Falls Canyon Falls (Orange County)

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Falls Canyon Falls

Falls Canyon Falls

Greenery in Falls Canyon

Greenery in Falls Canyon

Falls Canyon Falls (Orange County)

    • 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 4-wheel drive vehicles with high clearances are recommended. At 3 miles you pass by an information board marking the entrance to the Cleveland National Forest; the roasd becomes noticeably rougher here.  After half a mile, keep a sharp eye out for a narrow trail heading downhill on the left (north) side of the road.  The road widens here, leaving enough room for a few cars to park.  Trail head GPS coordinates are N 33 40.433/W 117 32.166.  A National 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: 1 mile
    • Elevation gain: 300 feet
    • Suggested time: 1 hour
    • Difficulty rating: PG
    • Best season: Year round (best following rain)
    • USGS topo map: “Santiago Peak”
    • Recommended gear: Long sleeved shirts and pants; Poison oak cream; insect repellent; hiking poles
    • More information: Trip descriptions here and here; Everytrail report here; Yelp page here; Video of the waterfall here
    • Rating: 6
0:00 - Trailhead on Trabuco Creek Road (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Trailhead on Trabuco Creek Road (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

Falls Canyon – not to be confused with the similarly named Falls Creek Falls in the Angeles National Forest – is a tributary of Trabuco Creek in a remote corner of the Santa Ana Mountains.  While most people who endure the drive down Trabuco Creek Road have Holy Jim Falls as a destination, Falls Canyon Falls makes a nice side-trip.  The hike loses points due to its requirement of virtually constant poison oak vigilance, but following recent rains, the waterfall is an impressive sight.  With a little navigation, scrambling and bush-whacking required, Falls Canyon Falls is a good training hike for the considerably more difficult Black Star Canyon Falls.  If you’ve considered doing Black Star but are worried about the challenges it presents, try this one first.

0:02 - Crossing Trabuco Creek (times are approximate)

0:02 – Crossing Trabuco Creek (times are approximate)

From the parking area, head sharply downhill into the woods. The terrain can be slippery if it’s rained recently so be careful; hiking poles may be helpful. At the bottom, navigate through poison oak and bear left, heading down toward Trabuco Creek. You head downstream briefly before emerging on the opposite side. If you don’t mind getting wet or if water levels are low, you can continue downstream; otherwise your best bet is to climb onto a narrow but navigable rock ledge a few feet above the water. Keep an eye out for poison oak as you make your way across.

0:03 - Climbing the rock ledge on the north side of the creek (be careful!)

0:03 – Climbing the rock ledge on the north side of the creek (be careful!)

After the rock ledge, a loosely defined trail heads uphill to the right. Work your way through yet another minefield of poison oak before dropping down to Falls Creek.

0:04 - Leaving the stream bed

0:04 – Leaving the stream bed

At this point you’ve only come 0.1 miles, although it will probably seem like more given the tricky terrain. Your job gets somewhat easier as you work your way in and out of Falls Creek. Continue keeping an eye out for poison oak, although the worst of it will be behind you by now.

At 0.3 miles, negotiate a bunch of fallen tree trunks. Soon afterward, you come to a 10-foot rock wall on the right side of the creek. There are plenty of handholds and you should be able to reach the top without much difficulty, although as always exercise caution.

0:07 - Falls Canyon creek bed

0:07 – Falls Canyon creek bed

A few dozen yards beyond this rock, you may get your first glimpse of the waterfall. After crossing the creek again you reach it (0.5 miles), where the water falls about 30 feet in a thin plume into a small pool. A few rocks make ideal spots to sit and enjoy the sights and sounds of Falls Canyon Falls before retracing your steps downstream and back to the car.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS FROM JOEL ROBINSON OF WWW.NATURALISTFORYOU.ORG:

0:16 - Climbing the rock wall

0:16 – Climbing the rock wall

Just past the 10-foot rock on the left, there are clusters of giant chain fern, the largest native species of fern in California, capable of growing taller than a person!  Giant chain fern only occurs in shady, wet places, which restricts its distribution in Orange County.  Because of the intact ecosystem, the superior water quality supports California newts, caddisflies, California treefrogs, giant water bugs, and other sensitive aquatic organisms.  The water table is high enough to support an abundance of thirsty trees, such as bigleaf maple, white alder, and California bay laurel.  Wild grape vines entangle many of the trees along with poison oak and blackberry.  When the sun hits the waterfall, you can watch hummingbirds and butterflies catch drinks from the cascade.

0:25 - Falls Canyon Falls

0:25 – Falls Canyon Falls

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.

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Guadalasca Trail via La Jolla Canyon (Point Mugu State Park)

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Old Boney Mountain from near the top of the Guadalasca Trail

Old Boney Mountain from near the top of the Guadalasca Trail

Old and new growth in Wood Canyon

Old and new growth in Wood Canyon

Guadalasca Trail via La Jolla Canyon (Point Mugu State Park)

  • Location: Ray Miller Trailhead in Point Mugu State Park between Malibu and Oxnard.  From Highway 101 in Oxnard, take Highway 1 south for 13 miles.  The Ray Miller/La Jolla Canyon trailhead parking lot will be on your left, about two miles past the Chumash Trailhead.  From Santa Monica, take highway 1 north for 34 miles.  The trailhead parking lot will be on the right, about two miles past the Sycamore Canyon Campground.  From the San Fernando Valley, take Highway 101 to Highway 23 and head south to P.C.H.  Parking is $8.  Automated machines accept exact cash payments, MasterCard and Visa.
  • Agency: Point Mugu State Park
  • Distance: 10.1 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,800 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (distance, elevation gain)
  • Suggested time: 5 hours
  • Best season: October – May
  • Recommended gear:  sunblock; sun hat; insect repellent
  • USGS topo maps: “Point Mugu”
  • More information: Trail map here; Everytrail report here; video shot by a mountain biker on the Guadalasca Trail (opposite direction from description below) here;  Point Mugu State Park Yelp page here
  • Rating: 8
0:00 - Start of the hike, La Jolla Canyon Trailhead (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Start of the hike, La Jolla Canyon Trailhead (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

The long but easily graded Guadalasca Trail is one of Point Mugu State Park’s more enjoyable routes. It’s popular with mountain bikers (expect to see a few on the trail) but due to its remote location within the park, it can be tricky to do as a day hike. The easiest way to hike the Guadalasca Trail is the trip described here; a “balloon” type hike consisting of a 2.6-mile out and back segment and a 4.9-mile loop.

0:18 - Steps by the seasonal waterfall (times are approximate)

0:18 – Steps by the seasonal waterfall (times are approximate)

Starting at the Ray Miller Trailhead, take the La Jolla Canyon Trail north. As of this writing the park is still recovering from the effects of the 2013 Spring Fire. New growth is starting to take place but the area is still largely dry and burned.

0:30 - Keep right at the fork

0:30 – Keep right at the fork

At about 0.7 miles, you pass by a small, two-tiered seasonal waterfall. Unless there have been recent heavy rains, don’t expect much from the waterfall, although at this point, where a tributary joins La Jolla Canyon, the trail starts to feel more rugged and remote. You climb into the narrow canyon, clinging to the east wall. A few burned stumps of coreopsis plants can be seen poking up through the rocks; hopefully future wet seasons will help bring them back into bloom. Sadly, graffiti and trash take away from the appeal of this section of the trail; while most people come to Point Mugu and other parks to enjoy nature, keep an eye out for those who might not have such a worthwhile reason for being here.

0:41 - View of La Jolla Valley

0:41 – View of La Jolla Valley

At 1.2 miles (and almost 600 feet of elevation gain) you reach a Y-shaped split. The left fork heads toward Mugu Peak, but our route heads right, toward La Jolla Valley. Things get a little easier here as the trail grade levels out considerably and chaparral and scrub oaks provide shade. At about 1.7 miles, you get a nice view of La Jolla Valley to the left, pleasantly green with spring rains, contrasting the burnt hills around it.

