Lower Canyonback Trail

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Lower Canyonback Trail, Santa Monica Mountains, CA

Ocean view from the Lower Canyonback Trail

Temescal Ridge, Santa Monica Mountains, CA

Temescal Ridge, as seen from the Lower Canyonback Trail

Lower Canyonback Trail

  • Location: Eastern Santa Monica Mountains. Google Maps lists it as the “Whoops Trailhead.” From I-405, take Sunset Blvd. west for 1.3 miles. Turn right on Kenter Avenue and follow it for 2.2 miles to its end and park where available. (Kenter makes a lot of sharp curves so drive carefully; a few other roads branch off and the signs aren’t always visible but it’s usually pretty clear how to stay on Kenter.)
  • Agency: Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area/Westridge Canyonback Wilderness Park
  • Distance: 4.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 600 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 2 hours
  • Best season: October – June
  • USGS topo map: “Topanga”
  • Recomended gear: sunblock; sun hat
  • More information: Trip description here; description of both Lower and Upper segments here; Westridge-Canyonback Park Yelp page here
  • Rating: 6
Lower Canyonback Trail, Santa Monica Mountains, CA

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

The Lower Canyonback Trail is more challenging and scenically interesting than its upper counterpart. Purists might be turned off by the fact that this route is almost entirely on fire roads and paved roads and that power lines follow it for much of the way, but the ocean and mountain views are excellent and the hike’s convenient location and dog-friendliness add to its popularity.

Lower Canyonback Trail, Santa Monica Mountains, CA

0:12 – Merging with the fire road (times are approximate)

A few informal trails branch off and run parallel to the main roads, making several different routes possible. Begin by following the trail uphill, almost immediately coming to a split where a use trail heads up a ridge to the right and the paved road continues to the left, slightly downhill. The two routes rejoin at about 0.4 miles, where you’ll bear left and follow the fire road uphill. (Another trail, popular with mountain bikers, also branches off to the left at this point; it rejoins the main route later on. There’s also a steep break that heads straight up at this point, soon rejoining the fire road). Farther uphill, 0.7 miles from the start, a steep path climbs to a vista point where a wooden bench hangs from a large oak. From this ridge, you enjoy some of the best views of the hike.

Lower Canyonback Trail, Santa Monica Mountains, CA

0:16 – Steep use trail to the oak with the swing

The ridge drops back down to rejoin the fire road (1.1 miles) as well as the single-track from earlier. You continue, enjoying good views on both sides, climbing to the highest point on the route (1.7 miles), marked by a large water tank. A short spur on the left leads to a knoll with some nice vistas; the road, now paved, continues, gradually descending through a plateau dotted with oaks, willows and spring flowers. A use trail leads to what someone has named Nipple Mountain, although the area is considered a sensitive habitat and is off limits.

Oak tree on the Lower Canyonback Trail, Santa Monica Mountains, CA

0:22 – Oak tree with swing

As you descend toward the end of the trail, you may get glimpses of the Santa Susana and San Gabriel Mountains. A metal gate marks the trail’s end at an upscale residential community. It’s possible to access the Upper Canyonback Trail by walking about half a mile on streets; that route continues a mile and a half farther to Mulholland Drive, making a round trip of 8+ miles or a possible 4-mile shuttle with the necessary arrangements.

Lower Canyonback Trail, Santa Monica Mountains, CA

0:28 – Rejoining the fire road

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

End of the Lower Canyonback Trail

1:00 – End of the trail

Doc Larsen Loop

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Little Tujunga Canyon, Angeles National Forest, CA

View of Little Tujunga Canyon on the final ascent

View of the San Fernando Valley from the Doc Larsen Loop Trail, Lakeview Terrace, CA

Looking south from near the top of the BP&L Fire Road

Doc Larsen Loop

  • Location: Lakeview Terrace at the corner of Dominica Ave. and Jimenez St. From I-210, take the Wheatland Ave. exit. Follow it north (turn right if you’re coming from the south/east, left if from the north/west) a short distance to Foothill Blvd. Turn right and go 0.3 miles to Esko Ave. Turn left onto Esko and take the second left on to Jimenez St. Park where available near the corner of Jimenez and Dominica.
  • Agency: Angeles National Forest, Los Angeles River Ranger District
  • Distance: 8.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,400 feet
  • Suggested time: 4 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG-13 (distance, elevation gain)
  • Best season: October – May
  • USGS topo map: Sunland
  • Recommended gear: sun hat; sunblock; hiking poles
  • More information: Everytrail guide here; Meet Up description here; Doc Larsen obituary here
  • Rating: 7
Start of the Doc Larsen Loop, Lakeview Terrace, CA

0:00 – Trail head at the end of Jimenez St. (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

Louis “Doc” Larsen may sound like a bank robber from the Wild West but in fact he was an upstanding citizen: a popular veterinarian known for his work in the horse community around Lakewood Terrace and his trail advocacy. The Doc Larsen Trail was damaged in the Station Fire but is now accessible to hikers again, thanks to the efforts of volunteers. There are several ways to incorporate the 1.6-mile trail into a hike or trail ride, including the “P”-shaped loop described here. Although much of the hike is dominated by power lines and noise from nearby roads, it offers (at least on clear days) excellent views of the eastern San Fernando Valley, Little Tujunga Canyon, the Verdugo Mountains and the westernmost peaks of the San Gabriels. Add that to its convenience to the San Gabriel foothill and San Fernando Valley communities and you have a significant L.A. hiking destination.

