Oak Grove Loop (Chino Hills)

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Oak Grove Loop Trail, Chino Hills, CA

Shade on the Oak Grove Loop Trail

Oak Grove Trail, Chino Hills, CA

Rolling hills above the Oak Grove Trail

Oak Grove Loop (Chino Hills)

    • Location: Grand Avenue Park, Chino Hills. From the 57/60 Freeways, take the Grand Avenue exit and head southeast for 3.3 miles to the park.  Turn right and park in the lot. From the Riverside area, take the 71 Freeway to the Edison Avenue/Grand Avenue exit.  Turn left on Grand Avenue and head 3.4 miles to the park.  Turn left and park in the lot.  Parking is free and there are restrooms at the trail head.
    • Agency: City of Chino Hills
    • Distance: 1.3 miles
    • Elevation gain: 200 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: G
    • Suggested time: 45 minutes
    • Best season: All year
    • USGS topo map: Ontario
    • Recommended gear: Sun Hat
    • More information: Trail map here
    • Rating: 5
Grand Avenue Park trail head, Chino Hills, CA

0:00 – Trail head at Grand Avenue Park (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

The Oak Grove Loop is a pleasant surprise: a shaded oasis in the dry, exposed terrain of Chino Hills, virtually hidden from the sights and sounds of the nearby residential areas and traffic of Grand Avenue. It’s one of the few hiking routes in the area that can be done year-round, though of course adequate sun protection and drinking water is recommended despite the short distance.

Oak Grove Trail, Chino Hills, CA

0:07 – Right turn on the spur leading to the Oak Grove Trail (times are approximate)

From the eastern end of Grand Avenue Park, pick up the fence-lined bridle trail, making an immediate left at the T-junction (the right fork heads toward Sunset Park, a good cool-day hike for those who want more of a workout). The trail ducks into a tunnel that crosses underneath Grand Avenue and makes a short but steep climb to an unsigned junction, 0.2 miles from the start. The Grand Avenue Trail continues uphill and north, eventually joining the La Sierra Loop, but to reach the Oak Grove Trail, turn right and head downhill, past a barbed wire fence and into the shade. You soon reach the start of the loop, which can be hiked in either direction.
Oak Grove Trail, Chino Hills, CA

0:09 – Start of the loop

If you decide to hike counter-clockwise (as described below), bear right onto the loop trail. You follow it downhill to an outlet at Pleasant Hill Drive, a residential street in a gated community. Turn left and briefly follow the street to a small parking lot, where you’ll pick up the next leg of the trail. It descends across a footbridge into an attractive oak woodland, soon emerging into the open. The trail switchbacks up a hillside, in and out of shade, taking in some nice views to the east before completing the loop (1 mile from the start). From here, make a hairpin right turn and retrace your steps back to the previous junction, downhill, under Grand Avenue and back to the starting point at the park.

Oak Grove Trail, Chino Hills, CA

0:13 – Heading back into the woods from Pleasant Hill Drive

Text and photography copyright 2015 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Oak on the Oak Grove Trail, Chino Hills, CA

0:26 – Big oak near the top of the loop

Strawberry Potrero via Red Box

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Strawberry Peak and Strawberry Potrero, Angeles National Forest

Strawberry Peak’s north face, seen from Strawberry Potrero

Looking east from Strawberry Peak, Angeles National Forest, CA

View from Strawberry Peak’s eastern slope

Strawberry Potrero via Red Box

    • Location: Red Box Picnic Area, Angeles National Forest.  From I-210 in La Canada, take the Angeles Crest Highway northeast for 14 miles and park at the Red Box Picnic Area, at the junction with the road to Mt. Wilson.  From the high desert, take the Angeles Forest Highway south to Big Tujunga Canyon Road.  Turn left and go 9 miles to the Angeles Crest Highway.  Turn right and go 4.3 miles to Red Box, which will be on the left.  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/Los Angeles River Ranger District
    • Distance: 10 miles
    • Elevation gain: 1,500 feet
    • Suggested time: 5 hours
    • Difficulty rating: PG-13 (elevation gain, distance)
    • Best season: Year round but hot during the summer
    • USGS topo maps: Chilao Flat
    • Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat; insect repellent
    • Recommended guidebook: Trails of the Angeles
    • More information: Trip description (pre-Station Fire) here; Map My Hike report here
    • Rating: 7
Strawberry Peak Trail Head on the Angeles Crest Highway, San Gabriel Mountains, CA

0:00 – Looking east on the Angeles Crest Highway from Red Box (note trail on the left side of the road). Click thumbnails to see the full sized versions.

