Carpinteria Salt Marsh Nature Park

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Franklin Creek, Carpinteria Salt Marsh Nature Park

Franklin Creek, Carpinteria Salt Marsh Nature Park

Carpinteria Salt Marsh Nature Park

    • Location: Carpinteria, on the corner of Ash Avenue and Sandyland Road.  From Ventura/L.A., take Highway 101 to the Casitas Pass Road exit.  Turn left on Casitas Pass Road and go 0.2 miles to Carpinteria Avenue.  Turn right and go 0.3 miles to Linden Avenue.  Turn left and go 0.5 miles to Sandyland Road.  Turn right and go 0.3 miles and park where available on the corner of Ash and Sandyland. From Santa Barbara, take Highway 101 to the Linden Avenue exit.  Turn right and go 0.6 miles to Sandyland Road.  Turn right and follow Sandyland to the corner of Ash and park where available.
    • Agency: City of Carpinteria
    • Distance: 1 mile
    • Elevation gain: Level
    • Suggested time: 30 minutes
    • Difficulty rating: G
    • Best season: Year round
    • USGS topo map: Carpinteria
    • More information: Trip descriptions here and here; Everytrail report here
    • Rating: 1
0:00 - Carpinteria Salt Marsh trail head (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Carpinteria Salt Marsh trail head (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This short nature trail visits some coastal wetlands near downtown Carpinteria, providing nice views of the surrounding mountains and a good opportunity to see migratory waterfowl including herons, egrets and terns.  You also might see hummingbirds, wrens and goldfinches.  To be sure the trail’s purpose is primarily educational; don’t expect much in the way of solitude or physical challenge.  If you’re driving on Highway 101 the park is a nice place to stop to stretch your legs, located less than a mile from the freeway.  Scenic downtown Carpinteria also invites exploration before or after your visit here.

0:06 - View of the wetlands shortly after leaving Ash Avenue (times are approximate)

0:06 – View of the wetlands shortly after leaving Ash Avenue (times are approximate)

From the corner of Ash and Sandyland, enter the preserve and stop by an observation deck where interpretive plaques describe the ecology and geology of the area. The trail bends right and parallels Ash Avenue for 0.2 miles before bending left and heading northwest. (A short loop branches off, leading to an amphitheater where you can get some more views of the wetlands.)

0:11 - View of the mountains after crossing Franklin Creek

0:11 – View of the mountains after crossing Franklin Creek

At 0.3 miles you reach a T-junction. Turn left (the right fork heads toward a mobile home park) and cross Franklin Canyon on a footbridge. On the opposite side, continue following the trail, first northeast and then northwest toward Sunnyland Cove Road. Just before you reach it, bear left at a fork and follow the boardwalk to a clearing where you can sit on some rocks and look out over the marsh. This is the turnaround point.

0:15 - View from the turnaround point

0:15 – View from the turnaround point

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


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Santa Ysabel Open Space (East)

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Looking west from the Kanaka Trail

Looking west from the Kanaka Trail

Sycamores on the eastern leg of the Kanaka Trail

Sycamores on the eastern leg of the Kanaka Trail

Santa Ysabel Open Space (East)

  • Location: North of Julian.  From Highway 78/79, take a left on Wynola Road (about 35 miles east of Escondido; 17 miles east of Ramona; about 3 miles east of Santa Ysabel) and go 3.4 miles to Farmer Road.  Turn left and drive 1.3 miles to the trailhead, on the left side of the road.  Alternately, from Temecula/Warner Springs, take Highway 79 south to the juncture with Highway 78.  Turn left and head southeast for 3.2 miles to Wynola Road.  From downtown Julian, take Farmer Road north for 2.1 miles.  Turn right on Wynola Road and an immediate left to continue north on Farmer Road, 1.3 miles to the trailhead.
  • Agency: County of San Diego
  • Distance: 7.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,000 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Distance, elevation gain)
  • Suggested time: 3 hours
  • Best season: October – June; 8am – 5pm daily
  • USGS topo maps: Julian, Santa Ysabel
  • Recommended gear: sun hat; sunblock
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield San Diego County
  • More information: Trip description here; Yelp page here; Flickr photo album here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 8
0:00 - Trailhead (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

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

This is one of the best hikes in the Julian area, offering a little bit of everything: pine-covered mountains, oak woodlands, wide meadows and even a glimpse of the ocean if visibility is good.  The 7.2-mile hike described here – a 2 1/4 mile out and back stretch with a 2.7 mile loop – is a good workout which can either be shortened or extended as time and energy permit.