1:02 - Descending Hell Hill with Boney Mountain in the distance

1:02 – Descending Hell Hill with Boney Mountain in the distance

Soon after you reach another split where you stay right. At 2.4 miles, turn right on the La Jolla Fire Road and follow it uphill 0.2 miles to a four-way junction; the start of the loop. Hiking the loop counter-clockwise, as described here, will spare you having to ascend the appropriately nick-named Hell Hill (650 feet elevation change in 0.8 miles.)

1:10 - Turn left on to the Wood Canyon Fire Road at the bottom of Hell Hill

1:12 – Turn left on to the Wood Canyon Fire Road at the bottom of Hell Hill

As you descend Hell Hill, you’ll get a nice view of Boney Mountain and the northern end of Sycamore Canyon. At the bottom of the steep road, turn left on the Wood Canyon Fire Road and head north for a pleasant 0.3 miles beneath the shade of some oaks to the lower end of the Guadalasca Trail.

1:20 - Start of the Guadalasaca Trail

1:23 – Start of the Guadalasaca Trail

The first part of the Guadalasca Trail follows a wooded tributary of Wood Canyon; then it climbs into an open area. At 4.5 miles from the start, bear left at a fork. You cross the shallow canyon and start a long, gradual ascent. A solitary oak marks the approximate halfway point of the hike and makes a good rest spot.

Past the oak, the trail makes a few long switchbacks, providing good views of Boney Mountain, the Ventura coastal plain and the northern end of the park. If visibility is good, you may be able to see Ojai’s Topatopa Mountains.

1:50 - Bear left to stay on the Guadalasca Trail

1:50 – Bear left to stay on the Guadalasca Trail

At 6.2 miles, the trail becomes an abandoned fire road. Bear left and continue ascending briefly to a vista point (the high point of the hike) at 6.5 miles, where you can get a nice aerial view of La Jolla Canyon and a little slice of ocean. From here, the trail gradually descends a mile back to the junction with the Overlook Fire Road. Turn right and retrace your steps back to the Ray Miller Trailhead.

2:10 - Loan oak on the Guadalasca Trail

2:10 – Lone oak on the Guadalasca Trail

Text and photography copyright 2014 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

2:36 - Ocean view from the high point of the Guadalasca Trail

2:45 – Ocean view from the high point of the Guadalasca Trail

Terri Peak (Lake Perris State Recreation Area)

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Lake Perris from Terri Peak

Lake Perris from Terri Peak

Baldy and the San Gabriels from Terri Peak

Baldy and the San Gabriels from Terri Peak

Terri Peak (Lake Perris State Recreation Area)

  • Location: Lake Perris State Recreation Area, between Moreno Valley and Perris, Riverside County.  From the 60 Freeway, take the Moreno Beach Drive exit and head south for a total of 3.2 miles (turn left if you’re coming from Palm Springs; from the west, merge onto Auto Mall Parkway and turn right on Moreno Beach Drive.)  At 3.2 miles, turn left on Vista Del Lago, signed for the park.  At 1.3 miles, after passing the front gate where you pay the $10 per day vehicle use fee*, turn right on Alta Calle (first paved road you’ll come to), go 0.4 miles and turn right on a dirt service road signed for Horse Camp.  Follow it 0.4 miles to a junction where you turn left and park in the corral area. *As of this writing (Feb. 2014), to pay the day use fee, drive about 0.5 miles past the turnoff for the camp, turn left on Transition Road and drive to the kiosk.
  • Agency: Lake Perris State Recreation Area
  • Distance: 3.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 800 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 2 hours
  • Best season: October – May
  • USGS topo maps: Perris, Sunnymead
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire
  • More information: Hike descriptions here; here (loop configuration), Meetup description here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 6
0:00 - Trailhead by the horse corral (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Trailhead by the horse corral (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

Lake Perris is best known for its boating and horseback riding, but the park also features a few hiking trails, the most famous of which is the moderate trip to Terri Peak.  The hike loses a few points due to trash and graffiti on the summit, as well as the proximity to civilization (including the noise of watercraft) but on clear days, Terri Peak offers some of the best views around. If you live or work in the area it’s well worth a visit.

0:05 - Bear right at the four way junction by the water tank and head uphill (times are approximate)

0:05 – Bear right at the four way junction by the water tank and head uphill (times are approximate)

From the corral, follow the service road east. You can shave a minute or two off by bearing left on a single-track that joins the road farther up. At a four-way junction by the water tank, bear right and begin the bulk of the ascent.

0:19 - Looking north to the San Bernardino Mountains

0:19 – Looking north to the San Bernardino Mountains

The trail heads through a jumble of pink and tan boulders, taking in nice views of Moreno Valley, the San Bernardino Mountains, San Jacinto Peak and the lake. There are a few spots where the trail is a little vague due to hikers and bikers who have cut corners, but every time it splits it soon rejoins.

At 0.9 miles, stay left as another trail joins in from an alternate starting point on Vista Del Lago. You make a steep ascent, reaching a crest at 1.2 miles where the trail drops into a valley. At 1.5 miles, you reach a T-junction where you’ll turn left, making a steep ascent to the summit. Right before you reach the peak, a faint trail branches off; this can be an option for extending the hike into a 6-mile loop.

0:28 - Steep climb after meeting the alternate trail

0:28 – Steep climb after meeting the alternate trail

On the wide, flat summit of Terri Peak, you get an excellent aerial view of Lake Perris. With good visibility, you may see the following mountain ranges: the San Gabriels, Box Springs, Santa Anas, Palomars, Santa Rosas, San Jacintos, San Bernardinos and the Bernasconi Hills.

0:50 - Spur to the summit

0:50 – Spur to 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.

0:53 - Old Saddleback as seen from Terri Peak

0:53 – Old Saddleback as seen from Terri Peak

Big “C” Trail (Box Springs Mountain Park)

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Sunset over Old Saddleback from the Big C

Sunset and Old Saddleback from the Big “C”

San Gabriel Mountains from the Big "C"

San Gabriel Mountains from the Big “C”

Big “C” Trail (Box Springs Mountain Park)

  • Location: Northeast Riverside at the end of Big Springs Road, by Islander Park.  From San Bernardino, Los Angeles or Orange County, take the 60/I-215 freeway  to the 3rd St/Blaine St. exit.  Turn left and follow 3rd, which immediately becomes Blaine, a mile to Watkins Drive.  Turn right and go 0.8 miles to Big Springs Road.  Turn left and drive 0.4 miles to the end of Big Springs Road and park where available on the south (right) side of the street.  Note the parking restrictions.  From the east, take the 60/I-215 freeway to Watkins Drive.  Turn right and go 0.7 miles to Mt. Vernon.  Bear right and go 0.6 miles to Big Springs Road.  Turn right and drive 0.2 miles to the end of the road.
  • Agency: Riverside County Regional Park & Open Space District
  • Distance: 1.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 950 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
  • Best season: October – June
  • USGS topo maps: Riverside East
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
  • More information: Trip descriptions here and here; Map My Hike report here; unflinching account of the vandalism on the trail here
  • Rating: 5

You already know how to reach the big “M” on the south slope of Box Springs Mountain, so in this post, we’ll look at the short–but very steep–hike to the big “C” on the mountain’s west side.  Sadly, there’s a lot of graffiti and trash, but on clear days hike provides one of the Inland Empire’s best 180-degree views.

0:00 - Trail head at the end of Big Springs Road (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Trail head at the end of Big Springs Road (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This hike almost came in at PG-13 due to its unrelenting steepness, often loose and difficult terrain and tricky route-finding, but anyone who’s reasonably active and allows themselves enough time shouldn’t have a problem.  Hiking poles will be a huge help.  There is an actual Google Maps-recognized Big C trail, although many other routes have been blazed across the mountain’s western slope.  Your exact route up and down may vary, but the trail’s popularity makes it hard to get too lost; when in doubt you shouldn’t have a problem finding other hikers to follow. With a western exposure, the hike can be done even on hot days with an early enough start and it’s also an excellent place to watch the sunset, although make sure you allow enough daylight to safely negotiate the steep slope.

