Tag Archives: Outdoor

Sierra Pelona Loop


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Baldy and the San Gabriels from Sierra Pelona

Baldy and the San Gabriels from Sierra Pelona

Rolling hills below Sierra Pelona

Rolling hills below Sierra Pelona

Sierra Pelona Loop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

4:00 - Antennas near the top of Sierra Pelona

4:00 – Antennas near the top of Sierra Pelona

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Forster Ridgeline Trail (San Clemente)


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Looking west from the Forster Ridgeline Trail

Looking west from the Forster Ridgeline Trail

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

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

Forster Ridgeline Trail (San Clemente)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1:40 - Turnaround point, Vista Hermosa

1:40 – Turnaround point, Vista Hermosa

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Calabasas Peak from Old Topanga Canyon Road


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Looking west from Calabasas Peak

Looking west from Calabasas Peak

Geology on the Calabasas Peak Motorway

Geology on the Calabasas Peak Motorway

Calabasas Peak from Old Topanga Canyon Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational  links provided for up to date trail condition information.

1:00 - Looking north from Calabasas Peak

1:00 – Looking north from Calabasas Peak

Los Santos/Trans Preserve Loop (Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve)


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San Jacinto from the Los Santos Trail

Descending the Trans Preserve Trail

Descending the Trans Preserve Trail

Los Santos/Trans Preserve Loop (Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve)

    • Location: Murrieta, in southwest Riverside County.  From I-15, take the Clinton Keith road exit.  Turn right and head southwest for 5.1 miles.  Once you are in the reserve, take a  sharp right onto Tenaja Road.  Go 0.7 miles and park at the Hidden Valley Trailhead on the left side of the road.   Admission fee is $3 per adult or $2 per child.
    • Agency: Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve
    • Distance:  4.8 miles
    • Elevation gain: 500 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG
    • Suggested time: 2 hours
    • Best season:  October – May
    • USGS topo map:  Wildomar
    • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Orange County
    • Recommended gear: sun hat
    • More information: here; park map here; Everytrail report here
    • Rating: 7

This enjoyable hike samples some of the best non-Vernal Pools/Historic Adobes scenery of the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve (although both of those landmarks can be easily added to this route.)  While it lacks the wide-ranging views provided by the hike to Monument Hill, the hike offers more variety as it passes through wide meadows, rolling hills and shaded oak woodlands.

0:00 - Hidden Valley Trailhead (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

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

From the parking area, head right on the Hidden Valley Trail. After 0.2 miles, turn right on the single-track Los Santos Trail which winds its way uphill, providing nice views of San Jacinto and San Gorgonio (provided the weather is clear). At 0.8 miles, you enter a grove of oaks and shortly after the trail bends sharply left and heads south (stay straight and ignore the trail branching off to the right.)

0:19 - Through the oak grove before the junction at the top of the Los Santos Trail (times are approximate)

0:19 – Through the oak grove before the junction at the top of the Los Santos Trail (times are approximate)

The trail then dips down into a ravine, crosses a footbridge and reaches another junction with the Hidden Valley Trail. Turn right and head uphill, still on the Los Santos Trail, making a short but steep ascent. After following a ridge, the trail dips in and out of another canyon before joining the Vernal Pools Trail at 2.4 miles, the approximate half way point.

0:28 - Footbridge at the bottom of the first hill on the Los Santos Trail

0:28 – Footbridge at the bottom of the first hill on the Los Santos Trail

Head left (east) on the Vernal Pools Trail for a level 0.3 miles, bringing you to a junction. If there have been recent rains, consider continuing on to see the pools, but if you are not hiking during the wet season, turn left and begin a scenic descent on the Trans-Preserve Trail ( a segment shared with the Vernal Pools/Historic Adobes loop described on this site, but in the other direction). As you make your way along the gnarled-branched oaks, you will get glimpses of the wide meadow below and perhaps San Gorgonio Mountain in the distance.

1:00 - Bench beneath an oak at the beginning of the Trans Preserve Trail

1:00 – Bench beneath an oak at the beginning of the Trans Preserve Trail

The trail drops into a wide field near a knoll known as Poppy Hill, passing an intersection with the Hidden Valley Trail, and continues north. You drop into another woodland, cross a footbridge and come out at an intersection with the Coyote Trail. Bear left and follow the Coyote Trail for half a mile to the trailhead.

1:30 - Open field before the junction between the Trans Preserve and Hidden Valley Trails

1:30 – Open field before the junction between the Trans Preserve and Hidden Valley Trails

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.

1:42 - Woodlands on the Trans Preserve Trail shortly before the junction with the Coyote Trail

1:42 – Woodlands on the Trans Preserve Trail shortly before the junction with the Coyote Trail

San Pasqual Hiking Trails (South)


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Looking west from near the top of the eastern fork

Looking west from near the top of the eastern fork

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

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

San Pasqual Hiking Trails (South)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

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

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

Liberty Canyon Nature Preserve (Malibu Creek State Park)


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Crossing the footbridge in Liberty Canyon

Crossing the footbridge in Liberty Canyon

Live oak, Liberty Canyon Nature Preserve

Live oak, Liberty Canyon Nature Preserve

Liberty Canyon Nature Preserve  (Malibu Creek State Park)

    • Location: Calabasas, near the intersection of Mulholland Highway and Las Virgenes Road.  From Highway 101, take the Las Virgenes Road exit and go south for 3.1 miles to Mulholland Highway.  Take a right on Mulholland Highway and almost immediately, look for the signed Grasslands Trail on the right.  Limited parking is available on the side of the road (if there is none, you can also park in a small dirt lot on the corner of Mulholland and Las Virgenes.)  From Pacific Coast Highway, drive north on Malibu Canyon Road for 6.3 miles (during which time the street changes its name to Las Virgenes).  Turn left on Mulholland.
    • Agency:  Malibu Creek State Park
    • Distance: 4.4 miles
    • Elevation gain:  150 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG
    • Suggested time:  2 hours
    • Best season: October – June
    • USGS topo maps: Malibu Beach
    • Recommended guidebook: Day Hikes In the Santa Monica Mountains
    • More information:  Here; Everytrail report  here
    • Rating: 4

This easy-going, enjoyable hike visits Liberty Canyon Nature Preserve, the northernmost of the three such areas in Malibu Creek State Park.  Although it’s not as challenging or scenically varied as the nearby Phantom Trail and Talepop Loop, it makes a pleasant introduction to the rolling hills and meadows of Malibu Creek State Park’s northern sector.