0:16 - Entering the oak woodland (times are approximate)

0:17 – Entering the oak woodland (times are approximate)

From the staging area on Farmer Road, follow the trail downhill into a pleasant meadow. Don’t be surprised to see cattle grazing. You cross Santa Ysabel Creek and walk through an open field, passing a lone sycamore and reaching a grove of oaks at about 0.7 miles. Under the shade of the large live oaks, you continue west, through another meadow and into another woodland. At 1.5 miles, the trail makes a hairpin turn, crosses the creek and begins the only noticeably steep ascent on the route, climbing about 400 feet over 3/4 of a mile. The efforts are made more enjoyable by the fact that much of the ascent is in the shade and when it leaves the woods, it follows a scenic ridge line with great views to the west, including the Palomar Mountains (if you look carefully, you can pick out the observatory.)

0:33 - Crossing Santa Ysabel Creek

0:35 – Crossing Santa Ysabel Creek

At 2.25 miles from the start, you reach the loop portion of the hike. The Kanaka Loop can be traveled in either direction, but by turning right and going counter-clockwise, it allows you to take a break from climbing, also saving the best views for later in the hike.

0:50 - Beginning of the loop

0:51 – Beginning of the loop

The loop circles a wide open space called Kanaka Flat. At 0.3 miles into the loop, stay left as the Coast to Crest Trail branches off, heading west toward Highway 79. You head east through more pastoral land where you’re likely to see cattle, and begin a gradual ascent. At about 3.7 miles – the approximate half way point of the trip – you reach a summit and the trail dips back down toward another meadow. With pines providing shade, this makes a good rest spot.

The trail heads down into the meadow before beginning its final ascent to the high point on the hike (about 4,300 feet above sea level.) Here you get an excellent vista of the open space, the mountains and perhaps a glimpse of the ocean; you might even be able to pick out the long, flat shape of San Clemente Island in the distance.

1:20 - Descending through the pines

1:20 – Descending through the pines

From here, the trail drops into a shallow canyon before briefly rising to complete the loop (just under 5 miles from the start.) Turn right at the junction and retrace your steps back to the trail head.

1:50 - View from the high point of the loop

1:50 – View from the high point of the loop

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

Grizzly Flats Trail

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Strawberry Peak and Big Tujunga Canyon from the top of the Grizzly Flats Trail

Strawberry Peak and Big Tujunga Canyon from the top of the Grizzly Flats Trail

Woodlands below Grizzly Flats

Woodlands below Grizzly Flats

Grizzly Flats Trail

    • Location:  Angeles National Forest north of La Canada.  From I-210, take the Angeles Crest Highway (Highway 2) exit and head north for 5.6 miles.  At mile marker 30.02, carefully turn into a small turnout on the left side of the highway (coordinates N 34 15.433, W 118 11.800).  If you come to a large turnout on the right side of the road, you’ve gone too far.  A National Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 per day or $30 for the year) is required for parking here. Click here to purchase.  Alternately the trail can be reached at its north end, the Stonyvale Picnic Area.
    • Agency: Angeles National Forest/Los Angeles River Ranger District
    • Distance: 7.6 miles (including Dark Canyon)
    • Elevation gain: 1,900 feet (including Dark Canyon)
    • Suggested time: 4 hours
    • Difficulty rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain, steepness, terrain, distance)
    • Best season:  November –  May
    • USGS topo maps: Condor Peak
    • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat; insect repellent
    • More information: Trip descriptions here, here, here and here;  Everytrail report here
    • Rating: 8
0:00 - Dark Canyon Trailhead on Angeles Crest Highway (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Dark Canyon Trailhead on Angeles Crest Highway (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