It’s not El Capitan or Half Dome, but the granite cliffs on the north face of Strawberry Peak are pretty impressive, not to mention closer to L.A. than Yosemite. While Strawberry Potrero, a series of meadows on the north side of the mountain, sustained damage in the Station Fire, it’s still an enjoyable spot for a picnic; a secluded corner of the Angeles Forest in which you’re not likely to have much company. Some hikers may find the 10-mile round trip from Red Box to be somewhat long for an out-and-back hike that doesn’t pay off with a major summit or waterfall, but those looking for a leisurely stroll with good scenic variety will find that on this hike. Two caveats:  poodle dog bush is abundant, particularly north of Lawlor Saddle, and the bugs at Strawberry Potrero can be extremely annoying.

Lawlor Saddle, Angeles National Forest

1:00 – Lawlor Saddle; head downhill (times are approximate)

Begin with the easy 2.3 mile hike to Lawlor Saddle, below Strawberry Peak’s summit, but instead of going up, take the fork heading north and gradually downhill. You descend along the mountain’s east slope, taking in great views of Big Tujunga Canyon. After a mile, you enter the first of several pockets of woodland, mainly black oaks and Coulter pines. At 4 miles from the start, a series of switchbacks drops you into the eastern end of Strawberry Potrero; this is the only really steep section of the hike.

Woodlands on Strawberry Peak, Angeles National Forest

1:30 – Woodlands on Strawberry Peak’s east slope

At the bottom of the switchbacks, turn left at a junction (the right fork leads to Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road). You enter the first of three meadows, with a good view of Strawberry Peak’s north face straight ahead. The trail then ducks back into the woods and makes a brief climb to a smaller meadow and lastly enters a large clearing, 5 miles from the start and a good turnaround point for a day hike. Several tall pines and oaks offer shade and numerous rocks scattered around make for nice places to sit and picnic (the tables mentioned in “Trails of the Angeles” unfortunately became Station Fire casualties.)

Trail to Strawberry Potrero, Angeles National Forest

1:50 – Beginning the descent toward Strawberry Potrero

From here, retrace your steps back to Red Box; the total elevation gain is comparable in both directions. With a shuttle, you can return to the junction and continue north to Colby Ranch and Big Tujunga Canyon Road. Intrepid hikers can make a challenging loop by continuing to Josephine Saddle and using the rock-climber’s route to Strawberry Peak, then descending to Lawlor Saddle.

North face of Strawberry Peak, Angeles National Forest

2:00 – Strawberry Peak’s north face as seen from the eastern meadow of Strawberry Potrero

Text and photography copyright 2015 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.

Pines at Strawberry Potrero, Angeles National Forest, CA

2:20 – Pines at the third clearing, the turnaround point

Devil Canyon (San Fernando Valley)

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Devil Canyon Trail, Chatsworth, CA

Hills above the Brown Fire Road at the top of the Devil Canyon Trail

Geological formations in Devil Canyon, Chatsworth, CA

Sandstone geology in Devil Canyon

Devil Canyon (San Fernando Valley)

