear traffic from Los Alisos Blvd. on the right, the canyon still manages to have a nice, secluded feel.  At about half a mile in, the trail surface becomes paved, and shortly after, you cross Vista Del Lago.  Pick up the trail on the other side of the street (or if you like, you can take a detour to the right and get a closer look at the creek).

The trail continues, soon making a short and steep climb, during which nice views of the Santa Ana Mountains open up.  After reaching a high point, it starts to descend, finally reaching Del Lago School, the turnaround.  If you enjoyed the hike, you can continue south past Via Noveno on the bike path for another mile.

Hollywood Reservoir

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Hollywood Reservoir and Mt. Lee from the Mulholland Dam

Doves near Hollywood Reservoir

Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Hollywood Reservoir

  • Location: Hollywood Hills, corner of Lake Hollywood Drive and Montlake Drive.   Take highway 101 to the Barham Blvd. exit.  Turn right on Barham, drive 0.3 miles and turn right on Lake Hollywood Drive.  Take a quick left on Primera and a quick right onto La Suvida.  Drive a total of 0.6 miles (La Suvida becomes Lake Hollywood Drive) and park on the corner of Lake Hollywood Drive and Montlake.
  • Agency: City of Los Angeles
  • Distance: 4.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: Level
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 2 hours
  • Best season: Year round
  • USGS topo map: Burbank; Hollywood
  • More information: here
  • Rating: 3

For being as closely located as it is to Hollywood, this walk is pleasantly quiet.  The reservoir is mostly fenced in, unfortunately, but the views from the Mulholland Dam are excellent, and you can also get some pretty good looks at the Hollywood sign.  Recent landslides have blocked off the western side of the reservoir, but you can still walk around 2/3 of it and back for a nearly 5-mile trip.

From the end of Lake Hollywood Drive, head left (east) along Montlake, following the reservoir’s perimeter for 0.7 miles.  Cars are allowed here, but traffic is sparse, so as long as you stick to the path following the road you’ll be fine.  At the junction of Tahoe Drive, you pass through a chain fence and head onto the walkway that circles the reservoir.  Soon, you get your first looks at the Mulholland Dam, and after a mile and a half, you arrive there.  If you’ve been disappointed at having your view of the reservoir blocked by the fence, you will get what you want here as you walk out into the dam.  From this vantage point, you get a great look at the Hollywood Hills (including the sign) towering over the reservoir, and you can see downtown L.A. to the other side.

Compared to nearby Griffith Park or Temescal Canyon, the Hollywood Reservoir is a surprisingly quiet and peaceful place to get outdoors.   You will likely see a few other people here on the weekends, but the reservoir is still a relatively unknown tourist attraction.  Even folks visiting from out of town will find this place to be  nice spot to escape from the traffic of Hollywood and Sunset Boulevard.

Hilltop from Ernie Howlett Park

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View from the hilltop near Howlett Park

Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Hilltop from Ernie Howlett Park

  • Location: Ernie Howlett Park in Rolling Hills Estates, 25851 Hawthorne Blvd.   From I-110, take Pacific Coast Highway west for 3 miles and turn left on Crenshaw Blvd.  Go 0.5 miles and turn right on Rolling Hills Road.  Go 0.7 miles and turn left on Hawthorne, and the park is on your right.  From I-405, take Hawthorne Blvd. south for 6.6 miles.
  • Agency: City of Rolling Hills Estates
  • Distance: 1 mile
  • Elevation gain: 200 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Best season: Year round
  • USGS topo map: Torrance
  • More information: here
  • Rating: 3

Popular Ernie Howlett Park not only features baseball and tennis facilities, but it serves as a trail head for a number of bridle paths.  The short trip to a knoll known as the hill top provides some of the most panoramic views on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

From the parking lot, take the short Batting Cages Trail and take a right on the Howlett Trail.  Head downhill and at the bottom, head right (left leads to private property).  You make a brief climb and then come to a four-way split.  Head left through a chain link fence into a meadow, and then head right along a path that parallels the fence.  This trail makes a curving ascent and arrives at the hilltop, where you can see the ocean, the Santa Monica and San Gabriel mountains, and downtown L.A.