0:00 - Grasslands Trail on the north side of Mulholland (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

0:00 – Grasslands Trail on the north side of Mulholland (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

From Mulholland, follow the signed North Grasslands Trail past the 19th century Sepulveda Adobe. During the early part of the trail traffic from Las Virgenes and Mulholland Highway is hard to ignore, but after passing the power generator (0.3 miles) it gets quieter. You take a right on a service road and follow it for a few yards before continuing north on the trail.

0:10 - North Grasslands trail past the service road and generator

0:10 – North Grasslands trail past the service road and generator (times are approximate)

At 0.7 miles, the trail makes a sharp right turn and enters a canyon, crossing Liberty Creek on a footbridge. This brings you to a T-junction and you take a sharp left on the Liberty Canyon Fire Road, a portion shared with the Talepop Loop. You enter a grove of large live oaks, and if there have been recent rains, a stream will be trickling on the left.

At 0.9 miles from the start, the Talepop Trail branches off, as your route continues straight and north, gradually ascending out of the canyon into an open field with nice views of the mountains to the west. You may hear the neighing of some horses from the nearby ranch as you follow the fire road. At a split (1.3 miles), you can go either way; the two trails soon merge.

0:25 - Grove of oaks in Liberty Canyon near the Talepop Trail junction

0:25 – Grove of oaks in Liberty Canyon near the Talepop Trail junction

The Phantom Trail branches off to the left at 1.8 miles and shortly after, you reach a paved road. This is the southern extension of Liberty Canyon Road and the turnaround point is the corner of Liberty Canyon and Park Vista Road. Return by retracing your steps or if you have time and energy, consider exploring the Talepop or Phantom Trails.  You can also follow the Grasslands Trail south of Mulholland into the main area of the park.

0:55 - Trail ending at Park Vista

0:55 – Trail ending at Park Vista

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.

Deep Creek Hot Springs/West Approach


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Upper pool, Deep Creek Hot Springs

Upper pool, Deep Creek Hot Springs

View from the Pacific Crest Trail en route to Deep Creek

View from the Pacific Crest Trail en route to Deep Creek

Deep Creek Hot Springs/West Approach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1:45 - The footbridge crossing Deep Creek

1:45 – The footbridge crossing Deep Creek

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

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

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

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

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

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

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

3:00 - Lower pool, Deep Creek Hot Springs

3:00 – Lower pool, Deep Creek Hot Springs

Bommer Canyon/Laguna Coast Wilderness Park Loop


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Sandstone cave in upper Bommer Canyon

Sandstone cave in upper Bommer Canyon

Sycamores in upper Laurel Canyon

Sycamores in upper Laurel Canyon

Bommer Canyon/Laguna Coast Wilderness Loop

  • Location: 6400 Shady Canyon Drive, Irvine.  From I-405, take the Culver Drive exit, go south (right if you’re coming from the north, left if from the south) for 2.6 miles and turn left on Shady Canyon Drive.  Go 1.6 miles and turn into the lot.  As mentioned below, this hike is available only by (free) online registration on days specified by the Irvine Ranch Conservancy.  When you arrive at the park, you will be met by volunteers who will check your name off the list and direct you to the parking area, about a mile down the main road of the park.
  • Agency: Irvine Ranch Conservancy/Orange County Parks/Crystal Cove State Park
  • Distance: 7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,400 feet
  • Suggested time: 3.5 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG-13 (distance, steepness, elevation gain)
  • Best season:  October – May; availability of days and times determined by Irvine Ranch Conservancy
  • USGS topo map: Tustin; Laguna Beach
  • Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat
  • More information: Description of upcoming hike on 11/21/13 here; Bommer Canyon trail map here; Laguna Coast Wilderness trail map here; Bommer Canyon description here
  • Rating: 7
0:00 - Trail head in the Cattle Ranch section of Bommer Canyon (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

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

This 7-mile loop is one of several guided hikes provided by the Irvine Ranch Conservancy (also known as www.letsgooutside.org.)   When it is offered, it’s usually listed on the site as a “Morning Nature Hike”, often scheduled between 9am and noon.  The loop described here can also be done during a scheduled Wilderness Access Day at Bommer Canyon (usually one Saturday per month.)  Check the website for scheduling information.   Only a third of the route is on private land managed by Irvine Ranch, but that stretch allows you to make a scenic loop, using the former cattle ranch area of Bommer Canyon for your beginning and ending.

0:01 - Historical marker (times are approximate)

0:01 – Historical marker (times are approximate)

If you hike as part of a scheduled event, the trip will be led by two trained volunteers, so navigation will not be an issue. Even if you hike on your own, the route is fairly easy to follow. You can vary it by exploring more of Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, Crystal Cove State Park or Bommer Canyon.

0:29 - View from below Coastal Peak park, just before crossing under the 73 Toll Road

0:29 – View from below Coastal Peak park, just before crossing under the 73 Toll Road

From the parking lot, head past a shaded picnic area, adorned with several historical artifacts and an interpretive plaque paying tribute to the land’s ranching days.  You follow the trail into the canyon where you’ll turn left at the junction.  The West Fork Trail is the biggest ascent of the hike, as you climb 550 feet during the first mile, but you are rewarded with nice views of central Orange County, extending to the Santa Anas and even the San Gabriels on clear days. After crossing under the toll road, you arrive at Coastal Peak Park in Newport Coast. You continue on the dirt Bommer Ridge Road, enjoying nice ocean views to the right, passing by several trails leading into Crystal Cove’s back country.