0:03 - Look both ways (times are approximate)

0:03 – Look both ways (times are approximate)

Start just before the end of Big Springs Road by bearing left on a trail leading up to the railroad tracks. After crossing them you begin your ascent. Typically, you will choose between steep, eroded wash-like breaks and slightly less steep single-track. The first occurs on the east side of the railroad tracks. After the single-track reunites with the steeper route, the ascent continues, heading generally southeast. You can take advantage of a strip of grass running up the middle of the path which may help give you traction.

0:06 - Following the trail on the other side of the tracks

0:06 – Following the trail on the other side of the tracks

At about 0.3 miles, you reach another split where the trails briefly separate before rejoining. The left route is slightly less steep. You soon reach a ridge (about 0.5 miles) where the trail levels out briefly. Here you may be encouraged by a glimpse of the top half of the “C” off to your left.

0:15 - Junction where you can choose between steep (left) and steeper (right)

0:15 – Junction where you can choose between steep (left) and steeper (right)

At another split, you can choose between a steep but not too difficult climb up some rocks (left) or a single-track branching off to the right. The two trails meet just below the “C”. Make your final scramble up to the marker, where despite huge amounts of graffiti–some rather graphic in nature–you can enjoy an excellent view of the Santa Ana Mountains, the San Gabriels, and the Inland Valley. You get a nearly aerial perspective on the immediate neighborhood, some thousand feet below.

0:30 - Junction below the C (note the steep break on the left and the trail branching to the right)

0:30 – Junction below the “C” (note the steep break on the left and the trail branching to the right)

If you still have feeling in your legs, you can continue past the “C” to connect with other trails in Box Springs Mountain Park. It’s even possible to make it to the “M”, which is about three miles farther and 900 feet higher.

The “C” honors nearby University of California Riverside. Several UC campuses feature giant “C” markers. This “C” is the highest of all of them, at about 2,100 feet. It was completed in 1957 and at the time was the largest (132 feet tall by 70 feet wide) poured concrete block letter of its kind in the world.

0:40 - Respect the C

0:40 – Be a man: Respect the “C”

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.

Towers Loop (Box Springs Mountain Park)

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San Gorgonio and San Bernardino Peaks from Box Springs Mountain Park

San Gorgonio and San Bernardino Peaks from Box Springs Mountain Park

Grassy field on the Edison Trail

Grassy field on the Edison Trail

Towers Loop (Box Springs Mountain Park)

  • Location: Box Springs Mountain Park, Moreno Valley.  From the 60 Freeway, take the Frederick St./Pigeon Pass Road exit and head north (right if you’re coming from the east; left if from the west) for 3.9 miles.  Just after the road bends to the west, stay straight to continue onto Box Springs Mountain Road.  Go 1.3 miles on Box Springs Mountain Road (it becomes dirt after 0.6 miles, but it’s in good condition and won’t present an issue).  Enter the park and pull into the lot signed for day use.  Day use fees are $5 per vehicle and $2 for each pet.
  • Agency: Riverside County Regional Park & Open Space District
  • Distance: 3.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 800 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 2 hours
  • Best season: October – May
  • USGS topo maps: Riverside; San Bernardino South
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire
  • More information: Yelp page here; trail map here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 6
0:00 - Fence at the trail head (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

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

This loop explores the south end of Box Springs Mountain Park, passing by – as its name suggests – several radio towers.  While the Two Trees and Big C trails provide nice views of the San Gabriels and the hike to the “M” features views to the east of San Gorgonio and San Jacinto, you’ll get to see all of the above from this loop. Unfortunately the views are often diminished by the smog, and the park suffers from depressing amounts of graffiti, but Box Springs is a valuable Inland Empire recreational resource, conveniently located to San Bernardino and Riverside and well worth a visit.

0:03 - Bear left on the Spring Trail (times are approximate)

0:03 – Bear left on the Spring Trail (times are approximate)

There are several possible variations on this loop but the basic idea is to head southeast toward the towers, loop around them and return via either of two trails. From the parking area, head south on the fire road to a junction where you’ll bear right on the Springs Trail, a single-track. It heads steadily uphill, reaches a vista point with a bench and then descends, rejoining the service road (0.5 miles.) Turn left and continue your climb, getting a good look at San Gorgonio and San Bernardino on the way up.

0:15 - Rejoin the service road and head left

0:15 – Rejoin the service road and head left

At 1.5 miles you reach a junction. Make a hard right (the left fork continues to the “M”) and pass by the antennas. If the air is clear you’ll get a good aerial view of Moreno Valley with the Santa Ana Mountains distant. In a quarter mile you come to another junction where you’ll turn right, heading toward yet another antenna cluster.

0:38 - Turn right and head toward the antennas

0:38 – Turn right and head toward the antennas

When the service road meets the last antenna (2 miles), turn left on a rough-looking trail heading downhill. The Hidden Springs Trail is a single-track that switchbacks down the west side of the mountain, providing more of a wilderness feel than the fire roads. You pass by some interesting geological outcrops with great views of the San Gabriels in front of you.

0:45 - Another right turn, another antenna

0:45 – Another right turn, another antenna

At 2.6 miles, you reach a T-junction. You can shorten your hike by heading right on a service road, but to make the route a little more interesting, head left and follow the dirt road to a junction with the Edison Trail (2.8 miles.) Turn right and follow the single track Edison Trail through a shallow canyon. Despite the power lines overhead, this last stretch has the most remote feel of any in the loop. You pass by jumbles of rocks and into an open field before making a final steep descent back to the parking lot.

0:55 - View of Mt. Baldy at the junction with the Hidden Springs Trail (turn left and begin your descent)

0:55 – View of Mt. Baldy at the junction with the Hidden Springs Trail (turn left and begin your descent)

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.

1:11 - Right turn on the Edison Trail

1:16 – Right turn on the Edison Trail

Top 13 of 13!

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View of Garner Valley from the South Ridge Trail, Tahquitz Peak

View of Garner Valley from the South Ridge Trail, Tahquitz Peak

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

View of the San Gabriels en route to Sierra Peak

San Jacinto as seen from Chaparossa Peak

San Jacinto as seen from Chaparossa Peak

With almost 100 hikes posted – including diverse destinations as Joshua Tree National Park, the Channel Islands, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Gaviota State Park – there’s no doubt that 2013 was a great year for Nobody Hikes in L.A.!  Thank you readers for your continued support, encouragement and generosity.  As has become tradition on this site, we look back on the best hikes posted this year.  If you didn’t get a chance to visit any of these, put them on your list for 2014.  If you’ve hiked these trails for yourself, well, sit back and enjoy the memories.

#13) Mt. Bliss.  The long climb up this peak in the San Gabriel foothills might not be very, well, blissful, but the views from the top are great.  Highlights include close-up looks at Mt. Baldy and a nearly aerial perspective on the San Gabriel Valley.

#12) Thomas Mountain.  One of the more prominent summits in the San Jacinto area south of the Desert Divide, the long hike to Thomas Mountain features a diverse array of trees including cedars, oaks, manzanitas and pines.

#11) Champion Lodgepole/Bluff Lake/Castle Rock.  Why not knock off two of Big Bear Lake’s most famous hiking destinations – with a scenic tour of Bluff Lake for good measure – at a time?  Attractive forests, mountain and lake views and geology are among this hike’s attractions.

#10) Smuggler’s Cove on Santa Cruz Island.  While Potato Harbor may be Santa Cruz Island’s most popular hiking destination, hikers who are up for a challenge will be well rewarded for their efforts with this long hike to the island’s south shore.

#9) Warren Peak.  This summit in the northwestern corner of Joshua Tree National Park is one of the area’s highest points, rising almost a mile above sea level.  A moderately challenging hike, with some rock scrambling on the summit ridge, brings you to the peak, where the views of San Jacinto and San Gorgonio, and the desert below, are hard to beat.

