Powder Canyon Switchbacks Loop

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Oaks on the Switchback Trail, Powder Canyon

View from near the top of the Switchbacks Trail, Powder Canyon

Powder Canyon Switchbacks Loop

    • Location: La Habra Heights.  From the 60 freeway, take the Fullerton Road exit and head south for 1.9 miles.  Bare right to stay on Fullerton Road (it continues as Harbor Blvd.) and go 0.4 miles to the entrance to the park.  Take a right and drive on a dirt road to the parking lot.  You can also reach the park from the south via Harbor Blvd, taking a hard left on Fullerton Road.
    • Agency: Habitat Authority
    • Distance: 4.1 miles
    • Elevation gain: 600 feet
    • Suggested time: 2 hours
    • Difficulty Rating: PG
    • Best season: Year round
    • USGS topo map: La Habra Heights
    • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
    • More information: Park map here
    • Rating:  6

This trip is basically a longer–and more scenic–version of the Black Walnut Loop from the Powder Canyon trailhead. Highlights include views of the San Gabriels, the Puente Hills and more. It’s one of the more enjoyable and varied hikes in the area.

From the parking lot, head into Powder Canyon as you would for the Black Walnut and Schabarum Loops. You head up a slight incline and then descend into Powder Canyon, free of all of the noise from nearby streets. You pass by turnoffs for the Black Walnut and Purple Sage rails, and at 1.2 miles, turn right on the Switchbacks Trail (signed as Schabarum).

The Switchbacks Trail lives up to its name, making its way up the east side of the canyon. You go in and out of shade, making a nice, moderate ascent of about 400 feet in a mile. On the way up, you can take a moment and relax on a bench. As you climb, look for nice views of the San Gabriel Valley, with Baldy towering above.

The trail levels out near the top of the hill, and then begins its descent. You pass by a paved road that leads downhill to Trailview Park (another starting point for this hike). As the trail descends toward Fullerton Road, look for a path heading briefly uphill to the right. When you reach the fire road, head left and downhill, soon arriving at Fullerton Road. Head right and walk back along the road (there’s no sidewalk, but traffic is light and you only have to go 0.1 miles. Nevertheless, be cautious). This brings you back to the dirt road entrance to Powder Canyon. Follow it for 0.2 miles back to the parking lot.

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

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Schabarum Loop from Powder Canyon

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Descending into Powder Canyon on the Purple Sage Trail

On the Schabarum Trail

Schabarum Loop from Powder Canyon

  • Location: La Habra Heights.  From the 60 freeway, take the Fullerton Road exit and head south for 1.9 miles.  Bare right to stay on Fullerton Road (it continues as Harbor Blvd.) and go 0.4 miles to the entrance to the park.  Take a right and drive on a dirt road to the parking lot.  You can also reach the park from the south via Harbor Blvd, taking a hard left on Fullerton Road.
  • Agency: Habitat Authority/Schabarum Regional Park
  • Distance: 4.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 900 feet
  • Suggested time: 2.5 hours
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Best season: October – June
  • USGS topo map: La Habra Heights
  • More information: Park map here
  • Rating: 5

This enjoyable loop takes in a wide variety of scenery, including a nice stretch in peaceful Powder Canyon and some good views of the Puente Hills and San Gabriel Valley.  It can get a little bit hot during the summer, but with an early start, the heat shouldn’t be too bad, especially if you do the route counter-clockwise, as described here; the west-facing ascent is sheltered from the sun by the hills.

From the parking area, head north into Powder Canyon on the fire road.  You’ll pass the turnoffs for the Grey Squirrel and Black Walnut trails and continue past the Purple Sage (Schabarum) trail on the left, the return route. In 0.6 more miles, you come to a horse corral, and you take a left on a trail running along side the fence. The sign (visible from the other direction) is signed Wildcat Loop.

Here, you cross a bridge and make an ascent. Stay left at a junction 0.4 miles in and continue your climb, shaded in some areas and exposed in others. The views get better as you ascend, so there’s plenty to see when you stop to catch your breath. After a mile of ascent (1.5 miles from the corral and 2.7 from the start), look for an unsigned junction. Your route goes left (the Schabarum Trail continues to the right), continues its climb past some antennas and soon meets the Purple Sage Trail.

Here, you bare left and begin your descent back into Powder Canyon. (Stay left at the a junction with a fire road that connects with Skyline Drive.) After a mile, you reach the bottom and take a right and retrace your steps.If the layout sounds at all confusing (and some of the signage can be a little inconsistent here) make sure you bring the map; it makes things clearer. While this is not a trail for wilderness solitude, it’s very convenient for San Gabriel Valley, Puente Hills and north Orange County residents, and makes a good training hike for enthusiasts all over the L.A. area.

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

Powder Canyon/Black Walnut Loop in Puente Hills

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Dusk in Powder Canyon

Oaks in Powder Canyon

Text and photography copyright 2010 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved.  Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability.  All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here.   Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Powder Canyon/Black Walnut Loop in Puente Hills

  • Location: La Habra Heights.  From the 60 freeway, take the Fullerton Road exit and head south for 1.9 miles.  Bare right to stay on Fullerton Road (it continues as Harbor Blvd.) and go 0.4 miles to the entrance to the park.  Take a right and drive on a dirt road to the parking lot.  You can also reach the park from the south via Harbor Blvd, taking a hard left on Fullerton Road.
  • Agency: Habitat Authority
  • Distance: 1.9 miles
  • Elevation gain: 350 feet
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Best season: All year
  • USGS topo map: La Habra Heights
  • More information: Park map here
  • Rating: 4

Powder Canyon, which connects to the larger Schirbarum Regional Park, is one of the more isolated parts of the Puente Hills.  Located on the southern side of the hills, the canyon is largely shielded from the freeway noise, although you do get some nice views of the Inland Empire as you climb.  This short loop can either be a nice quick getaway into nature, or the beginning of a longer hike on one of the trails that connects to it.  Since it uses entirely fire roads, it can be a good evening or night hike as well (although if you arrive after sunset, make sure to park on the street instead of in the lot.)

From the parking area, take the Powder Canyon fire road north and head into a grove of oaks.  Stay straight as the Grey Squirrel trail branches off, and soon you arrive at the signed Black Walnut trail.  Head right and begin your ascent.  Other than some overhead power lines and the occasional plane passing by, there are few signs of civilization.  After some climbing, you get some nice views, including Baldy, Cucamonga and on clear days, San Gorgonio and San Bernardino Peaks.

After almost a mile, the Black Walnut trail ends at a T-junction.  Head right, and descend steeply, arriving at Fullerton Road.  Head right and walk carefully back to the turnoff for the park (there are no sidewalks, but traffic is light, so as long as you’re alert you shouldn’t have any problems.)   If you have time and energy, make sure to check out some of the longer Powder Canyon trails.