1:15 - Hard left at the four-way junction

1:15 – Hard left at the four-way junction

At about 3 miles, you reach a four-way junction in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, part of the popular Laurel Canyon Loop. Make a hard left and begin a steep descent into Laurel Canyon, enjoying some shade from oaks and sycamores. Make another left at the next junction and head into the pleasant upper reaches of Laurel Canyon, in and out of a meadow, and cross under the 73 Toll Road a second time.

1:25 - Turn left at the next junction and head into Upper Laurel Canyon

1:25 – Turn left at the next junction and head into Upper Laurel Canyon

Another ascent brings you to a junction (4.7 miles) where you will make a hairpin left turn and re-enter Bommer Canyon though Hogsback Gate. You are now back on private land. The climb continues, taking in some great views of south Orange County. Keep an eye out for a large sandstone boulder with a cave carved through it.

1:45 - Hogsback Gate,re-entrance to private land

1:45 – Hogsback Gate,re-entrance to private land

At 5.3 miles, you reach a T-junction. Turn right and begin your descent back into the park on the winding Ridge Route.  With panoramic views of the Orange County coastal plain, this is one of the most scenic parts of the hike.   The trail drops gradually at first, then more steeply, finally arriving back at the parking area.  After passing through the gate, turn left and return to your car.

2:30 - View from the descent on the Ridge Route

2:30 – View from the descent on the Ridge Route

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

2:55 - Back at the parking lot

2:55 – Back at the parking lot

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.


Buzzard Peak (West Approach)


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Mt. Baldy from Buzzard Peak

Mt. Baldy from Buzzard Peak

Oaks on the Schabarum Trail

Oaks on the Schabarum Trail

Buzzard Peak (West Approach)

  • Location: West Covina, corner of Hillside Drive and Grand Avenue.  From I-10, take the Grand Avenue exit and turn right (south)  and go 1.2 miles.  Turn right on Hillside Drive and park where available.  From the 57/60 freeways, take the Grand Avenue exit and head northwest (left if you’re coming from the east, right if from the west) and go 4.3 miles.  Turn left on Hillside Drive and park where available.
  • Agency: Los Angeles County Parks & Recreation
  • Distance: 3.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 750 feet
  • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG
  • Best season: Year-round (hot during the summer)
  • USGS topo map: San Dimas
  • Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat
  • More information:  Everytrail report here; Mountainzone page here
  • Rating: 6
0:00 - Start of the hike, Hillside and Grand (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

0:00 – Start of the hike, Hillside and Grand (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

You already know how to get to Buzzard Peak from the north, but the tallest summit of the San Jose Hills (elevation 1,345) can also be reached from the west, starting at Grand Avenue.  Like the north approach, this route follows the Schabarum Trail.  Like most of the trail, this section stays pretty close to the nearby residential areas but it manages to have a fairly secluded feel, passing through some wooded canyons before climbing a ridge and providing great views if the air is clear.  There are a few caveats however: while the corner of Hillside and Grand is the most convenient access point, parking there will require you to run across Grand Avenue, where there is no light or crosswalk.  If you prefer you can park a quarter mile north on the corner of Cameron and Grand and cross at the light.  You’ll also need to watch out for poison oak, and like the approach from the north, an off-trail scramble is required to reach the peak.

After crossing Grand, pick up the signed Schabarum Trail and make a quick ascent, climbing about 150 feet in a quarter mile. The trail soon levels out and heads north, affording a nice view of the San Gabriels. After rounding a corner, it descends into a shaded canyon where you pass by two authentic-looking teepees.

0:02 - Accessing the Schabarum Trail (times are approximate)

0:02 – Accessing the Schabarum Trail (times are approximate)

Leaving the canyon you climb a hillside, first passing some private houses where you may notice burros and horses; then a large oak with a platform (an abandoned treehouse perhaps?) constructed on the upper branches.

0:15 - Teepees in the canyon

0:15 – Teepees in the canyon

At about a mile, the trail dips into another canyon that seems surprisingly secluded, although it is in fact just behind a row of houses on Seton Hill Drive. Climbing out of the canyon, you reach a fire road (1.2 miles.) Turn left and begin a steady climb around the side of Buzzard Peak. Your efforts are rewarded with nice views of the Ontario/Cucamonga Ridge and Mt. Baldy.

At 1.5 miles, take a hard right on a fire-break like trail that steeply ascends to Buzzard Peak. Though the spur to the summit is short, exercise caution; the trail cuts closely to the side of the cliff.

0:36 - Southeast view from the intersection with the fire road (turn left)

0:36 – Southeast view from the intersection with the fire road (turn left)

On the summit, enjoy the 360-degree panorama which (given good air quality) includes downtown L.A., the Hollywood Hills, Verdugo Mountains, San Gabriels, San Bernardino and Santa Ana ranges. You can return via the same route or with a car shuttle, continue east and then north on the Schabarum Trail, ending up on the corner of Palomino and South Garvey.

0:55 - Looking west from Buzzard Peak

0:55 – Looking west from Buzzard Peak

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.

Schabarum Trail: Grand Avenue to Country Hollow Drive


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Mt. Baldy from the view point

Mt. Baldy from the view point

Oak tree on the Schabarum Trail

Oak tree on the Schabarum Trail

Schabarum Trail: Grand Avenue to Country Hollow Drive

  • Location: West Covina, corner of Hillside Drive and Grand Avenue.  From I-10, take the Grand Avenue exit and turn right (south)  and go 1.2 miles.  Turn right on Hillside Drive and park where available.  From the 57/60 freeways, take the Grand Avenue exit and head northwest (left if you’re coming from the east, right if from the west) and go 4.3 miles.  Turn left on Hillside Drive and park where available.
  • Agency: Los Angeles County Parks & Recreation
  • Distance: 2.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 600 feet
  • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG
  • Best season: Year-round (hot during the summer)
  • USGS topo map: San Dimas
  • Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat
  • More information:  Everytrail report here; story about the Schabarum Trail here
  • Rating: 5
0:00 - Start of the hike, Hillside and Grand (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

0:00 – Start of the hike, Hillside and Grand (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

The Schabarum Trail is one of L.A.’s sneakiest, winding its way in and out of several neighborhoods and ranges of hills while laying below the radar of most hikers.  This stretch is easy to miss but if you are in the neighborhood, it’s a pleasant surprise; a conveniently located workout with some nice scenic variety.  On clear days, the views of the San Gabriels are great and you can also see from downtown L.A. to San Jacinto Peak.