For a hike that begins only six miles from the 210 Freeway, the hike to Grizzly Flats is pleasantly secluded and offers a wide variety of scenery.  Highlights include panoramic views of the Angeles Crest Highway, Strawberry Peak, Condor Peak, Big Tujunga Canyon and Josephine Peak, as well as oak woodlands, streams and more.  That said there are a couple of caveats: the trail below Grizzly Flats is steep and often loose, requiring extra caution; the bugs can be annoying; there are several steam crossings that can be treacherous if the water is high and there’s poison oak on the banks of said stream. If you opt to do this hike from Angeles Crest Highway as described here, most of the elevation gain will happen on the return, making it effectively a reverse hike and with much of the terrain being exposed, an early start is optimum.

0:17 - View from the top of the Dark Canyon Trail (times are approximate)

0:17 – View from the top of the Dark Canyon Trail (times are approximate)

There are actually several possible ways to do this hike. This post describes it from the easily accessible Angeles Crest Highway starting point, but it can also be done in its entirety in the other direction, starting from the Stonyvale Picnic Area in Big Tujunga Canyon. It also can be done as a point-to-point in either direction and for hikers who want a shorter trip, Grizzly Flats – the approximate halfway point – is a good destination, requiring about the same amount of total elevation gain from either starting point.

0:47 - Grizzly Flats

0:47 – Grizzly Flats

Assuming you start from Angeles Crest Highway, look for the obscure Dark Canyon Trail heading uphill from the south end of the parking area. It climbs steeply, quickly gaining a panoramic view of the Angeles Crest Highway. The trail starts leveling out, entering an open field and soon after reaching a four-way junction (0.6 miles) where you get an excellent view of Big Tujunga Canyon and Strawberry Peak.

1:12 - View of Big Tujunga from the ridge

1:12 – View of Big Tujunga from the ridge

Head straight on the Grizzly Flats Trail, which begins a 1.2 mile descent on a pleasantly cool north-facing slope. Much of this area is still recovering from Station Fire damage, but the views are nevertheless impressive.

1:20 - Turn right at the streambed at the bottom of the steep descent

1:20 – Turn right at the streambed at the bottom of the steep descent

At about 1.8 miles you reach Grizzly Flat, where you will not see any grizzly bears (the last one in the area was shot in 1916) but you can take a break beneath the shade of the pines and oaks before continuing.

The trail becomes more rugged, making a twisting descent in and out of two small tributaries of Big Tujunga Canyon. You leave the wooded area and follow a sharp ridge (hiking poles will be helpful here) that drops steeply, reaching the bottom of the canyon at about 2.8 miles.

1:23 - Stream crossing

1:23 – Stream crossing

Here, head right and follow the streambed, picking up the trail on the opposite side. At about 3 miles, you reach the first of five stream crossings, at the confluence of Big Tujunga Creek and Silver Creek. If the water level is high and you are nervous about crossing the stream, this makes a good turnaround point.

If you decide to continue, the trail resumes on the other side of the creek. You make a total of four more creek crossings, the third of which is probably the most difficult. In most cases, you can walk across the logs or rocks, but hiking poles will likely be helpful, especially if the water level is high.

1:45 - Stonyvale Picnic Area, the turnaround point

1:45 – Stonyvale Picnic Area, the turnaround point

Almost immediately after the fifth stream crossing, you reach the Stonyvale Picnic Area, the turnaround point for the hike. Several picnic tables make for a nice place to rest before making the challenging ascent back to the Angeles Crest Highway.