  • Location: Chatsworth. From the 118 Freeway, take the Topanga Canyon Blvd/Highway 27 exit and head north (turn right if you’re coming from L.A.; left if from Simi Valley) to its almost immediate dead end at Poema Place. Turn left on Poema, drive 0.3 miles and park by the Summerset Village Apartment complex numbered 11500. The trail can be accessed through the parking lot as described below. (Note: since you are walking across private property to reach the trail, act accordingly).
  • Agency: Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy
  • Distance: 10 miles
  • Elevation gain: 950 feet
  • Suggested time: 4.5 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG-13 (distance)
  • Best season: September – May
  • USGS topo map: “Oat Mountain”
  • Recommended gear: insect repellent
  • More information: Trip descriptions here (different access point), here and here (both descriptions up to the gate at 2.3 miles); Map My Hike report here
  • Rating: 7
Staircase descending into Devil Canyon, Chatsworth, CA

0:00 – Staircase leading from the apartment complex into the canyon (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

Not to be confused with Devil’s Canyon in the San Gabriel Mountains, Devil Canyon of Chatsworth is an understandably popular destination, due to its seclusion, scenic variety and proximity to the Valley. While many hikers enjoy exploring the jungle-like confines of the lower canyon with its numerous sandstone caves and other geological formations, the pastoral upper reaches of the canyon, consisting of rolling hills, oak woodlands and ultimately excellent city and mountain views, are also worth a look. “Afoot and Afield: Los Angeles County” and several online writeups of the hike describe a gate 2.3 miles into the canyon, blocking off progress, but as of this writing, the gate is no longer there, allowing hikers to go as far as they want. The entire 10-mile round trip with its easy slope and ample shade is an enjoyable and efficient training hike.

Devil Canyon Trail, Chatsworth, CA

0:02 – Start of the Santa Susana/Devil Canyon trail (times are approximate)

While access to the canyon has changed and may change again in the years to come, it can currently be reached by walking through the parking lot of a private condo complex on N. Poema Place. As this is private property, access to the trail cannot be guaranteed, but it is likely that hikers who exercise common sense and don’t create a disturbance will not be given difficulty by residents. Bear right at the first major “intersection” (by building 11504) and you’ll see an open metal gate with a staircase descending steeply. The staircase drops to short use spur leads you to the main trail, signed here as the Santa Susana Pass Trail. Bear left and continue your descent into Devil’s Canyon, arriving at the floor in about 0.3 miles.

Stream bed in Devil Canyon, Chatsworth, CA

0:38 – Following the stream bed

From here, make your way up canyon, keeping an eye out for poison oak which frequently encroaches the trail, sometimes from both sides at once. If the water level is high, some of the stream crossings can be tricky and the trail follows the stream bed itself from time to time, but while it is a little overgrown in some places, it’s fairly easy to follow; if you find yourself bushwhacking, you’ve likely strayed from the course.

Oaks in Devil Canyon, Chatsworth, CA

0:44 – Nice spot for a picnic

At 1.3 miles, bear right as a trail steeply ascends to the left. You briefly follow the stream before emerging into an attractive wooded area where several rocks and logs make it a nice place for a break. Soon after, the trail emerges into the open, passing a junction with Ybarra Canyon (1.9 miles.) After passing over a concrete flood dam, the trail continues through more scenic terrain, in and out of shade. Poison oak, while still present, isn’t as much of an issue from here on out.

Devil Canyon Trail, Chatsworth, CA

1:25 – Passing through a fence

At 3.3 miles, the trail enters a meadow and bears northwest, climbing briefly away from the stream bed. You pass by a particularly impressive oak that makes a good turnaround point if you’re short on time and continue, ascending slightly more steadily, into another pocket of trees, crossing a tributary of Devil Canyon (4 3/4 miles) and finally making the final climb to the trail’s end at the Brown Mountain Fire Road.

Hills above Devil Canyon, Chatsworth, CA

1:32 – Open space as the trail bends northwest

Hikers with additional time and energy can explore this road in either direction but for most casual visitors this the recommended turnaround point. On the way back, you can enjoy a particularly good view of the Santa Susana foothills, the Simi Hills and the western San Fernando Valley.

Text and photography copyright 2015 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.