0:03 - Schabarum Trail branches off (times are approximate)

0:03 – Schabarum Trail branches off (times are approximate)

From the corner of Hillside and Grand, turn right on Grand and follow the street for an uninspiring 0.1 miles. The trail then branches off (look for the sign) and immediately becomes more pleasant, leading into a canyon with a seasonal stream and the shade of oaks and black walnuts. You make a few switchbacks, climbing out of the canyon and up the hillside. There’s still a decent amount of shade as you make your way past the top of the canyon, and you get some good views to the north and east.

0:06 - Entering the canyon

0:06 – Entering the canyon

At 0.9 miles the trail levels out and then begins a gradual descent, passing by the backs of some houses. At 1.2 miles you begin another ascent/ Just before reaching Country Hollow Drive, make a hairpin turn to the right and follow an informal trail up a hillside, where a short walk brings you to a spot where you can enjoy a great 180-degree view.

0:23 - Beginning of the descent at the saddle

0:23 – Beginning of the descent at the saddle

From here, you can retrace your steps back to Grand Avenue, or if you prefer you can continue on the Schabarum Trail, which heads south and downhill toward Amar Road.

0:40 - Climbing the hill to the vista point

0:40 – Climbing the hill to the vista 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.

0:45 - Looking west from the vista point

0:45 – Looking west from the vista point

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.

Yellow Hill Fire Road


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Ocean panorama from Yellow Hill Fire Road

Ocean panorama from Yellow Hill Fire Road

View of Mulholland Highway and the Santa Monica Mountains, Yellow Hill Fire Road

View of Mulholland Highway and the Santa Monica Mountains, Yellow Hill Fire Road

Yellow Hill Fire Road

  • Location: Intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Mulholland Highway, between Malibu and Point Mugu.  From Santa Monica, take Pacific Coast Highway northwest for 27.4 miles and park where possible on the south side of the highway.  From Oxnard, take the Pacific Coast Highway south for 18 miles to the intersection with Mulholland.
  • Agency: Leo Carillo State Park/Santa Monica Mountains National Recreational Area
  • Distance: 4.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,300 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (elevation gain, steepness)
  • Suggested time: 2.5 hours
  • Best season: October – June
  • USGS topo map: Triunfo Canyon
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sunblock; sun hat
  • Recommended guidebook: Day Hikes In the Santa Monica Mountains
  • More information:  Trip report here; trail map here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 7
0:00 - Start of the hike on Pacific Coast Highway (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Start of the hike on Pacific Coast Highway (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This no-nonsense hike is a prime example of delayed gratification.  For the thankless task of a steep, exposed ascent, you are rewarded with panoramic ocean and mountain vistas, including (pending good visibility) Anacapa, Santa Cruz and Catalina Islands, Point Dume, the Palos Verdes Peninsula and the higher peaks of the Santa Monica Mountains.  If you are lucky, you may spot distant Santa Barbara and San Nicolas Islands and Old Saddleback in Orange County.

0:03 - Gated trail head, Yellow Hill Fire Road (times are approximate)

0:03 – Gated trail head, Yellow Hill Fire Road (times are approximate)

It may be possible to park right by the trailhead, but space there is limited so your best bet is to shoot for parking on the south side of Pacific Coast Highway (which may be also be crowded, especially on weekends.) You can run across the highway to Mulholland, or if you are nervous about doing that, you can head south into the park, turn left on the service road and cross underneath PCH. (You will still have to cross Mulholland, but that road is narrow with light traffic.)

0:49 - View from the junction at the beginning of the loop

0:49 – View from the junction at the beginning of the loop

On the west (left) side of Mulholland, about a hundred yards north of P.C.H., look for a gated fire road heading uphill. You begin a steady climb, taking in nice ocean and mountain views on the way up. At about 1.5 miles, you’ll pass through a metal gate and shortly after you reach a 4-way intersection, the beginning of the loop portion of the hike.

0:55 - Park boundary

0:55 – Park boundary

You can take the loop in either direction, but the easier way is to continue on the more moderately graded fire road, straight ahead. You wrap around the west side of the hill, passing a sign designating the entrance to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (in case you were wondering).

1:01-  Glimpse of Sandstone Peak from the Yellow Hill Fire Road

1:01- Glimpse of Sandstone Peak from the Yellow Hill Fire Road

At 2.3 miles, you reach a junction. The fire road continues higher into the mountains, an option if you want to extend the hike. For this route however, take a hard right and make a short climb to a 1,366-foot knoll. Here, you can enjoy a great view before heading back down.

1:06 - Spur to the summit (turn right)

1:06 – Spur to the summit (turn right)

You can return via the same route, but to shave off a little distance, you can also continue straight downhill on a steep single-track, with some wide-ranging ocean views in front of you. After passing a rusty water tank, you rejoin the fire road. Turn left and retrace your steps back down the hill.

1:10 - Looking south to the ocean from the top of the hill

1:10 – Looking south to the ocean from the top of the hill

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.