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

Summit to Summit Motorway

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Morning mist over Topanga Canyon from the Summit to Summit Motorway

Morning marine layer over Topanga Canyon from the Summit to Summit Motorway

Summit to Summit Motorway

    • Location: Top of Topanga Overlook, Topanga Canyon.  From Highway 101, take Topanga Canyon Blvd/Highway 27 south for 3.3 miles to the turnout (on the left) for the Top of Topanga Overlook.  Carefully make a U-turn and pull into the lot.  From Pacific Coast Highway, take Topanga Canyon Blvd/Highway 27 north for 9.2 miles and park in the lot on the right side of the road.  You can also start the hike at the southwestern end, from Old Topanga Canyon Blvd.
    • Agency:  Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy
    • Distance: 6.2 miles
    • Elevation gain:  850 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG
    • Suggested time:  2 hours
    • Best season: October – June
    • USGS topo map: Calabasas; Malibu Beach; Topanga; Canoga Park
    • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
    • Recommended guidebook: Day Hikes In the Santa Monica Mountains
    • More information: Photo gallery here; article about the SMMNRA’s acquisition of the motorway here; Everytrail report here
    • Rating: 6
0:00 View from the Top of Topanga Overlook at the start of the hike (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

0:00 View from the Top of Topanga Overlook at the start of the hike (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

The Summit to Summit Motorway links the Top of Topanga Overlook with Old Topanga Canyon Road.  While it doesn’t have the geological or botanical variety of nearby Topanga State Park or Malibu Creek, it does offer some good views of those two parks and the surrounding residential neighborhoods. There are many small up and down stretches which add up to about 850 total feet of elevation gain. The two ends of the hike are approximately the same altitude. The Topanga Overlook trailhead is more easily accessible, but some hikers may find that by starting on Old Topanga Canyon Road, the view from the overlook is more of a payoff for the end of the hike. This route can also be done point-to-point with not too much difficulty.

0:15  - Turn left at the second water tank (times are approximate)

0:15 – Turn left at the second water tank (times are approximate)

Assuming you start at the overlook on the northeastern end of the hike, carefully cross Topanga Canyon Boulevard (there’s no traffic light or crosswalk and heading back across the street from the west side is particularly treacherous as the curves in the road create a blind spot for cars). Pass by a metal gate and begin an ascent along the Summit to Summit Motorway. You’ll pass by a water tank and the road becomes dirt.

0:35 - Gate just before Adamsville Avenue

0:35 – Gate just before Adamsville Avenue

You descend to a junction by another water tank (0.6 miles) where you’ll turn left.  Follow the road along the ridge, passing by a few scattered oaks and willows. You’ll get a good view of Calabasas Peak to the southwest and in the distance, the Goat Buttes of Malibu Creek State Park and Castro Peak beyond. At 1.4 miles, you merge with a paved road (watch out for cars) and head left, passing by a private home and arriving at a five-way junction; the approximate halfway point of the hike.

0:39 - Right turn at the five-way junction

0:39 – Right turn at the five-way junction

From here, continue on the motorway by taking a hard right. You pass a few more private homes and several spurs heading off the main route. The trail reaches a high point at about 2 miles from the start and makes a gradual descent over the next mile. Just before it reaches Old Topanga Canyon Road, there’s a spot where you get a nice panorama of Calabasas. If you still have gas in the tank, you can cross Old Topanga Canyon Road and continue another 2.1 miles to Calabasas Peak.

0:55 - Following the fence

0:55 – Following the fence

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

1:15 - Nice view from just before Old Topanga Canyon Blvd

1:15 – Nice view from just before Old Topanga Canyon Blvd

Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park

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Panorama of Santa Susana State Historic Park from above the Devil's Slide Trail

Panorama of Santa Susana State Historic Park from above the Devil’s Slide Trail

Snake-like rock on the Old Stagecoach Route

Snake-like rock on the Old Stagecoach Route

Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park

  • Location: Western San Fernando Valley.  From the 118 Freeway, take the Highway 27/Topanga Canyon Blvd. exit and head south for a mile.  Turn right on Andora Avenue, which becomes Valley Circle.  After 1.2 miles, turn right on Lassen and make an immediate left to continue onto Andora.  The signed trailhead is on the right side of the road just past the cemetery.  From the south, take Topanga Canyon Blvd. 5.8 miles north from Highway 101 to Lassen.  Turn left and follow Lassen 0.8 miles to Andora.  Turn left and park at the signed trailhead, almost immediately on the right.
  • Agency:  Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park
  • Distance: 3.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 800 feet
  • Suggested time: 2 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG
  • Best season:  September – May
  • USGS topo map: Oat Mountain; Santa Susana
  • Recommended gear: sun hat; sunblock; insect repellent
  • More information: Foundation for the Preservation of the Santa Susana Mountains (FPSSM) home page here; trip description here; Yelp page here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 6
0:00 - Trailhead on Andora Avenue (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