Beyond this point, the trail meets up with Via Pinzon, a residential street that serves as an alternate trailhead.  You can also access the Torrance Utility Fire Road, or extend your hike on the other end of the Howlett Trail, which crosses under Hawthorne Blvd. and meets up with the longer Palos Verdes Loop.  Whichever trails you decide to visit, the views from the hilltop are some of the best in the area.

Pelanconi Park (Anaheim)

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Greenery along the creek in Pelanconi Park

Dusk in Pelanconi Park

Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Pelanconi Park in Anaheim

  • Location: Anaheim Hills.  From the 91 freeway, take the Imperial Highway exit and head south (right if you’re coming from the west, left if from the east).  Go 0.3 miles and turn right on Santiago Canyon Road.  Go 0.2 miles and turn left on Avenida Margarita.  The park is on the left at 222 S. Avenida Margarita.
  • Agency: City of  Anaheim
  • Distance: 0.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 150 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 30 minutes
  • Best season: Year-round
  • USGS topo map: Orange
  • More information: here
  • Rating: 1

Located just behind a major shopping center and in between two housing tracts, Pelanconi Park offers a nice, convenient little getaway into nature.  The small park doesn’t have a whole lot of variety of trails, but it’s a nice place to get some fresh air and stretch your legs, and it certainly beats sitting in traffic on the nearby 91 freeway.

From the parking lot, head south into the park on a fire road.  Stay straight at the first junction and follow the trail alongside a creek.   You climb gradually, and after a few minutes, you can take a right and head into a picnic area.  Soon after, the fire road ends at Westridge Circle, a residential street.

The hike can be extended into a loop by walking through the picnic area and picking up a trail that leaves from the opposite end of the clearing.  However, this route is somewhat less scenic, and there’s an unfortunate amount of litter and graffiti, so most hikers will probably prefer to just retrace their steps.

Toyon Park to Blue Sky Lane in Anaheim Hills

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Bridle trail north of Toyon Park

Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Toyon Park to Blue Sky Lane in Anaheim Hills

  • Location: Toyon Park, Anaheim Hills.  From the 91 freeway, take the Weir Canyon/Yorba Linda Blvd. exit and head south on Weir Canyon Road for 1.2 miles.  The park is your right, at the corner of Running Springs and Weir Canyon.
  • Agency: City of Anaheim
  • Distance:  1.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 200 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time:  1 hour
  • Best season: Year round
  • USGS topo map: “Orange”
  • More information:  Toyon Park info here.
  • Rating: 3

In my pre-hiking days, Toyon Park was one of my favorite places to get some fresh air when I was  in the Anaheim Hills area.  Even as I enjoyed the panoramic views of the valley below and the hills above, I never noticed the bridle trail leading out of the backside of the park.

Said bridle trail switchbacks down hill before coming to a four-way split near Oak Canyon Drive.  Take a hard left and enter a short tunnel that goes under the street, soon emerging at the dead end of Quiet Canyon.  You continue into a wooded area, following the bridle trail uphill.  On your left are the houses of Country Glen Way; on your right is a canyon thick with oaks, with a seasonal stream running through it.

After about half a mile, the trail makes a few more switchbacks and ascends to meet Blue Sky Lane, the turnaround point for this hike.  However, you can easily expand the trip by taking a right on Blue Sky, following it to a gated community and picking up another bridle trail on the left side of the road.  You can also follow the trail back past Toyon Park and descend into another wooded canyon, eventually ending up at Serrano Drive.

Nature Loop in the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve

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Dusk in the Back Bay of Newport Beach

On the boardwalk, Nature Trail

Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Nature Loop in the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve

  • Location: Newport Beach.  From route 73, take the Jamboree Rd. exit south for 2.3 miles and turn right on San Joaquin Hills Road.  Turn right onto Back Bay Drive (one-way heading northbound), and in about half a mile, park on the left in a parking lot.  From Pacific Coast Highway, go north on MacArthur for 0.9 miles and turn left on San Joaquin Hills Road, and go 1.4 miles.  Take a right on Back Bay Drive.
  • Agency: Upper Newport Bay Ecological Resreve
  • Distance: 0.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: Level
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 30 minutes
  • Best season:  Year round
  • USGS topo map: “Newport Beach”
  • More information: here
  • Rating: 2

Like the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve farther up P.C.H., Newport Bay’s park gives O.C. residents a chance to see marshlands and a huge variety of water fowl up close.  There are a bunch of trails to explore in the reserve, and the short but sweet Nature Trail is worth a visit if you’re in the area.