#8) Chaparrosa Peak.  This one is a bit of a haul for most L.A. hikers, but this desert summit north of Palm Springs is a must-do.  Like Warren Peak, it features great mountain and desert views and a diverse array of plant life and geology, with vistas that are even more panoramic.

#7) Sierra Peak.  The northernmost summit of the Santa Anas has some of L.A.’s best views, especially on clear days.  If visibility is good, expect to see Catalina Island, the Santa Monica Mountains, the San Jacintos and much more.

#6) West Horsethief/Trabuco Canyon Loop.  This ten-mile hike visits the most remote corner of Orange County.  Highlights include the secluded, shaded interior of Trabuco Canyon and a scenic walk along Main Divide Road with great views of Mt. Baldy, San Gorgonio and San Jacinto.

#5) Mt. Lukens.  There are several approaches to the highest point in the city of Los Angeles, including this loop, conveniently located at Glendale’s Deukmejian Wilderness Park. Phenomenal views of the L.A. Basin and the San Gabriel Mountains are among the rewards for the efforts required for this 10-mile journey.

#4) Cahuilla Mountain.  Rising from the desert southwest of the San Jacinto Mountains, Cahuilla is a forested sky island with excellent views all around.

#3) Keller Peak via Exploration Trail.  This stunner is one of the overlooked gems of the San Bernardino Mountains – perhaps in all of So Cal.  The Exporation Trail leads through an attractive pine forest and Keller Peak’s strategic location yields excellent views of the Inland Empire and the surrounding mountains, making it an obvious choice for the historic lookout tower.

#2) Tahquitz Peak – South Ridge Approach.  This route is steeper and possibly more difficult than the common approach from Humber Park and the mile of rough dirt road required to reach the trailhead is a deterrent for some.  That being said, the views from Tahquitz are among So Cal’s best, and this approach from the South Ridge Trail is less crowded than the Humber approach.

#1) San Jacinto Peak from the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.  We wanted hike #500 to be a good one and it doesn’t get much better than this.  Even this “easy” route to San Jacinto Peak is an 11-plus mile round trip, but the views, including almost all of So Cal, are worth it.

Well, there you have it – our cream of the crop for 2013.  Here’s to a happy, safe and successful 2014 on and off the trails for all of us!

Big Sycamore/Overlook Loop (Point Mugu State Park)

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Ocean view from the Overlook Fire Road

Ocean view from the Overlook Fire Road

Looking north from the Overlook Fire Road

Looking north from the Overlook Fire Road

Big Sycamore/Overlook Loop (Point Mugu State Park)

  • Location: Point Mugu State Park between Malibu and Oxnard.  From Oxnard, take highway 1 south for 17 miles.  The Sycamore Canyon trailhead is on the left (if you reach the Sycamore Canyon Campground,  you’ve come too far.)  From Santa Monica, take highway 1 north for 32 miles.  The Sycamore trailhead will be on the right, about a mile and a half past Deer Creek Road.  From the San Fernando Valley, take highway 101 to highway 23 and head south to P.C.H.  Parking is $12.  Checks or cash are accepted and change is not available.
  • Agency: Point Mugu State Park
  • Distance: 9.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,100 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (distance)
  • Suggested time: 4.5 hours
  • Best season: October – June
  • Recommended gear:  sunblock; sun hat
  • Recommended guidebook: California Hiking
  • USGS topo maps: “Point Mugu”
  • More information: Trail map here; Everytrail report here; Point Mugu State Park Yelp page here
  • Rating: 8
0:00 - Start of the hike at the day area parking lot (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Start of the hike at the day area parking lot (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This trip is basically a mirror image of the Big Sycamore/Serrano Canyon loop, trading scenic Serrano Valley for panoramic views of La Jolla Valley.  Both hikes feature great ocean and mountain views. The damage from the recent Springs Fire is sobering, but this is still a very enjoyable hike and seeing the aftermath of the fire is a good reminder of how precious a natural resource Point Mugu State Park really is.

0:07 - Start of the Big Sycamore Canyon Fire Road (times are approximate)

0:07 – Start of the Big Sycamore Canyon Fire Road (times are approximate)

From the day parking area, head past the entry station, follow the service road for a quarter mile past the campsites and pass by a gate, accessing the Big Sycamore Canyon Fire Road. Almost immediately you’ll notice the Scenic Trail branching off to the left; your return route. Continue heading north into Big Sycamore Canyon, passing several turnoffs for other trails.

0:51 - Live oak shortly past the picnic area

0:51 – Live oak shortly past the picnic area

At 2.3 miles, a picnic table beneath a large oak makes a nice rest spot. You continue almost another mile to a junction with the Wood Vista trail (which is also the Backbone Trail.) Turn left and begin the only major ascent of the hike, climbing steadily for the next two miles, making long, looping switchbacks. As you climb higher, you get a nice view not only of Big Sycamore Canyon but of Boney Mountain.

1:06 - Left turn on the Wood Canyon Vista Trail/Backbone Trail

1:06 – Left turn on the Wood Canyon Vista Trail/Backbone Trail

At about 5 miles from the start, you reach the Overlook Fire Road; this is the approximate half way point of the hike, a good spot to take a break and enjoy views of La Jolla Valley. Turn left and head south on the Overlook Fire Road, which follows the ridge that divides Big Sycamore Canyon and La Jolla Canyon. Keep your eyes peeled for Anacapa Island, visible between two hills.

2:10 - View of La Jolla Valley from the Overlook Fire Road, top of the Wood Canyon Vista Trail

2:10 – View of La Jolla Valley from the Overlook Fire Road, top of the Wood Canyon Vista Trail

The trail reaches a high point of about 1,100 feet at 6 miles and begins its descent, with wide-ranging ocean views. Stay straight as the Ray Miller and Fire Line Trails branch off, and at about 8.5 miles you reach another junction. The Overlook Fire Road heads left but for a more scenic (and shorter) return, head straight on the Scenic Trail. You reach an overlook where you get an aerial view of Pacific Coast Highway, 350 feet below.

2:50 - Ocean view from the Overlook Fire Road

2:50 – Ocean view from the Overlook Fire Road

After enjoying the view, continue following the trail downhill, staying straight at a junction with some other trails, and make your descent back into Big Sycamore Canyon. At the bottom of the Scenic Trail, turn right to head back into the campground and follow the road to your car.

3:30 - The overlook

3:30 – The overlook

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.

3:50 - View from the Scenic Trail, descending back into the canyon

3:50 – View from the Scenic Trail, descending back into the canyon

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.

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.

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.


Mason Regional Park

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Open space in Mason Regional Park

Open space in Mason Regional Park

Shade trees in Mason Regional Park

Shade trees in Mason Regional Park

Mason Regional Park

  • Location: Irvine.  Free parking is available on the corner of Rosa Drew Drive and Tamarack Way.  From I-405, take the Jeffrey Rd./Unviersity Dr. exit.  Head west (left if you’re coming from the south, right if from the north) and go 0.7 miles to Rosa Drew Drive.  Turn right, go a short distance and park where available.
  • Agency:  Orange County Parks & Recreation
  • Distance: 2.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: Level
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
  • Best season:  Year round
  • USGS topo map: “Tustin”
  • More information:  Mason Park homepage here; Yelp page here; park descriptions here and here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 2

The eastern part of William Mason Regional Park is known as the “Wilderness Area”, which may be a little generous (the majority of the trails are paved), but it’s still a nice and convenient place to get some fresh air and exercise.  Though some traffic noise can be heard, this section of the park has a pleasantly secluded feel. Dogs are allowed with a 6-foot leash.

0:00 - Beginning of the hike on Rosa Drew Drive (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Beginning of the hike on Rosa Drew Drive (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

From the parking area on the east side of Rosa Drew Drive, cross the street and head south. Cross University, continue south and make a hard right on a paved walkway leading into the park. You cross a seasonal stream and head west on the path. Signed as the Sand Canyon Wash on park maps, this is the main artery through the wilderness area.