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

More than a century ago, the Old Stagecoach Road was the main route between San Francisco and Los Angeles.  Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park commemorates this legacy while offering a network of trails with nice views of the San Fernando Valley, the Simi Hills and more.  Clear day vistas include the San Gabriel Mountains, the Verdugos and Hollywood Hills.

0:21 - Take a hard left to begin the climb on the Old Stagecoach Route (times are approximate)

0:21 – Take a hard left to begin the climb on the Old Stagecoach Route (times are approximate)

The trail system is fairly new and somewhat informal, so don’t expect much in the way of signage.  There are several possible routes on the network of trails crossing the park and the proximity to civilization makes it hard to get too lost. The route described here is a good workout with good views of the park and the surrounding area.

0:30 - Junction with the Devil's Slide Trail (turn left)

0:30 – Junction with the Devil’s Slide Trail (turn left)

From the trailhead on Andora, follow the fire road into the park, passing under some oaks. The trail heads west and then north, entering an exposed area. Stay right at the first two junctions, and straight at a four-way intersection (0.5 miles.)

At 0.8 miles, shortly after passing a junction with a fire road, you reach another four-way intersection. Take a sharp left and begin climbing a single-track trail that follows the old stagecoach route. Keep an eye out for a reptilian-looking sandstone boulder on the right side of the trail.

0:35 - The plaque

0:35 – The plaque

At 1.1 miles, stay left at a junction and continue climbing. This trail, known as the Devil’s Slide (not to be confused with Idyllwild’s trail of the same name) is steep and somewhat rough, though not too difficult. You soon reach a tiled plaque (1.2 miles) marking the route of the stagecoach. The views here are panoramic and if you’re short on time, this isn’t a bad turnaround spot.

0:46 - Leaving the fire road and making the scramble to the summit

0:46 – Leaving the fire road and making the scramble to the summit

However, you can get an even better view less than half a mile farther. Continue past the plaque toward Lilac Lane, an alternate trailhead. Just before you reach the street, turn right and almost immediately left, climbing around the north side of a rocky knoll. As the road begins its descent toward the 118 Freeway, leave it and head east toward the peak, bushwhacking and boulder-hopping to the summit, where you can enjoy a great view of the San Fernando Valley.

0:50 - Looking west from the summit toward Simi Valley

0:50 – Looking west from the summit toward Simi Valley

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

Top 13 of 13!

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

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

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

View of the San Gabriels en route to Sierra Peak

San Jacinto as seen from Chaparossa Peak

San Jacinto as seen from Chaparossa Peak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big Sycamore/Overlook Loop (Point Mugu State Park)

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Ocean view from the Overlook Fire Road

Ocean view from the Overlook Fire Road

Looking north from the Overlook Fire Road

Looking north from the Overlook Fire Road

Big Sycamore/Overlook Loop (Point Mugu State Park)

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

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

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

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

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

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

0:51 - Live oak shortly past the picnic area

0:51 – Live oak shortly past the picnic area

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2:50 - Ocean view from the Overlook Fire Road

2:50 – Ocean view from the Overlook Fire Road

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

3:30 - The overlook

3:30 – The overlook

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

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

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

Zev Yaroslavsky Las Virgenes Highland Park

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View from near the top of the Yaroslavsky Open Space

View from near the top of the Yaroslavsky Open Space

Oak woodland in the Yaroslavsky Open Space

Oak woodland in the Yaroslavsky Open Space

Zev Yarosolavsky Las Virgenes Highland Park

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

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

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

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

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

0:07 - Hollow tree (times are approximate)

0:07 – Hollow tree (times are approximate)

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

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

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

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

0:30 - Looking southwest from the top

0:30 – Looking southwest from the top

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

Altadena Crest Loop

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View of L.A. from the Altadena Crest Trail