Oat Mountain


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Looking northwest from Oat Mountain

Looking west from the summit of Oat Mountain

Looking up at Oat Mountain (note radio towers on the summit)

Looking up at Oat Mountain (note radio towers on the summit)

Oat Mountain

  • Location: Santa Susana Mountains north of Chatsworth.  From the 118 Freeway, take the DeSoto Ave. exit.  Head north (turn left if you’re coming from the west, right if from the east) a short distance to the end of DeSoto and turn right on Browns Canyon Road, following the signs for Michael Antonovich Regional Park (not to be confused with nearby Michael Antonovich Open Space or the Michael Antonovich Recreational Trail in San Dimas.)  Follow Browns Canyon Road for 3 miles to the main entrance of the park, stop by the iron ranger and pay the $5 per vehicle/day fee.  Continue a short distance to a parking area on the right side of the road just before reaching a metal gate.
  • Agency: Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy/Michael Antonovich Regional Park
  • Distance: 6.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,850 feet
  • Suggested time: 3 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain, steepness, distance)
  • Best season:  September – May
  • USGS topo map: “Oat Mountain”
  • Recommended gear: sun hat; sunblock; insect repellent
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot & Afield Los Angeles County
  • More information: Peakbagger page here; trip description from a Meetup page here; Everytrail report here; story about Oat Mountain’s former use as missile site LA-88 here
  • Rating: 6
0:00 - Beginning of the hike (click thumbnails to see full sized versions)

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

Oat Mountain (elevation 3,747) is one of the highest points in L.A. County outside the Angeles National Forest.  It’s the tallest peak in the Santa Susana Mountains and despite a radio facility on the summit and likelihood of smog, the views from the top are panoramic, including the Santa Monicas, Verdugos, Simi Hills, Hollywood Hills, San Gabriels and more.

0:17 - Santa Monica Mountains parkland (times are approximate)

0:17 – Santa Monica Mountains parkland (times are approximate)

To be sure, some hikers may be turned off by the fact that the route is entirely on a paved road (closed to traffic other than maintenance vehicles.) The route is almost entirely exposed, but it’s high enough above the valley floor that it can be doable in the summer months, given an early start, at least half a gallon of water and sun protection. The great workout it provides, plus its convenience to the Valley, Santa Clarita and even downtown L.A., makes Oat Mountain a worthwhile destination to keep in mind.

0:31 - Under the shade tree

0:31 – Under the shade tree

From the parking area, follow the dirt road past the gate, almost immediately beginning a steep climb. You get some nice views of Rocky Peak to west and Simi Valley to the south.  Bear right at the first junction and continue your climb on a road signed on maps both as Palo Sola Truck Trail and Oat Mountain Motorway.  At about 2/3 of a mile you pass through a gate with a sign indicating Santa Monica Mountains Parkland, and continue the ascent.

0:45 - Grove of oaks

0:48 – Grove of oaks

At 1 1/4 miles, a lone oak tree a few yards to the right off of the trail makes a nice place to take a break in the shade. You get a view to the east, down into a canyon. Past the oak, another ascent brings you to a mercifully flat stretch.

0:56 - Head right at the fork near the second helipad

1:00 – Head right at the fork near the second helipad

At 1.8 miles, the trail starts bending to the north, passing a helipad site. You continue through another grove of trees (2 miles), staying right at the next junction (2.2 miles), passing a second helipad.

1:08 - Stay straight at the four-way junction

1:12 – Stay straight at the four-way junction

At 2.9 miles, you reach a four-way junction. Cross the road and continue straight ahead, soon reaching the base of the summit. Just before the road ends, climb up a use trail on the left, cross over a concrete barrier and arrive at the fence lining the radio facility. Walking around the fence, you arrive at a flat area on the north side of the summit where you can enjoy some great views of the Santa Clarita Valley and the Santa Susana Mountains before heading back down.

1:12 - Head uphill on the trail to the summit

1:16 – Head uphill on the trail to the summit

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

1:15 - Looking northwest from Oat Mountain's summit

1:20- Looking northwest from Oat Mountain’s summit

Keller Peak Lookout via Exploration Trail


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San Gabriels from the Keller Peak Lookout

San Gabriels from the Keller Peak Lookout

Pines on the Exploration Trail

Pines on the Exploration Trail

Keller Peak Lookout via Exploration Trail

        • Location: San Bernardino National Forest, east of Running Springs.  Take Highway 18 east from the junction with Highway 330 and turn right on Keller Peak Road (look for a brown sign indicating the Exploration Trail.)  Go 0.1 miles and park in a dirt turnout on the right side of the road.  A National Forest Service adventure pass ($5 per day or $30 per year) is required for parking.  To purchase one, click here here.
        • Agency: San Bernardino National Forest/Arrowhead Ranger Station
        • Distance: 12 miles
        • Elevation gain: 1,900 feet
        • Difficulty Rating: R (distance, elevation gain, altitude)
        • Suggested time: 6 hours
        • Best season: April – November
        • USGS topo map: Keller Peak
        • Recommended gear: sun hatinsect repellent
        • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire
        • More information:  Trip report here; Exploration trail information here; Everytrail report here
        • Rating: 9
0:00 - Beginning of the Exploration Trail (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

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

This is a hike that truly has a little bit of everything: panoramic views of almost every mountain range in Southern California, pleasant woodlands of oaks and pines and a historic fire lookout.  Its length and elevation gain make it challenging, but route finding and terrain are easy, and the grade remains moderate throughout the trip.  It is a great training hike for the bigger summits in the area, but substantial enough that veterans won’t feel short-changed.

0:15 - Dirt road crossing (times are approximate)

0:18 – Dirt road crossing (times are approximate)

The first 4-plus miles follow the Exploration Trail, completed in 2005. Follow it from the parking area into the forest, passing by some boulders that resemble smaller versions of nearby Castle Rock. You cross a dirt road at 0.6 miles and continue through the forest, soon getting some nice views to the south and of the San Gabriels to the northwest. You will also see Keller Peak itself, appearing close, but still several trail miles away due to the winding course of the route.

0:35 - View of Keller Peak from the Exploration Trail

0:35 – View of Keller Peak from the Exploration Trail

At about 2 miles, look for a “window” in a rock to the left of the trail. At 3.5 miles, a clearing offering excellent views of the San Gabriels and (on clear days) the high desert makes a nice place to rest.

0:58 - "Rock window"

0:58 – “Rock window”

The Exploration Trail ends at the paved Keller Peak Road at 4.2 miles. This is a good turnaround point if you’re short on time, but it’s definitely worth it to continue on to the lookout, even though it’s on a paved, exposed road. The views, particularly of San Gorgonio to the south, are great and the going is smooth and easy.