Top of Devil Canyon, Chatsworth, CA

2:15 – Looking back from the turnaround point

Middle Peak (Cuyamaca Rancho State Park)

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Stonewall Peak, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, San Diego County, CA

Stonewall Peak as seen from Middle Ranch Fire Road

Black Oak Trail, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, San Diego, CA

Greenery on the Black Oak Trail, Middle Peak Loop

Middle Peak (Cuyamaca Rancho State Park)

  • Location: Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, inland San Diego County.  From San Diego, take I-8 east to Highway 79.  Head north for 2.7 miles, turn left and continue another 10.8 miles on Highway 79 past the park headquarters to a wide turnout with an information board, just past mile marker 10.5 as the road makes a big bend to the right.  From Julian, head south on Highway 79 for 9.5 miles past the lake where the road bends to the left. The parking area will be on the left side of the road.
  • Agency: Cuyamaca Rancho State Park
  • Distance: 6.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,100 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Distance, elevation gain)
  • Suggested time: 3 hours
  • Best season: September – June
  • USGS topo maps: Cuyamaca Peak
  • Recommended gear: sun hat
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield San Diego County
  • More information: Cuyamaca Rancho State Park Yelp page here; Map My Hike report here
  • Rating: 7

This loop doesn’t actually visit Middle Peak’s summit but it rather explores the northern end of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, mostly on the eastern flank of the mountain. It doesn’t have quite the scenic variety of the trails in the park’s southern end, but still provides a good workout and some good views.

Marty Minshall Trail, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, San Diego, CA

0:00 – Trailhead on Highway 79 (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

From the parking area, cross Highway 79 and look for the Marty Minshall Trail branching off on the north side of the dirt road. It heads through a field, paralleling the road before bending northwest and reaching a junction with the Sugar Pine Trail (0.9 miles.) The bulk of the climbing will happen over the next two miles as the Sugar Pine Trail makes a sharp left, ascending through groves of pines and oaks burned in the Cedar Fire. Through the trees you get a few glimpses of Cuyamaca Reservoir and Stonewall Peak.

Sugar Pine Trail, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, San Diego County, CA

0:24 – Start of the Sugar Pine Trail (times are approximate)

At 2.1 miles, stay straight as a spur leads to the Middle Peak Fire Road. The grade briefly levels out and you get an impressive view of North Peak with the Santa Rosa Mountains distant. More climbing brings you to the end of the Sugar Pine Trail at another junction with the Middle Peak Fire Road; here you can enjoy a view to the west which, despite being blocked by several dead trees, may extend all the way to the ocean if visibility is good.

Sugar Pine Trail, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, San Diego County, CA

0:35 – Continuing toward the upper half of the Sugar Pine Trail

Turn left and follow the Middle Peak Fire Road south, staying left as the Black Oak Trail branches off to the right. You reach the high point of the route and begin a descent, enjoying an interesting view of Stonewall Peak which is eye level from this vantage point. At 3.3 miles, you reach another junction with the Black Oak Trail. This is a nice spot to rest; it features arguably the best view of the whole hike.

Middle Peak Fire Road, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, San Diego County, CA

1:23 – Turn left on the Middle Peak Fire Road at the top of the Sugar Pine Trail

Descend via the Black Oak Trail. While the vegetation on its upper portion are still recovering from the Cedar Fire, the flora lower on the trail seems to be thriving; chaparral and oaks provide pockets of shade and nicely frame views of Cuyamaca Peak’s imposing shape to the immediate south.

At 4.5 miles from the start, turn left on the Milk Ranch Fire Road and follow it back to the trail head for an easy, pleasant 1.7 miles. This last stretch has an appealing rustic feel to it, passing through groves of oaks and rolling meadows with Stonewall Peak in the background. On the way back to Highway 79, you pass the bottom end of the Middle Peak Fire Road and almost immediately afterward, return to the Marty Minshall Trail to complete the loop. Cross the highway back to the parking area.

Cuyamaca Peak, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, San Diego County, CA

1:35 – Cuyamaca Peak as seen from the beginning of the Black Oak Trail

Text and photography copyright 2015 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.