0:03 - Turn right into the park (times are approximate)

0:03 – Turn right into the park (times are approximate)

A few benches make for a nice place to sit and there’s a decent amount of shade from the willows. At 0.7 miles you reach a junction. The two paths soon rejoin but the left route, which briefly leaves the pavement, is more pleasant. If you go this way take an almost immediate right and continue walking on the trail before rejoining the paved walkway (0.9 miles.)

0:14 - Bear left onto the dirt trail

0:14 – Bear left onto the dirt trail

Soon after the paths converge, you reach an intersection. You can extend the hike by heading left but for this route, head right, continuing west. Stay straight at another intersection (the right route is a spur to University Drive). You make another stream crossing and travel in and out of shade.

0:21 - Turn right at the junction

0:21 – Turn right at the junction

At 1.3 miles, you reach a final junction, shortly before Culver Drive. Both routes lead a short distance to Culver, a good turnaround point. However, if you want to extend your hike, you can cross Culver Drive and walk through the more developed part of Mason Regional Park; this might be a fun option for families with small kids.

0:32 - Turnaround point (Culver Drive)

0:32 – Turnaround point (Culver Drive)

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.

Upper Canyonback Trail

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Returning on the Upper Canyonback Trail

Returning on the Upper Canyonback Trail

Western panorama from the Canyonback Trail

Western panorama from the Canyonback Trail

Upper Canyonback Trail

  • Location:  Northeastern Santa Monica Mountains, near the Getty Center.  From I-405, take Mulholland Drive west for 2.1 miles.  At the corner of Muholland and Encino Hills Drive, take a sharp left onto the dirt road.  Drive a short distance and park in the area before Mulholland  bends to the right, and begin hiking on the trail past the yellow metal gate.
  • Agency: Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area/Westridge Canyonback Wilderness Park
  • Distance: 3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 325 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
  • Best season: All year (hot in summer)
  • USGS topo map:  “Canoga Park”
  • Recomended gear: sunblock; sun hat
  • More information: here; description of both Lower and Upper segments here;  Yelp page here
  • Rating: 6

This enjoyable hike visits the northeastern corner of the so-called “Big Wild”, a large open space between I-405 and Topanga State Park.  It’s moderate enough to be a good summer hike; although the route is almost entirely exposed, with an early start you shouldn’t have too much of a problem.  It also makes a nice evening walk too; navigation couldn’t be easier.

0:00 - Trail head on Dirt Mulholland (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

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

From the parking area, pass the metal gate and head south on the Canyonback Trail. After a few hundred yards, you pass the first of several knolls with use trails running up them. You can climb to the top for a better view or continue along the fire road, which curves around the knoll and begins descending. (There are several ups and downs along the way; the total net gain is more on the return than on the way out).

0:10 - Following the ridge past the first knoll (times are approximate)

0:10 – Following the ridge past the first knoll (times are approximate)

You continue, getting nice views of Sullivan Canyon on the right and, with clear air, the Hollywood Hills, downtown L.A. and the San Gabriel Mountains on the left. At 1.2 miles, you pass through a metal fence and soon afterward, you get a nice aerial perspective on the Mountain View Golf Club.

0:27 - Trees on the Canyonback Trail

0:27 – Trees on the Canyonback Trail

The trail then dips rather abruptly, reaching an unceremonious stop at a metal fence. Beyond it is a residential area, and farther south, the trail continues toward Kenter Avenue. You can sit beneath a shade tree and enjoy the view of the canyon before turning around.

0:32 - "Fore!"

0:32 – “Fore!”

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.

0:45 - End of the Upper Canyonback Trail

0:45 – End of the Upper Canyonback Trail

Skyline Loops (Box Springs Mountain Park)

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Skyline City View

View of the Inland Empire from the Skyline 2 Loop

Rolling hills on the Skyline Loop

Rolling hills on the Skyline Loop

Skyline Loops (Box Springs Mountain Park)

  • Location: Box Springs Mountain Park, Moreno Valley.  From the 60 Freeway, take the Frederick St./Pigeon Pass Road exit and head north (right if you’re coming from the east; left if from the west) for 3.9 miles.  Just after the road bends to the west, stay straight to continue onto Box Springs Mountain Road.  Go 1.3 miles on Box Springs Mountain Road (it becomes dirt after 0.6 miles, but it’s in good condition and won’t present an issue).  Enter the park and pull into the lot signed for day use.  Day use fees are $5 per vehicle and $2 for each pet.
  • Agency: Riverside County Regional Park & Open Space District
  • Distance: 4.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,100 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Navigation, terrain, steepness, elevation gain)
  • Suggested time: 2.5 hours
  • Best season: October – May
  • USGS topo maps: Riverside; San Bernardino South
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire
  • More information: Yelp page here; trail map here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 7
0:00 - Beginning of the hike, on the dirt road (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

0:00 – Beginning of the hike, on the dirt road (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

For a trail that never really escapes the sights and sounds nearby Riverside, the Skyline Loops in Box Springs Mountain Park have a surprisingly rugged feel–in particular the second loop.  Although the area gets hot during the summer, a substantial portion of the route is on cool, north facing slopes, so with an early start, good hydration and a sun hat, this hike can be done in the warm weather.  Highlights include city and mountain views, geology and springtime wildflowers.

0:05 - Head left at the beginning of the first Skyline Loop (times are approximate)

0:06 – Head left at the beginning of the first Skyline Loop (times are approximate)

From the parking area, head north on the dirt road, passing the top of the Two Trees Trail. Where the road bends (0.2 miles from the parking area), look for the beginning of the first Skyline Loop. You can hike it in either direction, but going clockwise allows you to save the best scenery for later.

0:43 - Beginning of the second Skyline Loop (head left)

0:43 – Beginning of the second Skyline Loop (head left)

Follow the trail along the side of a ridge. There’s an unfortunate amount of graffiti near the beginning, although it becomes less of a problem later in the hike. You get some nice views of downtown Riverside as you head northwest.

0:58 - Following the trail through a field on the Skyline 2 Loop

0:58 – Following the trail through a field on the Skyline 2 Loop

At 1.4 miles from the start, you reach the beginning of the Skyline 2 Loop. Although it’s shorter than the first one, it features more challenging terrain and navigation. You can head right to continue on the first Skyline Loop for a 3-mile trip, but if you’re feeling adventurous, head left to begin the Skyline 2 Loop. Expect to spend as much time on this one as the first loop, even though it’s only about half as long.

1:02 - Geology at the top of a ridge on the Skyline 2 Trail, just before a steep descent

1:02 – Geology at the top of a ridge on the Skyline 2 Trail, just before a steep descent

Follow the faint trail as it continues northwest, climbing over rocks and skirting the edge of the ridge a few times. You drop into a small valley, climb a hill and pass by an interesting rock with some small cave-like openings. The trail dips down to a saddle with nice views of Grand Terrace’s Blue Mountain. A steep, crooked descent brings you to the lowest point (1,909 feet) on the route, which also happens to be the northernmost. It’s also the approximate half way point of the hike at 2.2 miles.

1:11 - Steep descent on the Skyline Loop Trail between the rocks (be careful!)

1:11 – Steep descent on the Skyline Loop Trail between the rocks (be careful!)

You begin climbing, heading southeast, climbing around some large rocks. After a sharp right turn, the trail descends again, rejoining the first Skyline Trail at 3 miles.

1:34 - Heading south back toward the first loop

1:34 – Heading south back toward the first loop

Turn left and follow the trail uphill, climbing a little over 400 feet in the next mile. After passing a wooden fence, stay left at a junction with a false trail. Soon you reach the top of a ridge, where you can see the parking area and the beginning part of the loop, as well as the Two Trees Trail. Follow the Skyline Trail downhill back to the dirt road and retrace your steps to the parking lot.