1:48 - View of the San Gabriels

1:48 – View of the San Gabriels

Near the top on the left side of the road, keep an eye out for a plaque commemorating nine US soldiers whose plane crashed on Keller Peak shortly after the Pearl Harbor bombing. Past the plaque, the trail continues to the summit and the lookout.

2:20 - Northern end of the  Exploration Trail (turn right on Keller Peak Road)

2:20 – Northern end of the Exploration Trail (turn right on Keller Peak Road)

The lookout is open from 9am to 5pm each day and is staffed with volunteers. Be careful on the steep stairs up to the lookout, which provides a great 360-degree view of the San Bernardino Mountains, the San Gabriels, Old Saddleback, Sugarloaf and more.

2:55 - Memorial plaque just below the summit

2:55 – Memorial plaque just below the summit

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

3:00 - Welcome to Keller Peak (Sugarloaf as seen from the lookout)

3:00 – Welcome to Keller Peak (Sugarloaf as seen from the lookout)

Buzzard Peak (North Approach)


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View of Mt. Baldy from Buzzard Peak

View of Mt. Baldy and the San Gabriels from Buzzard Peak

Ascending the Schabarum Trail to Buzzard Peak

Ascending the Schabarum Trail to Buzzard Peak

Buzzard Peak (North Approach)

  • Location: East Garvey Avenue South and Palomino Drive, Covina.  From L.A., take the Holt Avenue exit.  Merge onto East Garvey Avenue South and go 0.6 miles.  Park on the corner of East Garvey and Palomino, by the entrance to a gated community.  From the east, take I-10 to Holt Avenue.  Turn left on Holt, go 0.2 miles and turn left on East Garvey.  The trail begins on the south side of East Garvey Ave just past Palomino Drive.
  • Agency: Los Angeles County Parks & Recreation
  • Distance: 3.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 800 feet
  • Suggested time: 2 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG
  • Best season: Year-round (hot during the summer)
  • USGS topo map: “San Dimas”
  • Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat
  • More information:  Everytrail report here; story about the Schabarum Trail here; Strava page here
  • Rating: 5
0:00 - Trail head on the corner of Palomino and Garvey (click thumbnails to see the full sized pictures)

0:00 – Trail head on the corner of Palomino and Garvey (click thumbnails to see the full sized pictures)

Like the nearby Puente Hills, the San Jose Hills provide views that are wider-ranging than their modest height would suggest. They don’t have as extensive a network of trails as the Puente Hills, but the climb to Buzzard Peak, utilizing the county Schabarum Recreational Trail, is a good workout that provides views of the San Gabriels, the San Bernardino Mountains, Orange County and more. Best done on a clear, cool day, the hike can also be an option for the summer, with an early or late start and adequate protection.

0:08 - The meadow after the end of Mesquite Lane (times are approximate)

0:09 – The meadow after the end of Mesquite Lane (times are approximate)

The hike starts inauspiciously by following I-10 for a few minutes, but soon slips into a pleasant woodland of wild palms, black walnut and sycamore trees. It emerges on the back side of Mesquite Lane, a cul-de-sac, passing by some private homes (beware of dogs). It continues through a meadow before dropping down to Palomino Drive (half a mile from the start.)

0:12 - Turn left on Palomino Drive

0:13 – Turn left on Palomino Drive

Turn left on Palomino and follow the street a short distance, just past Martingail, and turn left at the sign for the Schabarum Trail. You head uphill on a somewhat rough path, threading your way between homes, crossing Martingail at about 0.8 miles from the start. By this point, Buzzard Peak’s conical shape should be visible to the south.

0:22 - Schabarum Trail past Martingail

0:22 – Schabarum Trail past Martingail

From here, the trail works its way up the north slope of the hills, quite steeply at times, although a little bit of shade from some oaks and black walnut trees helps. You get nice views of the San Gabriel Valley along the way.

0:42 - Fire road at the top of the ridge (turn right)

0:42 – Fire road at the top of the ridge (turn right)

At 1.4 miles, you reach a T-junction with a fire road. Turn right and follow the road for an easy quarter mile along a ridge toward Buzzard Peak. Just before the road curves around the summit, look for a narrow use trail heading uphill, climbing about 100 feet to the peak. The trail is steep and loose in some spots–and gets very close to the edge–so exercise caution.  Some hikers may find poles helpful on this stretch.

0:48 - Just below the peak; note the use trail leading left from the road

0:49 – Just below the peak; note the use trail leading left from the road

At 1,329 feet, Buzzard Peak is the tallest point in the San Jose Hills and you get a nice 360-degree panorama. Unfortunately there’s no real place to sit, and the summit has been littered with broken glass and trash, but you should still rest your legs before beginning the steep descent back to the fire road.

0:50 - Don't look down!

0:52 – Don’t look down!

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.

0:55 - Looking northwest toward Mt. Wilson from Buzzard Peak

0:55 – Looking northwest toward Mt. Wilson from Buzzard Peak

Delamar Mountain


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View of San Gorgonio and Big Bear Lake from the P.C.T. en route to Delamar Mountain

View of San Gorgonio and Big Bear Lake from the Pacific Crest Trail en route to Delamar Mountain

Pine flat on the Pacific Crest Trail to Delamar Mountain

Pine flat on the Pacific Crest Trail to Delamar Mountain

Delamar Mountain

        • Location: North of Big Bear Lake.   From the intersection of Highway 38 and Highway 18 at the western end of Big Bear Lake, take Highway 38 east for 5.3 miles.  Turn left onto Polique Canyon Road, which soon becomes dirt (a little bumpy but as of this writing passable for all vehicles.)  After 1.6 miles, turn right at the junction.  At 0.7 miles, park in a small turnout on the right side of the road by a sign reading “Holcomb View Trail.”  While most of the trails in the area require a National Forest Service adventure pass for parking, there’s no indication at the trail head that the pass is required.  If you want to be sure, you can purchase the National Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 per day or $30 per year) here.
        • Agency: San Bernardino National Forest/Big Bear Discovery Center
        • Distance: 5.4 miles
        • Elevation gain: 1,000 feet
        • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (altitude, elevation gain, steepness, trail condition over last half mile)
        • Suggested time: 3 hours
        • Best season: May –  October
        • USGS topo map: Fawnskin
        • Recommended gear: insect repellent; hiking poles
        • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire
        • More information:  here (described from the beginning of Polique Canyon Road); here (described via the Cougar Crest Trail, 12 miles round trip)
        • Rating: 8