From the parking lot, head north on Back Bay Drive, enjoying nice views of the wetlands on the left.  You cross a bridge and soon will see the sign for the Nature Trail.  The trail heads into a quiet, wooded area, crosses a boardwalk, and soon comes out on a dirt fire road.  Take a right, and head back to the parking lot.  You can extend your trip by walking south on Back Bay Drive, or taking a left on the fire road and exploring Big Canyon.

By the way, when hiking this park, in addition to the ducks, egrets and hawks you’re likely to see, keep an eye out for “Babe”, a bobcat who makes her home in the area.

Siena Loop Trail

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On the Siena Loop Trail

Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Siena Loop Trail

  • Location: Rancho Palos Verdes, in the Miraleste neighborhood.  From the end of the Vincent Thomas Bridge, and stay straight to go onto Summerland Avenue.  Take Summerland for a mile and turn left on Western.  Go 0.3 miles and turn right on first.  Go 0.6 miles and turn right on Miraleste Drive.  Go 0.8 miles and turn left on Palos Verdes Drive East.  Take the second left (one past Miraleste Plaza) and park by the sign for the Siena Loop trail.  From the end of I-110, take a left on Gaffey St.  Go 0.7 miles and takea  right on 9th St.  Go a total of 2.7 miles (9th becomes Miraleste Drive) and take a left on Palos Verdes Drive East, and take the second left into the parking area.
  • Agency:  City of Rancho Palos Verdes
  • Distance: 0.7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 200 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 30 minutes
  • Best season: Year-round
  • USGS topo maps: “San Pedro Hills”
  • More information: here
  • Rating: 2

This short, enjoyable loop visits one of the canyons on the east side of the Palos Verdes Peninsula.  Unfortunately, it never really escapes the noise of the traffic on Palos Verdes Drive East, and there’s some trash and graffiti, but it still makes a nice little trip into nature if you’re pressed for time.

From the parking area, descend past the sign for the Siena Loop.  At the junction, make a hard right and continue to climb down into the canyon.  After a short distance, it reaches a paved road (Via Paloma).  Head straight and take a quick left on Via Colinita.  The loop trail continues on your left (if you want to extend your hike, you can take a right on the Colinita Trail, which heads through a small canyon before climbing to Palos Verdes Drive East.)

The last leg of the Siena Loop is the most enjoyable, as you climb back out of the canyon through the green hills.  The ascent is steep in places, but short enough that almost anyone should be able to do it without trouble.  After a few minutes you arrive back at the parking area.

Canyon Community Park (Costa Mesa)

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Sandstone bluffs in Canyon Community Park

Trail through the canyon

Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Canyon Community Park

  • Location: 970 Arbor St, Costa Mesa.  From the end of the 55 freeway, head west (right) on 19th St.  Go 1.1 miles, take a right on Monrovia and then a quick left on Arbor.  In 0.2 miles, the park will be on your right.  Drive to the lower parking area.  From Pacific Coast Highway, go north on Newport Blvd. for 1.3 miles.  Turn left on 17th St, and in 0.6 miles, go right on Placentia.  In 0.5 miles, turn left on 19th St. and in 0.3 miles, go right on Monrovia.
  • Agency:  City of Costa Mesa
  • Distance: 1.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 100 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Best season: Year round
  • USGS topo map: Seal Beach
  • More information: here
  • Rating: 2

Located on a 35-acre parcel tucked into a residential neighborhood in Costa Mesa, Canyon Community Park is a pleasant surprise for hikers.  The scenery here includes a small marsh, a quiet woodland and some sandstone geology.  There are a few trails that run through the park, and the loop described here strings several of them together, taking in the park’s variety.

From the parking area, walk on a paved path and head north, past a playing field.  The path leads out of the park’s main area, past an apartment complex and to a footbridge which crosses a small canyon that feeds into a marsh, which is well worth a look.