1:44 - Back at the first loop (head left)

1:44 – Back at the first loop (head 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.

2:19 - Heading back to the dirt road, completing the loop

2:19 – Heading back to the dirt road, completing the loop

Hummingbird Trail

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Geology on the Hummingbird Trail, Simi Valley

Geology on the Hummingbird Trail, Simi Valley

Sky between the rocks on the Hummingbird Trail

Sky between the rocks on the Hummingbird Trail

Hummingbird Trail

  • Location: Simi Valley.  From the 118 Freeway, take the Kuehner Drive exit and head north (left if you’re coming from the west, right if from the east).  Park in the large dirt lot on the right side of the road, almost immediately north of the freeway.
  • Agency: Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy
  • Distance: 4.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,150 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain, terrain, navigation)
  • Suggested time: 2.5 hours
  • Best season: October – May
  • USGS topo map:  Santa Susana
  • Recommended gear: sun hat; sunblock; hiking poles
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot & Afield Los Angeles County
  • More information: here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 7
0:00 - Beginning of the trail on Kuehner Drive (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

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

Like the nearby Chumash Trail, the Hummingbird Trail allows hikers the opportunity to get up close looks at some great geology while enjoying wide-ranging views of the Simi Valley/Santa Susana Pass area. It also provides a good workout, especially if you decide to continue on to Rocky Peak from the fire road. Navigation can be a little tricky, but if you keep an eye out for purple arrows on the rocks marking the route, you shouldn’t have too much trouble. Also bear in mind that a lot of the switchbacks have been cut, so the correct route is usually the one that is the least steep. The trail’s grade is steady, but not too extreme.

0:04 - Beginning of the Hummingbird Trail (times are approximate)

0:04 – Beginning of the Hummingbird Trail (times are approximate)

From the parking area on the east side of Kuehner Drive north of the freeway, follow a dirt path between the road and the fence. In 0.2 miles, you reach the official beginning of the trail. Head down through a meadow, into a creek bed, past a large oak and turn left on the well-marked main trail (0.4 miles.)

0:08 - Crossing the canyon (bear left)

0:08 – Crossing the canyon (bear left)

You begin an ascent through a narrow canyon, closely hugging the south wall. The area opens up and you continue climbing along the rocky slope, ignoring a few narrow paths that branch off. If you find yourself confused about which path to take, keep in mind that the paths usually meet up again shortly (it’s often a result of switchbacks being cut).

0:10 - Turn left under the oak

0:10 – Turn left under the oak

At just over a mile, you cross through a narrow passage between two walls of rocks and continue climbing uphill. On your right is a rock ledge with several caves inside. Soon after, you pass another large outcrop that resembles the “Turtle Rock” in nearby Sage Ranch.

0:27 - Follow the purple arrows

0:27 – Follow the purple arrows

After a few more switchbacks, the trail starts to level out after 1.8 miles. A fairly easy 0.4 miles brings you to the Rocky Peak Fire Road, the turnaround point for this hike. A bench and a large flat rock provide nice places to sit and enjoy the view.

0:32 - Keep following the purple arrows

0:32 – Keep following the purple arrows

While the Hummingbird Trail suffers from some graffiti and trash, and never really escapes the noise of the 118 Freeway, it’s definitely a worthwhile hike, especially if you’ve done and enjoyed the Chumash Trail.  It’s convenient location is also a plus, and even if you end up not hiking the whole thing, just a short scramble among the rocks is enjoyable.

0:35 - Close quarters

0:35 – Close quarters

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

1:15 - View from the Rocky Peak Fire Road

1:15 – View from the Rocky Peak Fire Road

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.

Simi Peak via China Flat

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Looking southeast from Simi Peak

Looking southeast from Simi Peak

View of Thousand Oaks and vicinity from near Simi Peak's summit

View of Thousand Oaks and vicinity from near Simi Peak’s summit

Simi Peak via China Flat 

  • Location: Oak Park, near Thousand Oaks and Agoura Hills.  From L.A., take Highway 101 to Kanan Road.  Turn right and go 4.1 miles to Lindero Canyon Road.  Turn right and go one mile.  The trail head is on the left side of the road, just before the intersection with Wembly Ave.  From Ventura, take Highway 101 to Lindero Canyon Road.  Turn left and drive 4 miles to the trailhead on the left side of the road.
  • Agency: Rancho Simi Receration & Parks/Santa Monica Mountains National Recreational Area
  • Distance: 6.7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,600 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Distance, elevation gain)
  • Suggested time: 3.5 hours
  • Best season: November – May
  • USGS topo map: Thousand Oaks, Calabasas
  • Recommended gear: sun hat; insect repellent; hiking polessunblock
  • More information: trip reports here and here (slightly different route)
  • Rating: 8

This trip visits two popular Thousand Oaks area hiking destinations: Simi Peak (elevation 2,403) and China Flat, a pastoral meadow where many live oaks provide shade. Other highlights on this trip include great city and mountain views, a few glimpses at the ocean, and some interesting geology, including some sandstone caves.

0:00 - Trail head on Lindero Canyon Road (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

0:00 – Trail head on Lindero Canyon Road (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

From Lindero Canyon Road, the trail signed for China Flat follows a fenceline. After 0.1 miles, you’ll turn left and then make a quick right, beginning the main ascent. You will gain about 900 feet in a mile and a half, over exposed and somewhat rocky terrain, but your efforts are rewarded with great views the entire way.

0:02 - Turn left (times are approximate)

0:02 – Turn left (times are approximate)

At 0.4 miles you head briefly downhill, merging with another trail coming from Lindero Canyon Road. Turn right and continue climbing toward the ridge. At 1.5 miles, the slope levels out and you reach a metal grate. Shortly afterward, you merge with the trail from Palo Comado Canyon. Stay left at the first two intersections and then bear right, curving around the side of a ridge.

0:40 - Sandstone geology on the China Flat Trail

0:40 – Sandstone geology on the China Flat Trail

At 1.8 miles, the trail makes a sharp right turn and begins a descent into a pleasant, cool woodland, the south edge of China Flat. Soon after, you reach a junction. If you want to shorten your hike and go directly to Simi Peak, you can turn left and reach the summit in just under a mile. However, for a more interesting route, head right. You enter a wide meadow, soon reaching another junction where you’ll head left. A slight incline brings you to yet another junction, where you’ll go right (north). At the far end of the meadow, look for a large outcrop of rock with two caves giving a skull-like appearance.

0:49 - China Flat Trail (stay left)

0:49 – China Flat Trail (stay left)

At the four-way intersection, head left. You get nice views of the Thousand Oaks area below as you make your way along a ridge. At 3.4 miles from the start, you rejoin the Simi Peak Trail, where you’ll turn right. The trail descends briefly before beginning its final push to the summit. At 1.6 miles, turn left on a short spur that brings you to the peak. The views are great, and a little nerve-wracking; the land drops off sharply in a way that may remind some of Sandstone Peak, although no rock-scrambling is required.

1:04 - Oak woodlands near China Flat

1:04 – Oak woodlands near China Flat

If visibility is good, you can see Mt. Baldy, with San Gorgonio and San Jacinto faint in the distance. The Santa Monicas block out most of the view to the south, but you can still see the ocean, including Catalina, Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands. To the north, you can see the Simi Valley area and the Santa Susanas.

1:11 - Fire road on the east side of China Flat (turn left)

1:11 – Fire road on the east side of China Flat (turn left)

To cut distance off your return trip, when you return to the junction, head straight instead of left. You’ll arrive back at China Flat after 0.9 miles from the summit. Turn right at the first intersection and right again to follow the route back down to Lindero Canyon Road.

1:20 - Skull shaped rock at the north end of the meadow (turn left at the four-way junction)

1:20 – Skull shaped rock at the north end of the meadow (turn left at the four-way 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.