View of L.A. from the Altadena Crest Trail

Hugging the hill side on the Altadena Crest Trail

Hugging the hill side on the Altadena Crest Trail

Altadena Crest Loop

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

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

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

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

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

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

0:28 - Fire fighters' memorial

0:36 – Fire fighters’ memorial

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

0:31 - Into the narrow canyon

0:41 – Into the narrow canyon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coyote Trail (Puente Hills)

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View of the San Gabriels from the Coyote Trail

View of the San Gabriels from the Coyote Trail

Trees on the Coyote Trail

Trees on the Coyote Trail

Coyote Trail (Puente Hills)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maidenhair Falls (Anza Borrego Desert State Park)

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Maidenhair Falls

Maidenhair Falls

Climbing the boulders in Hellhole Canyon below Maidenhair Falls

Jumbled boulders in Hellhole Canyon below Maidenhair Falls

Maidenhair Falls (Anza Borrego Desert State Park)

  • Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park southwest of the town of Borrego Springs.  From Highway 79, head east on San Felipe Road (County Road S2).  The junction is 4.3 miles north of Highway 76 and 3.6 miles south of Warner Springs.  Take S-2 for 4.7 miles and turn left onto Montezuma Valley Road.  The large parking lot for trailhead will be on the left side of the road near mile marker 16.5, just before you reach the town.
  • Agency: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
  • Distance: 5.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,000 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Terrain, navigation, elevation gain)
  • Suggested time: 3 hours
  • Best season: December – April
  • USGS topo map:  “Tubb Canyon”
  • Recommended gear: sun hat
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield San Diego County
  • More information: Trip descriptions here, here and here; Everytrail report here; video about the hike here
  • Rating: 8
0:00 - Maidenhair Falls trail head (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

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

This trip is similar to the popular Borrego Palm Canyon trail nearby, but longer and more difficult.  Challenges include negotiating some tough terrain, navigation and avoiding cholla and cat claw cacti that closely border the trail.

0:20 - Words of wisdom (times are approximate)

0:20 – Words of wisdom (times are approximate)

The hike starts easily enough as you gradually make your way up a wash.  You cross the California Hiking & Raiding Trail after a quarter mile and continue toward Hellhole Canyon.  There are a few false trails and washes that branch off but the main route is pretty clear.

At about a mile and a quarter you enter the canyon and soon cross the wash for the first of several times.  You make your way deeper into the canyon, occasionally scrambling over a jumble of boulders.  From here on in, your exact route may vary somewhat as you head generally west.  In addition to the first grove of wild palms (2.1 miles) and the cacti, you’ll also start noticing sycamore trees and ferns in this moist area of the canyon.

0:40 - Crossing the wash for the first of several times

0:40 – Crossing the wash

You stay on the north side of the canyon with the palms on your left, work your way over more rocks and around fallen trees.  A slanted rock at the end of the first grove requires some scrambling, though nothing too difficult.

1:00 - Rock scrambling at the end of the first palm grove

1:00 – Rock scrambling at the end of the first palm grove

Working your way farther into Hellhole Canyon, you reach the second grove.  Here, you dip down into the grove, crossing the canyon floor and emerging on the rocky south wall. (You may notice a trickle coming from your right; this is a smaller waterfall but it’s not Maidenhair Falls.)

1:15 - Climbing out of the canyon after the second grove of palms

1:15 – Climbing out of the canyon after the second grove of palms

You climb over a jumble of rocks (keep an eye out for a “window” at the bottom of the pile) and make your way to the third grove.  Duck back into the canyon, slip around a large rock and enter a small grotto where seasonal Maidenhair Falls trickles down a 20 foot wall into a small pool.  Even if the flow is just a trickle, it’s still a pleasant spot to enjoy some quiet and solitude.  The lush, cool alcove is all the more remarkable for being located in the middle of a desert.

1:25 - Fallen palms in the third grove before Maidenhair Falls

1:25 – Fallen palms in the third grove before Maidenhair Falls

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.

1:30 - You made it!

1:30 – You made it!

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

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.