Head back toward the main area of the park on the paved walkway, and bear left on a dirt path that heads towards some sandstone cliffs, providing some nice up-close views.  The trail merges with another path that heads into the wooded canyon.  Just before you reach the end, take a hairpin turn to the right and head back.  You can add some adventure to your trip by following the canyon (which is usually dry) itself, or you can stay on the path that parallels it.

When you get back to the parking area, you can extend your hike a little by following a trail that follows the paved road.  Turn around at the playground, and take the service road back to the parking area.

If you enjoyed Canyon Community Park, make sure to check out the larger Talbert Nature Reserve nearby.

Horseshoe Trail (Rolling Hills Estates)

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On the Horseshoe Trail

Sunset from the Horseshoe Trail

Horseshoe Trail
  • Location: Rolling Hills Estates, starting at Highridge Park.  From I-110, take the Pacific Coast Highway exit.  Head west (right) for 3 miles, and turn left on Crenshaw Blvd.  Go 3.1 miles and turn right on Crestridge Road.  In 0.5 miles, turn left on Highridge Rd. and park on the right side of the street by Highridge Park.  From the Vincent Thomas Bridge, take a right on N. Gaffey St.  Go 2.5 miles and take a hard left on Palos Verdes Drive North.    Go 3.6 miles and turn left on Crenshaw.  Go 1.8 miles to Crestridge.
  • Agency: City of Rolling Hills Estates
  • Distance: 1.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 100 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 45 minutes
  • Best season: Year-round
  • USGS topo maps: “San Pedro Hills”
  • More information: here
  • Rating: 1

This is a neighborhood bridle trail that winds through the streets of Rolling Hills Estates.  While it never escapes civilization, it does visit some secluded residential areas, and you’re likely to have more peace and quiet here than you will on a typical weekend at Griffith Park or Chantry Flats.

From Highridge Park, follow the Highridge Trail past the playing fields, to a T-junction with the Horseshoe Trail.  Head left, following the Horseshoe Trail behind some residences, soon arriving at Country Lane.  You cross Country Lane and continue along the Horseshoe Trail, past some stables (stay right to remain on the trail and avoid the private property).  Here, you enter the most enjoyable stretch of the loop, where you get some nice ocean views.  (If you can, try to time it so you can see the sunset here).

The trail again meets up with Country Lane and continues on the other side (slightly to the left; look for the sign indicating the Horseshoe Trail.)  There’s one more street crossing, Horseshoe Lane.  Soon after, you come to another T-junction.  Head right (left dead-ends), to return to the Highridge Trail.  Take a left and retrace your steps to the park.

Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Arroyo San Miguel Trail

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Rabbit on the Arroyo San Miguel Trail

Dusk on the Arroyo San Miguel Trail

Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Arroyo San Miguel Trail

  • Location: 7531 Colima Road, Whittier.  From the south, take I-605 to Florence Ave.  Take a left onto Studebaker Road and the first right onto Florence.  Go 5.2 miles (Florence becomes Mills on the way) to Whittier Blvd.  Take a right on Whittier, go 0.3 miles and take a left onto Colima.  Go 1.1 miles to the trailhead which is on the left side of the road, just past the little league fields.
  • Agency: Habitat Authority
  • Distance: 3.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 350 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
  • Best season: September – June
  • USGS topo maps: “Whittier”
  • More information: here
  • Rating: 3

The Arroyo San Miguel Trail shares a trailhead with the Arroyo Pescadero Trail.  Head up hill to join the Arroyo Pescadero Trail, but at the split, stay straight instead of to the left, to stay on the San Miguel Trail.  Although the beginning of the trail suffers from traffic noise from nearby Colima Road, once you cross under through a tunnel, it becomes quieter.  As you head east, on your right, you might be able to catch a glimpse of Catalina Island and the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

The trail heads downhill into a wide canyon, passing in and out of the shade of willows and a few palm trees, before beginning a moderate ascent to end at a private road.  From here, you get a nice view of the canyon and can even see Colima as you head back.  While not necessarily a “must do” hike, the Arroyo San Miguel Trail does provide a quick and easy escape into nature, and it receives considerably less foot traffic than its neighbor.  When I was there on a recent weekend, the parking lot was almost full (keep this in mind when planning your trip) – yet I saw only three other people on the trail.