1:55 - View of the San Gabriels from Simi Peak

1:55 – View of the San Gabriels from Simi Peak

Heartbreak Hill (Agoura Hills)

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Looking up toward Heartbreak Ridge

Looking up toward Heartbreak Ridge

Steep descent from Heartbreak Ridge

Steep descent from Heartbreak Ridge

Heartbreak Hill (Agoura Hills)

  • Location: Agoura Hills.  From Highway 101, take the Liberty Canyon exit.  Head south (left if you’re coming from the east, right if from the west) on Liberty Canyon Road and make a quick right onto Agoura Road.  Go 0.3 miles and park in a dirt turnout on the left side of the road.  Look for the brown Santa Monica Mountains parklands sign.
  • Agency: Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy
  • Distance: 1.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 750 feet
  • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG
  • Best season: October – June
  • USGS topo map: Calabasas
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
  • More information:  here; article here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 6
0:00 - Beginning of the Heartbreak Hill trail (click thumbnails to see the full-sized version)

0:00 – Beginning of the Heartbreak Hill trail (click thumbnails to see the full-sized version)

From the “short but steep” category, we present Heartbreak Hill, which happens to share its name with an infamous stretch of the Boston Marathon route. The advantages of this hike are its convenient location and the variety of scenery, which includes great views of Ladyface Mountain, the Agoura Hills area, the western San Fernando Valley and more. The disadvantage is the pain you will feel in your gastrocnemius muscles (back of the leg, below the knee.) Short as it may be, this hike shouldn’t be underestimated – especially the descent, for which you’d best be sure your legs are fresh.

0:08 - Beginning the climb (times are approximate)

0:08 – Beginning the climb (times are approximate)

From the parking area on Agoura Road, the trail climbs through a meadow and then begins an ascent that is, in a word, brutal. You gain 350 feet in only 0.3 miles before reaching a small clearing where you can stop and catch your breath and enjoy the view. After an all-too-brief short flat stretch, the ascent continues, rising another 200 feet over the next 0.2 miles. Here, you finally get a breather as the trail bends south, descending slightly as it follows a ridge. The views on both sides are great, but unfortunately your work isn’t quite done yet.

0:23 - Following the ridge after the first major ascent

0:23 – Following the ridge after the first major ascent

At 0.2 miles, the trail dips down into a wooded area and then it makes its final steep approach to Heartbreak Ridge. The extreme grade resembles some of the more difficult sections of the Trans-Catalina Trail.

0:37 - Ladyface from Heartbreak Ridge

0:37 – Ladyface from Heartbreak Ridge

Finally you arrive at Heartbreak Ridge. If you want, you can extend the hike by turning left and following the ridge south, eventually reaching the Phantom Trail in Malibu Creek State Park. For this hike, however, turn right and climb to a knoll where you get a nearly 360-degree view; a nice reward for your efforts. I’ll say it again: make sure your legs are rested for the descent.

0:38 - Looking north from the top of the knoll (turnaround point)

0:38 – Looking north from the top of the knoll (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.

Blue Mountain (Grand Terrace)

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Looking north toward San Bernardino from the Blue Mountain Trail

Looking north toward San Bernardino from the Blue Mountain Trail

Geology near the Blue Mountain summit

Geology near the Blue Mountain summit

Blue Mountain

      • Location: Westwood Street and Westwood Lane, Grand Terrace.  From Riverside and Orange County, take I-215 north to the Barton Road exit.  Turn right (east) and go 1.4 miles on Barton Road.  Turn right on Honey Hill Drive, make a quick left on Westwood Street and drive 0.4 miles to the corner of Westwood Lane.  Park on the left side of the street.  From San Bernardino, take I-215 to the Mt. Vernon/Washington exit.  Turn right on Washington, head under the freeway and go 0.6 miles to Center St.  Turn right on Center, make a quick right on Barton and go 0.6 miles to Honey Hill Drive.  Turn left, make another left onto Westwood St. and follow it to the corner with Westwood Lane.
      • Agency: Friends of Blue Mountain
      • Distance: 4.2 miles
      • Elevation gain: 1,200 feet
      • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Steepness, elevation gain)
      • Suggested time: 2 hours
      • Best season: October – May
      • USGS topo map: San Bernardino South
      • Recommended gear: Sun Hat; Hiking Poles
      • More information: Story about the mountain here; Everytrail report here
      • Rating: 6

Like nearby Box Springs Mountain and Mt. Jurupa, Blue Mountain sticks up from the flat plains of the Inland Empire, providing a good workout and nice views of the city and mountains. Conveniently located to both San Bernardino and Riverside, Blue Mountain is well worth a visit if you’re in the area. Even if visibility is poor, the dramatic views of the city below and the interesting geology are impressive sights.

Beginning of the Blue Mountain Trail from Westwood St. (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

Beginning of the Blue Mountain Trail from Westwood St. (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

From the corner of Westwood St. and Westwood Lane, follow the fire road past the yellow gate. Almost immediately, turn right at the intersection to begin hiking on the Blue Mountain Trail, which is a fire road (popular with cyclists and dirt bikers.) There are several roads and trails that cross the north slope of the mountain, but the route described here follows the Blue Mountain Trail as it appears on Google Maps.

0:09 - Head right at the junction (times are approximate)

0:09 – Head right at the junction (times are approximate)

After a moderate ascent, you arrive at another junction (0.4 miles.) Turn right and pass by a willow tree–the only shade on the hike. You soon come to a split; the two paths soon rejoin, so you can take either. At 0.6 miles, you make a long left turn through a dirt lot, passing by the back of some houses. The trail then begins the main ascent, climbing 950 feet over the next 1.4 miles. On the way, you get nice views of the San Bernardino/Riverside area, with the Santa Ana, San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains distant. If you have a sharp eye, you might pick out Mt. Rubidoux in downtown Riverside.

0:10 - Willows on the Blue Mountain Trail (the only trees on the hike)

0:10 – Willows on the Blue Mountain Trail (the only trees on the hike)

About half way up, you may notice a metal sign on a large rock. This is a tribute to Ralph Granillo, a famous local who passed away earlier this year.

0:14 - Split (head either way)

0:14 – Split (head either way)

Past the memorial, the trail continues its steep climb; you will soon see the antenna structure on the summit. At two miles, the grade finally levels, and you reach the top. The antennas prevent you from getting a true 360 degree panorama, but you can get a nice view shortly past the structures. Blue Mountain’s south slope drops off dramatically, and across the valley, the Box Springs Mountains are almost at eye level.  Several large flat rocks allow you to relax and enjoy the view before heading back down.

0:19 - Head right around the outcrops

0:19 – Head right around the outcrops

If you enjoyed Blue Mountain, you can thank the Friends of Blue Mountain for their grassroots efforts to make the area accessible. According to their website, they are hoping to soon designate 500 acres as a wilderness park.

0:40 - Legend marker

0:40 – Legend marker

In case you were wondering, Blue Mountain is named for the blue lupine flowers that grow there in the spring.  Grand Terrace has been nicknamed the Blue Mountain City due to the peak’s impressive profile, rising above the east end of town.

0:44 - View of the radio towers on the summit

0:44 – View of the radio towers on the summit

Text and photography copyright 2012 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this

1:00 - Southwestern view from the summit

1:00 – Southwestern view from the summit

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.

El Prieto Canyon

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On the Brown Mountain Fire Road

Stream in El Prieto Canyon

El Prieto Canyon

    • Location: Altadena.  From I-210, take the Lincoln Ave. exit and head north for two miles.  Turn left on Canyon Crest Road, go a total of 1.2 miles and turn left on Cloverhill.  Take the first right on to El Prieto Road and park near the end of the street.  From the west, take I-210 to the Arroyo Blvd/Windsor Ave. exit and turn left.  Cross the freeway and go right on Woodbury.  Go 0.5 miles and turn left on Lincoln and go 1.4 miles to Canyon Crest, then follow Canyon Crest to Cloverhill and El Prieto.
    • Agency: Angeles National Forest/Los Angeles River Ranger District
    • Distance: 3.3 miles
    • Elevation gain: 550 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG
    • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
    • Best season: Year-round (hot during the summer)
    • Recommended gear: sun hat
    • USGS topo map:  Pasadena
    • More information: here (slightly different route described); Every Trail report here
    • Rating: 7

This short, but surprisingly varied and scenic hike, visits a secluded canyon that feels quite isolated, despite its proximity to the residential neighborhoods of Altadena. You also get nice views of Brown Mountain (named for Owen and Jason Brown, sons of Civil War abolitionist John Brown) and several other front-range peaks of the Angeles National Forest, and given clear weather, you can also see the Hollywood Hills and Verdugo Mountains.