Milk Ranch Fire Road, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, San Diego County, CA

2:10 – Left turn on the Milk Ranch Fire Road

Arch Rock Nature Trail (Joshua Tree National Park)

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Arch Rock, Joshua Tree National Park

Arch Rock

Arch Rock Nature Trail (Joshua Tree National Park)

  • Location: White Tank Campground, Joshua Tree National Park. From Highway 62 in Twentynine Palms (43 miles east of I-10; 21 miles east of Yucca Valley) take Utah Trail south into the park. Drive a total of 8.6 miles, past the entrance booth, and turn left on Pinto Basin Road. Go 2.7 miles to the White Tank Campground on the left. The nature trail begins next to camp site 9. Parking is available opposite the camp site against a small rock formation. Park admission is $15 per vehicle for a 7-day pass or $30 for an annual pass. The inter-agency America the Beautiful Pass ($80 per year) is accepted here.
  • Agency: Joshua Tree National Park
  • Distance: 0.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 50 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 15 minutes
  • Best season:  October – April
  • USGS topo map: “Malapai Hill”
  • Recommended guidebook: Best Easy Day Hikes Joshua Tree National Park
  • More information: Trip descriptions here, here and here (includes descriptions of other nearby trails)
  • Rating: 7
Geology at the White Tank Campground, start of the Arch Rock Nature Trail, Joshua Tree National Park

0:00 – Geological formations by the trail head (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

Brief as it is, the Arch Rock Nature Trail is a Joshua Tree essential, at least if you find yourself in this area of the park. The arch and the other boulders in the area are examples of monzogranite: molten liquid pushed from the earth’s core, cooled by the rocks closer to the surface. Centuries of wind and a formerly moister climate has helped carve the rocks into interesting shapes, notably the arch.

Round granite boulders, Arch Rock Nature Trail, Joshua Tree National Park

0:02 – Round rocks shortly after the split (times are approximate)

From the the parking area, look for the sign indicating the trail and follow it through the various rock formations. Soon you come to a split (the start of the loop). You can hike it in either direction, but by going clockwise you can save the dramatic arch for last.

The trail dips in between several boulders as interpretive signs describe the scenery. Before long you reach the arch. A short, easy scramble across the rocks will being you right up to it; it stands about 10 feet tall and stretches about 30 feet wide.

Field of granite boulders, Arch Rock Nature Trail, Joshua Tree National Park

0:04 – Following the trail across a boulder field

After enjoying the scenery, climb back down to the trail, soon completing the loop. From there, retrace your steps back to the campground.

Under Arch Rock, Joshua Tree National Park

0:10 – Under Arch Rock

Text and photography copyright 2015  by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

View from the Arch Rock Nature Trail, Joshua Tree National Park

0:14 – Heading back to White Tank Campground

Butterfly Valley (Irvine Open Space Preserve)

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Butterfly Valley, Irvine Open Space Preserve, Orange County, CA

Butterfly Valley, Irvine Open Space Preserve

Oaks in Irvine Open Space Preserve, Orange County, CA

Oaks on the East Fork Trail, Irvine Open Space Preserve

Butterfly Valley (Irvine Open Space Preserve)

  • Location: 6400 Shady Canyon Drive, Irvine.  From I-405, take the Culver Drive exit, go south (right if you’re coming from the north, left if from the south) for 2.6 miles and turn left on Shady Canyon Drive.  Go 1.6 miles and turn into the lot.  As mentioned below, this hike is available only by (free) online registration on days specified by the Irvine Ranch Conservancy.
  • Agency: Irvine Ranch Conservancy
  • Distance: 8.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,400 feet
  • Suggested time: 4.5 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG-13 (distance, steepness, elevation gain)
  • Best season:  October – May; availability of days and times determined by Irvine Ranch Conservancy
  • USGS topo map: Tustin; Laguna Beach
  • Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat
  • More information: Area trail map here
  • Rating: 7
0:00 - Trail head in the Cattle Ranch section of Bommer Canyon (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Trail head in the Cattle Ranch section of Bommer Canyon (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

The lightly traveled Butterfly Valley Trail is located in the interior of the Irvine Open Space Preserve. As of this writing, none of the Irvine Ranch Conservancy’s guided hikes visit the Butterfly Valley Trail, making it available to hikers only on the park’s Wilderness Access days (usually the third Saturday of each month). The U-shaped hike described here offers a considerable workout with a variety of scenery. While the first half of the hike tends to be fairly crowded, you’re likely to have less company during the latter half on the Shady Oaks and Butterfly Valley Trails.