Located on the north shore of Big Bear, Delamar Mountain is the tallest point on the ridge between the lake and Holcomb Valley, with a summit of 8,398 feet.  Although the views aren’t quite as good as from the hike to nearby Bertha Peak, and the trail doesn’t offer the variety of Gray’s Peak, it’s still an enjoyable and challenging hike, well worth a visit.

0:00 - Trail head on Forest Road 2N09 (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Trail head on Forest Road 2N09 (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

The beginning of the hike, which follows the Pacific Crest Trail, is deceptively easy. The P.C.T. heads very gradually uphill, climbing only about 400 feet over the first two-plus miles through a forest of black oaks, firs and pines. In the early part of the hike, you get some nice views of Big Bear Lake and San Gorgonio to the south.

0:38 - Following the north side of the ridge on the P.C.T. (times are approximate)

0:38 – Following the north side of the ridge on the P.C.T. (times are approximate)

After a little more than a mile, the trail crosses to the north side of the ridge, giving glimpses of Holcomb Valley. Rounding a curve you get a nice view of Bertha Peak’s pointy summit to the east.

0:54 -  Turn left and begin the steep climb

0:54 – Turn left and begin the steep climb

At about 2 1/4 miles, the P.C.T. crosses a steep, loosely defined trail. This is where the bill comes due. Delamar Mountain has an elevation similar to Smith Mountain in the Angeles National Forest (although Smith is more difficult): an easy beginning but a difficult push to the summit.

1:02 - Watch out for the log

1:02 – Watch out for the log

Climb up the loose and steep trail, using your poles. After ascending almost 200 feet you get a brief respite. The trail flattens out and bends south, passing a primitive campsite, and then the steep ascent begins again. You hack your way up the mountain, climbing another 300 feet, over and around fallen tree trunks, before the trail levels out shortly before the summit.

1:08 - Flat area before the final ascent

1:08 – Flat area before the final ascent

An easy to climb pile of boulders is the true high point of Delamar Mountain, providing some nice views of Holcomb Valley and the San Gabriels to the west, but the best views are found farther south. Forging your way across the ridge, you reach another pile of boulders, from which you get some great views of Big Bear Lake.  After resting to make sure your legs are fresh for the steep descent, return via the same route.

1:20 - View of Holcomb Valley from the first summit

1:20 – View of Holcomb Valley from the first summit

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

1:25 - View of Big Bear Lake from the southern summit

1:25 – View of Big Bear Lake from the southern summit

“Elements Gathering” – New location and other updated information


Elements Flyer final (72dpi)

The Elements Gathering has become its own living and breathing being and we have had to surrender to the magic. The truth is that some of the best things usually happen when things don’t go “according to plan”. We are very excited about the new location and feel it is a much better fit for the kind of event we are co-creating.

Our new location at Firestone Scout Ranch in Brea is one of those rare gems that most people never knew existed.  It’s anonymity is protected behind a locked gate.  We will have thousands of acres of undeveloped land all to ourselves (and the abundant hawks, owls, deer and other wildlife, of course).  We watched a beautiful bobcat silently stroll through the lower camping area a few days ago, completely untroubled by our presence.  This is a magical place!

Other BIG news:

One-Day Tickets are now available!  We know that some of you can’t make it for the weekend or full event.  You get to experience this incredible gathering of instructors and performers anyway. 

LeVar Burton and Reading Rainbow are joining us!  LeVar and his team are wanting to learn more about nature connection and ancient skills to create programs for Reading Rainbow.  LeVar has been in many films including Star Trek (Jordy) and Roots (Kunta Kentai).

Kids under 10 are still FREE to attend.

We are filling out our schedule of classes.  Just a few of the workshops include:

  • bowmaking with backwoodsman Jose Amoedo
  • primitive fire making
  • primitive shelter construction
  • primitive techniques of hunting, fishing and trapping
  • hide tanning
  • primitive cookery
  • moccasin making
  • Anasazi style pottery
  • wild foods foraging and processing
  • intuitive eating
  • drumming and tribal dance
  • men’s and women’s lodges
  • cattail visors and bottlewraps
  • bamboo flute making
  • flintknapping
  • natural dyes and weaving
  • willow basketry
  • art of self-defense
  • wilderness first aid
  • and much much more!

and don’t forget that we’ll have live music every evening to add to the enjoyment including world-renowned William Close and the Earth Harp, the world’s largest stringed instrument.  Bluegrass, Reggae, Cajun and more!
Really, with an event this incredible… you are coming, aren’t you?

Check out our website for a full list of instructors and performers:   www.elementsgathering.com

Watch our cool videohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrhMVVaOnuo

We look forward to welcoming you to Elements.  Tickets purchased online saves you a few bucks and helps us know who’s coming.