Madrona Marsh Nature Center

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Wetlands in Madrona Marsh

Wetlands in Madrona Marsh

 

 

Egret in Madrona Marsh

Egret in Madrona Marsh

Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Madrona Marsh Nature Center

  • Location: 3201 Plaza Del Amo, Torrance.  From I-405, take the Crenshaw Blvd. exit and head south for 2.3 miles.  Take a right on Carson, go 0.7 miles and head left on Maple.  Go 0.3 miles and turn right onto Plaza Del Amo.  Park in the lot on the right, across from the entrance to the nature preserve.
  • Agency: Friends of Madrona Marsh
  • Distance: 0.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: Level
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Best season: All year (best after recent rains) – 10am to 5pm; closed Mondays
  • USGS topo map: Torrance
  • More information: here
  • Rating: 2

It’s very easy to drive right by the Madrona Marsh Preserve in Torrance, and if it wasn’t for Allen Riedel’s “Best Easy Day Hikes South Bay L.A.”, I probably would never have found out about it myself.   But, unlikely as it seems, tucked away between Torrance’s busiest streets is a 10-acre preserve where one can escape into a world of wetlands, oaks, and many water birds.

From the entrance on Plaza Del Amo, you can make a loop around the perimeter of the preserve.  If there have been recent rains, you’ll see several small vernal pools dotting the bright green landscape.  Head left, toward Maple, toward the south end of the reserve.   As the trail parallels Sepulveda, you arrive at a wide marsh where you will probably see a quite a few water fowl hanging out.

When the trail curves north to parallel Madrona, you are in for a treat, as the swamp on your right is choked with oaks and willows.  Not only are the twisted branches interesting to look at, but their reflections in the water make the scenery even more unusual, especially considering the urban setting.  The trail continues to complete the loop alongside Plaza Del Amo.

The Madrona Marsh Preserve is, at the risk of sounding cliche, a true urban oasis.  It’s a perfect place for outdoor exploration, especially for those who want to experience nature but aren’t sure where to start.  Even hardcore hikers who visit this place will have to agree that walking through it certainly beats working in any of the office buildings that surround it.  If you enjoy your visit, consider making a donation to or volunteering for the Friends of Madrona Marsh, without whom this place could easily have become a big box retailer.

Castlewood Trail (Fullerton)

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View from the Castlewood Trail

Through the woods on the Castlewood Trail

Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Castlewood Trail (Fullerton)

  • Location: Corner of Castlewood and Chantilly Lane, Fullerton.  From I-91, take Beach Blvd. and go north for 3 miles.  Take a right on Rosecrans, go 1.2 miles and go left on Gilbert.  Go 0.8 miles and take a left on Castlewood, and park on the corner by the trail head.  From the 57 freeway, take the Imperial Highway exit and go west for 4.3 miles.  Take a left on Idaho St., which becomes Gilbert.  Take a right on Castlewood.
  • Agency: City of Fullerton Parks and Recreation
  • Distance: 2.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 200 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Best season: October – June
  • USGS topo map: Anaheim
  • More information: trail map here; information on the Fullerton Loop here.
  • Rating: 1

The Castlewood Trail is a mile-long segment of the 12-mile Fullerton Loop, a route popular with cyclists.  It makes a nice walk for before or after work, or even on a lunch break.  On a clear day, you can see the ocean, Catalina Island, the San Gabriels and the Santa Ana Mountains.

From Chantilly, the trail ascends steeply for a few hundred yards before leveling out.  It follows a ridge alongside a housing tract before descending to a junction.  Take the right fork (the left leads back to Gilbert).  You head into a wooded area, although the water tank on the left shatters any illusions of wilderness that you may have.  You pass by another housing tract and then have a short stretch with very few signs of civilization before the trail ends at Rosecrans, by the fire station.

Fullerton has a wide variety of trails which, while they might not offer much of a wilderness experience, do provide good opportunities for outdoor recreation.  If you enjoyed the Castlewood Trail, check out other parts of the Fullerton Loop, or other trails in the area.  As with other neighborhood hiking trails, the Castlewood Trail might not be the stuff of hiking legend, but if you’re in the area, it’s well worth a visit.