East Fork Trail, Irvine Open Space Preserve, Orange County, CA

0:05 – Start of the East Fork Trail (times are approximate)

Try to get an early a start as possible. Wilderness Access Days are from 8am to 2pm and while itinerant hikers may only need 3 or 3 1/2 hours, those with families or who want to enjoy a more leisurely pace should allow 4 or 4 1/2 hours. The return features a long, steady ascent on largely exposed terrain and the area can get quite hot during the summer.

From the Cattle Ranch area, follow Bommer Canyon Road southeast to a junction. Turn left on a spur signed “To East Fork” which brings you to that trail (0.2 miles.) The East Fork Trail heads through a pleasant green meadow, passing a sandstone cave (0.5 miles). It then ascends into a pleasant grove of oaks which unfortunately represents one of the few bits of shade on the route. Passing the oaks, you begin the main ascent, steeply climbing to a junction with the Hogsback and Ridge Route Trails (1.5 miles.) As you grind up the hill, your efforts are rewarded with panoramic views to the north and at the top of the ridge, you can rest up and enjoy a great look at Old Saddleback.

Sandstone caves, Irvine Open Space Preserve, Orange County, CA

0:15 – Sandstone caves on the East Fork Trail

Continue southeast on the Hogsback Trail, descending 0.6 miles to junction with the Upper Laurel Canyon Trail trail coming from Laguna Coast Wilderness Park (part of the 7-mile Bommer/Laguna Coast hike offered by the Irvine Ranch Conservancy). Stay straight and descend another 0.4 miles to a 4-way junction (2.5 miles from the start). To the right is the route to Camarillo Canyon; straight is the Serrano Ridge Trail (both part of a loop described here). To get to Butterfly Valley, however, turn left onto the Shady Oaks Trail.

Santiago Peak seen from Irvine Open Space Preserve, Orange County, CA

0:40 – Santiago Peak as seen from the top of the Hogsback Trail

Sadly, the Shady Oaks Trail offers little in the way of shade, although depending on the time of day and season, the walls of the canyon may block out the sun. The trail levels out, passes the Bobcat Spur Trail and then reaches another 4-way junction (3.5 miles). On the right, notice a trio of sandstone monoliths with small caves before continuing straight onto the Butterfly Valley Trail.

Shady Oaks Trail, Irvine Open Space Preserve, Orange County, CA

1:10 – Descending the Shady Oaks Trail

Though overhead power lines are hard to ignore, the Butterfly Valley Trail offers a virtually level stroll through an attractive meadow bordered by oaks, sycamores, green hills and sandstone outcrops. A pair of particularly attractive sycamores offer some nice shade (4.1 miles); this is a good turnaround point, although the trail does continue for another 0.2 miles before reaching an unceremonious end at a metal gate.

If you’re disappointed that there are no options for making the hike into a loop and that you have to return by the same route, consider that according to local rumor that rattlesnakes found on the Shady Canyon Golf Course are deposited into the area beyond the end of the Butterfly Valley Trail.

Sandstone outcrops, Irvine Open Space Preserve, Orange County, CA

1:22 – Sandstone outcrops at the junction with the Butterfly Valley Trail

Text and photography copyright 2015 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.