From the end of El Prieto Road, head past a gate on the pavement. You climb quickly, soon reaching a single-track trail that branches off to the left. Follow it uphill and join another paved road at 0.8 miles. Bear left and continue to the Brown Mountain Truck Trail. You get a nice view down into the canyon, the bottom of which you’ll be exploring later on this route.

At 1.2 miles, look for the Fern Truck Trail branching off to the left. Follow it to the back of a tributary canyon, where you will cross a seasonal stream. At 1.5 miles, head left and downhill on the El Prieto Canyon Trail.

You make a few switchbacks and soon arrive at the bottom of the canyon, beneath the shade of some oaks. The Station Fire damage in this area is obvious, but there’s still a decent amount of shade. Here, you are virtually isolated from any kind of civilization; even the check dams seem to blend in nicely. Stay left as two trails branch off to the right, cross the bottom of the canyon and make a brief ascent.

Take a sharp right turn at a junction (the route ahead rejoins the Brown Mountain Truck Trail), and descend back to the canyon’s bottom. You come to another split; both trails soon meet again at a clearing, where there is a picnic table (2.2 miles). This is a nice place to take a break.

Continuing south down the canyon, you travel through a landscape of oaks, a trickling stream and steep walls, typical of the Arroyo Seco region. At three miles from the start, head uphill (left) at another junction. You pass through a meadow, slip through a fence and end up on El Prieto Road. Complete the loop by heading left and walking back uphill to your starting point.

Note: as you enter the driveway, you may notice a “private property” sign.  According to a 2006 court decision, non-motorized traffic is allowed on the land.

Text and photography copyright 2012 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Mt. Jurupa

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View from near Mt. Jurupa’s summit

Watch out for snakes!

Mt. Jurupa

    • Location:  11660 Sierra Avenue, Fontana.  From I-10, take the Sierra Avenue exit and go south for 1.7 miles.  The park is on the right (just past Jurupa Avenue.)  From the 60 freeway, take the Valley Way exit and head north for a total of 0.9 miles.  (Valley Way becomes Armstrong.)  Bear left on to Sierra Avenue, pass by the golf course, and go 1.7 miles to the park entrance, on the left.
    • Agency: Martin Tudor Jurupa Hills Regional Park/City of Fontana
    • Distance: 3 miles
    • Elevation gain: 1,200 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Steepness, elevation gain, terrain)
    • Suggested time: 2 hours
    • Best season: October – June
    • USGS topo map: Fontana
    • Recommended gear: Sun Hat; Hiking Poles
    • More information: here; Everytrail report here
    • Rating: 4

It’s very steep, completely exposed and covered in graffiti, and if you scramble to the top of Mt. Jurupa, you’re likely to be rewarded with a view that’s sadly choked in by smog. But this climb is a great workout, and it’s very conveniently located to both San Bernardino and Riverside. For residents of Fontana, it’s almost literally in their backyard. It’s short enough that it can be done in the summer, if temperatures aren’t too hot. Locals appreciate Mt. Jurupa, such as this meet-up group who held an event to help clean up the park last year.

Mt. Jurupa is not tall (2,217 feet), but it has a prominence of 1,167 feet, meaning if that the ocean level were to rise so it was an island, the highest point on the island would be 1,167 feet above sea level. It’s the tallest point in the Jurupa Hills, which straddle the boundary of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.

The hike begins at Martin Tudor Jurupa Hills Regional Park (not to be confused with Rancho Jurupa Park in Riverside.) From the north end of the parking lot, follow a paved bike path to an intersection with a fire road. Turn left, climb past a cell phone tower, and you’ll come to a four-way intersection. This is where the work begins. Head uphill on a slope that climbs and doesn’t stop. At least you get nice views of the area as you work your way uphill. The trail splits but rejoins quickly (the route to the left is a little easier to navigate).

The grade lessens somewhat as you continue to make your way uphill. A few false trails branch off, but the main route is usually pretty clear. In addition to the graffiti, there are some more elaborate drawings. The Summitpost link refers to a “Jurupa Art Walk”, which begs the question of if these paintings – which include cartoon characters, a mermaid and even Angry Birds – are officially sanctioned.

You reach a false summit, and then a relatively flat stretch along a ridge brings you to the actual peak. Jurupa’s summit is wide and mesa-like. If the air is clear, the view includes the San Gabriels, the Santa Ana Mountains and more. Even if there is smog, you still get a nice bird’s eye view of the greater Fontana/Jurupa Valley area.

Despite the likelihood of smog, and the certainty of graffiti, this hike is a nice destination in an area not known for having much nature. Whether as a quick workout or a training hike for a bigger peak, Mt. Jurupa is well worth a visit.

Text and photography copyright 2012 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Cattle Canyon

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Stream in Cattle Canyon; note Mt. Baldy in the distance

On the trail in Cattle Canyon

Cattle Canyon

    • Location: Angeles National Forest, north of Azusa.  From I-210, take the Azusa Avenue (highway 39) north for 11.6 miles (make sure to stay on the road where it bares to the left, 1.6 miles north of the freeway and becomes San Gabriel Canyon Road.)   Turn right on East Fork Road and follow it five miles a hairpin turn where it intersects with Glendora Mountain Road.   If no parking is available on the small lot at the intersection, continue downhill on East Fork Road, cross the bridge and drive a quarter mile, where parking is available on the curb (avoid the “no parking” signs.)  A United States Forest Service adventure pass ($5 per day or $30 for the year) is required for parking. Click here to purchase.
    • Agency:  Angeles National Forest/San Gabriel Ranger District
    • Distance: 6.4 miles
    • Elevation gain: 750 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG
    • Suggested time: 3.5 hours
    • Best season: October – June
    • USGS topo maps: Mt. Baldy, Glendora
    • Recommended gear: insect repellent; sun hat; hiking poles(stream crossings)
    • Recommended guidebook: Afoot & Afield Los Angeles County
    • More information: Article about the area’s history here
    • Rating: 7

This is one of the more enjoyable hikes in the lower country of the San Gabriel Mountains. Cattle Canyon is one of several tributaries of the San Gabriel River’s east fork, and this hike requires about twenty stream crossings. Most of them are easy, but hikers should expect to get their feet wet. Sturdy water-proof sandals are an option, although hiking boots provide better ankle support over the often rocky terrain. It’s like a much easier version of the nearby Bridge to Nowhere hike, but the payoff isn’t quite as good: instead of visiting one of the most iconic sites in the L.A. hiking culture, it ends unceremoniously at a gate. Still, the hike is quite scenic and well worth a visit.

From the road, head down to the south end of the bridge, where a trail heads down into the canyon. Don’t be put off by the graffiti and litter; it’s pretty bad near the trail head but becomes less noticeable as you get deeper into the forest.  You soon make the first of many stream crossings, as the trail and river intertwine with each other as you make your way up the canyon.

After about a mile, look for a glimpse of Mt. Baldy, poking up above the hills in the distance. You get a little bit of shade from some oaks, and the terrain gets less rocky as you progress.

Finally, you reach a gate that marks the end of the hike. While this may seem a little anti-climatic as a destination, you can enjoy some nice views higher up into the canyon from behind the fence, or perhaps sit by the last stream crossing and take in the peace and quiet for a few minutes before turning around.

Text and photography copyright 2012 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.