Doane Nature Trail (Palomar Mountain State Park)


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Ponderosa Pines on the Doane Nature Trail

Ponderosa Pines on the Doane Nature Trail

Incense Cedar tree on the Doane Nature Trail

Incense Cedar tree on the Doane Nature Trail

Doane Nature Trail (Palomar Mountain State Park)

  • Location:  Palomar Mountains in northeastern San Diego County.  From I-15 at Fallbrook, take highway 76 east for 21 miles, and take a left on county road S6.  Follow it for 6 1/2 miles and take a left on S7 (signed for the park).  Drive 3 miles and enter the park, where a $8 per day fee is charged.  At the first intersection, turn right and drive 1.8 miles to the Doane Pond day use area, making a right turn at the only intersection along the way.  The road is narrow and drops off sharply, so be careful.
  • Agency: Palomar Mountain State Park
  • Distance: 1.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 150 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 45 minutes
  • Best season: All year
  • USGS topo map:  “Boucher Hill”
  • Recommended gear: insect repellent
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield San Diego County
  • More information: Description here; video of the trail here
  • Rating: 7
0:00 - Doane Trail Head (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

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

This trail packs more scenery in a mile than can be found in many longer trails. Highlights include Ponderosa pines, oaks, a huge incense cedar, a trickling stream and green meadows.

0:03 - Footbridge and paved road crossing (times are approximate)

0:03 – Footbridge and paved road crossing (times are approximate)

From the parking area, look for the signed Doane Nature Trail, leaving from the southwest corner of the lot. Pick up an informative brochure which will describe some of the sights along the way, indicated by numbered sign posts.

0:05 - Stream crossing

0:05 – Stream crossing

You follow the trail into the woods, crossing a sketchy-looking but secure footbridge and picking up the path on the opposite side of the paved road. The trail crosses the stream and continues into a thick forest of pines, oaks, fir and cedar.

0:11 - Stay right at the junction with the Weir Trail

0:10 – Stay right at the junction with the Weir Trail

At 0.3 miles, stay right as the Weir Trail branches off. You cross the stream again, and shortly after passing by a giant incense cedar, the trail enters an open meadow. You follow a staircase past some Ponderosa pines (unfortunately, damage from bark beetles is evident) and a black oak that was burned in a 1987 wildfire.

0:21 - Meadow view on the Doane Trail

0:21 – Meadow view on the Doane Trail

Continuing through another meadow, you meet up with the French Valley Trail. Turn right and cross a bridge to reach the end of the loop, at the Doane Valley Campground. Here, you’ll turn right and follow the paved road back to the day use area.

0:25 - Fire damaged black oak on the Doane Trail

0:25 – Fire damaged black oak on the Doane Trail

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

0:35 - Bridge to the campground at the end of the Doane Trail

0:35 – Bridge to the campground at the end of the Doane Trail

Fisherman’s Camp via Crab Creek Trail


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Sunset from the Crab Creek Trail

Sunset from the Crab Creek Trail

Crossing Deep Creek near Fisherman's Camp

Crossing Deep Creek near Fisherman’s Camp

Fisherman’s Camp via Crab Creek Trail

      • Location: San Bernardino National Forest, between Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake, near Green Valley.  From Highway 18, just east of Running Springs, turn left on Green Valley Road.  Go 2.6 miles and turn left on a dirt road signed for Crab Flats (forest road 3N16).  Follow the signs to the campgrounds, ignoring several side roads that branch off.  Road 3N16 is in pretty good shape, but after about 3 miles, you will have to ford Crab Creek, which, according to the guidebook, is “impassable” in high water.  Even in low water, high clearance vehicles are best.  After crossing the creek, continue to a junction (3.8 miles from Green Valley Road) and turn left on forest road 3N34.   Pass Crab Flats Campground and continue a mile to Tent Peg.  Just beyond Tent Peg, look for an information board and park in the dirt turnout opposite it.  A United States Forest Service adventure pass ($5 per day or $30 for the year) is required for parking. Click here to purchase.
      • Agency: San Bernardino National Forest/Arrowhead Ranger Station
      • Distance: 4 miles
      • Elevation gain: 800 feet
      • Difficulty Rating: PG
      • Suggested time: 2.5 hours
      • Best season:  March – November
      • USGS topo maps: Butler Peak; Keller Peak
      • Recommended gear: sun hat; insect repellentsunblock
      • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire
      • More information: here; Everytrail report here
      • Rating: 7
0:00 - Crab Creek trail head (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

0:00 – Crab Creek trail head (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

This hike has a little bit of everything: panoramic mountain views, oak and pine woodlands, two streams and even a small waterfall.  The scenery isn’t quite as dramatic as on the nearby stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail that runs through Deep Creek or on the Pinnacles hike, but it’s definitely worth a visit.  Although much of the trail is exposed, traveling through area recovering from a 2007 wildfire, there are several pleasantly shaded areas, and the moderate length and elevation gain in the hike makes it a good trip for the summer.  A late afternoon start can be ideal; you can watch the sunset on the way back as you climb up from the stream.

0:05 - Climb that log! (Times are approximate)

0:05 – Climb that log! (Times are approximate)

From the parking area, follow the signed Crab Creek Trail (2W07) which briefly climbs uphill, taking in some nice views, including Shay Mountain to the north and Lake Arrowhead and the Pinnacles to the west. You cross a giant fallen log and soon begin descending some switchbacks. After about a mile, you enter a wooded area and arrive at Crab Creek, a tributary of Deep Creek. With caution, you can follow the creek a few yards upstream, climbing over some rocks, and see a small waterfall.

0:30 - Waterfall upstream on Crab Creek

0:30 – Waterfall upstream on Crab Creek

The trail continues on the opposite of the creek, briefly ascending into a grove of black oaks and then descending through more open terrain. As the trail nears Deep Creek, it travels through a stand of pines. At one point, it becomes somewhat obscure as it cuts through some thick bushes (it appears to bear right, but that route soon comes to a dead end).

0:38 - Oak woodland on the opposite side of Crab Creek

0:38 – Oak woodland on the opposite side of Crab Creek

A hairpin turn to the right brings you to the banks of Deep Creek. If the water level is high and you don’t want to risk crossing, this is a good turnaround point. If you want to ford the stream, you can climb a short but steep trail on the other side, leading to the Fisherman Group Campground, the turnaround point.  There are several picnic tables where you can sit and enjoy the shade and the sound of the creek before heading back.

0:47 - Head straight through the grass

0:47 – Head straight through the grass

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

1:05 - Fisherman's Group Camp

1:05 – Fisherman’s Group Camp

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