Butterfly Valley Trail, Irvine Open Space Preserve, Orange County, CA

1:45 – Looking back from the end of the Butterfly Valley Trail

Wildwood Canyon (Santa Clarita)

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Wildwood Canyon Park, Santa Clarita Valley, CA

Panoramic view from the Highland Loop Trail

Wildwood Canyon Park, Santa Clarita, CA

Oak grove on the Wildwood Loop Trail

Wildwood Canyon (Santa Clarita)

        • Location: Santa Clarita. From the 14 Freeway, take the Newhall Ave. exit and head west (left if you’re coming from L.A.; right if from Palmdale). Follow Newhall Ave. a total of 1.7 miles. Note that you will need to stay in the left lane to stay on Newhall when it intersects with Railroad Avenue. Past the William Hart Museum, follow Newhall through the rotary and then turn left on Market. Go 0.6 miles and turn left on Cross. Go 0.3 miles to Haskell Vista Lane and turn right. The signed trail head is just past the last house, where the street makes a hairpin right turn and becomes a private way. Park where available, noting posted restrictions.
        • Agency: City of Santa Clarita
        • Distance: 3 miles
        • Elevation gain: 350 feet
        • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
        • Difficulty rating: PG
        • Best season: October – June
        • USGS topo map: Newhall
        • Recommended gear: sun hat; insect repellent
        • More information: here; Yelp page here
        • Rating: 6
Wildwood Canyon Park trail head, Santa Clarita, CA

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

Not to be confused with Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks, Santa Clarita’s Wildwood Canyon Park (also known as Wildwood Canyon Open Space) is a 95-acre open space nestled between the 5 and 14 Freeways. Compared to Santa Clarita’s other nature parks, Wildwood feels more like wilderness, in part due to the variety of plant life (oaks, manzanitas, chaparral and more) and also due to the somewhat confusing network of official and unofficial trails and lack of signage distinguishing the two. The good news is that due to the park’s proximity to civilization and relatively small size it’s hard to get too seriously lost here and it’s a fun place to wander around without any specific agenda.

Wildwood Canyon Park, Santa Clarita, CA

0:15 – View from the first junction; head straight down into the canyon (times are approximate)

Those who do want to follow an exact route however will enjoy the 3-mile hike described below, which circles the perimeter of the park on some of the more clearly, better maintained trails. From the trail head on Haskell Vista Lane, follow the path as it climbs uphill, making a series of switchbacks before gaining a ridge at half a mile where a panoramic view of the canyon awaits. It descends briefly to a junction with the Cross Motorway. Stay straight and descend into the canyon, reaching another intersection at 0.8 miles. This is the start of the loop which can be done in either direction. If it’s warm or hot, consider going counter-clockwise as described here, allowing you to save an enjoyable shaded stretch for last.

Wildwood Canyon Park, Santa Clarita, CA

0:20 – Start of the loop portion of the hike

Continue straight and begin a steep ascent to a clearing with a trash can and a makeshift fire pit. As a detour, you can follow a use trail on the left down into an attractive wooded canyon but watch out for poison oak. The trail continues uphill, now marked as the Highland Trail on the official park map. It skirts the upper rim of the canyon, crossing two small wooden footbridges. Shortly after the second, you reach the highest spot on the route, signed as a vista point on the map, although there are no benches, shade structures or other facilities here. Still you can enjoy a nice view of the Santa Clarita Valley and the Sierra Pelona mountains beyond.

Highland Loop Trail, Wildwood Canyon, Santa Clarita, CA

0:24 – Highland Loop steeply ascending past the picnic area

The trail continues past a junction with a spur that drops back into the canyon. Stay straight and begin descending, passing by a large red water tank and making a switchback. To the east, you can see the end of the San Gabriel Mountains towering beyond the buildings of the nearby Hart Museum and Ranch.

Water tank in Wildwood Canyon Park, Santa Clarita, CA

0:47 – Passing the water tank on the descent

At 2 miles, you reach the end of the Highland Loop Trail. Turn left and follow the trail into a grove of oaks. At dusk, this area is particularly attractive; but for the presence of some graffiti (and bugs during the evening) it would match up favorably against the best woodlands of the Santa Monica Mountains. Ignore a trail branching off to the left before exiting the woods and returning to the junction, completing the loop. Turn right and retrace your steps up to the other junction and back down the hill to Haskell View.

Wildwood Canyon Park, Santa Clarita, CA

1:05 – Left turn on the Wildwood Loop Trail, heading into the woods

Text and photography copyright 2015 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.