BP&L Fire Road, Lakeview Terrace, CA

0:07 – Start of the fire road (times are approximate)

From the end of Jimenez St., walk uphill on Dominica, past Courtship Ranch (private property; access is granted by the grace of the owners). At a quarter mile, turn left on a fire road and pass a metal gate into Angeles National Forest land. Listed on Google Maps as the BP&L (Burbank Power & Light) Road, the fire road ascends steadily. Widening views make the shadeless climb more tolerable, as does an attractive grove of oaks about a mile from the start; a nice spot to take a breather.

Oak grove, Doc Larsen Loop, Lakeview Terrace, CA

0:28 – Oak grove on the BP&L Fire Road

More climbing brings you to a saddle with views down into Little Tujunga Canyon (1.8 miles). This is the start of the loop, which can be done in either direction. If you are hiking earlier in the day, consider going clockwise, meaning that you will be ascending the Doc Larsen Trail and will likely have more shade; later in the day, counter-clockwise as described here is better; that way you will be descending the Larsen trail, avoiding having to make the ascent with the sun at your back.

Fire road in the Angeles National Forest

0:52 – Start of the loop (Forest road 2N94)

Head right on road signed 2N94 (also signed as Oliver Canyon, Doty Road and BP&L Road on various maps) which follows a ridge, providing good views on both sides as it climbs and descends a series of bumps. Stay left at a junction (3 miles) and make one more climb before descending to a plateau where the Doc Larsen Trail begins (3.6 miles).

Overgrown in some spots but overall easy to follow, the Doc Larsen Trail follows a tributary of Little Tujunga Canyon. After about half a mile, you reach the bathtub, a horse trough sitting in the shade. Another trail heads toward Fascination Spring. Continue following the Doc Larsen Trail as it winds its way to the bottom of the canyon (watch out for pockets of poison oak). You enter an attractive oak woodland more reminiscent of the Santa Monica Mountains or Ojai foothills than the Angeles Forest. During the lower stretch of the Doc Larsen Trail, it crosses the canyon wash several times, occasionally following it; while it might look confusing, whether you head down canyon on the trail itself or the stream bed, your route should be pretty clear.

Doc Larsen Trail, Angeles National Forest, CA

1:36 – Start of the Doc Larsen Trail

At 5.2 miles, the Doc Larsen Trail ends at another fire road. Turn left and begin the last leg of the loop. A few oaks provide shade on the lower portion of the trail before it makes its exposed ascent back to the saddle. Although you are likely to hear noise from Little Tujunga Canyon Road and the nearby shooting range, the mountain views make the effort of ascent more enjoyable.

Horse trough, Doc Larsen Trail, Lakeview Terrace, CA

1:48- Horse trough

At 6.5 miles, you return to the saddle. From here, retrace your steps almost entirely downhill back to Courtship Ranch and your car.

Doc Larsen Trail, Angeles National Forest, CA

2:32 – Woodlands on the lower portion of the Doc Larsen Trail

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

Fire road, Angeles National Forest, CA

2:39 – End of the Doc Larsen Trail; final ascent to complete the loop

Strawberry Potrero via Red Box

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Strawberry Peak and Strawberry Potrero, Angeles National Forest

Strawberry Peak’s north face, seen from Strawberry Potrero

Looking east from Strawberry Peak, Angeles National Forest, CA

View from Strawberry Peak’s eastern slope

Strawberry Potrero via Red Box

    • Location: Red Box Picnic Area, Angeles National Forest.  From I-210 in La Canada, take the Angeles Crest Highway northeast for 14 miles and park at the Red Box Picnic Area, at the junction with the road to Mt. Wilson.  From the high desert, take the Angeles Forest Highway south to Big Tujunga Canyon Road.  Turn left and go 9 miles to the Angeles Crest Highway.  Turn right and go 4.3 miles to Red Box, which will be on the left.  A National Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 per day or $30 for the year) is required for parking here. Click here to purchase.
    • Agency: Angeles National Forest/Los Angeles River Ranger District
    • Distance: 10 miles
    • Elevation gain: 1,500 feet
    • Suggested time: 5 hours
    • Difficulty rating: PG-13 (elevation gain, distance)
    • Best season: Year round but hot during the summer
    • USGS topo maps: Chilao Flat
    • Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat; insect repellent
    • Recommended guidebook: Trails of the Angeles
    • More information: Trip description (pre-Station Fire) here; Map My Hike report here
    • Rating: 7
Strawberry Peak Trail Head on the Angeles Crest Highway, San Gabriel Mountains, CA

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

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

Lawlor Saddle, Angeles National Forest

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

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

Woodlands on Strawberry Peak, Angeles National Forest

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

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

Trail to Strawberry Potrero, Angeles National Forest

1:50 – Beginning the descent toward Strawberry Potrero

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

North face of Strawberry Peak, Angeles National Forest

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

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

Pines at Strawberry Potrero, Angeles National Forest, CA

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

Wildwood Canyon (Santa Clarita)

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Wildwood Canyon Park, Santa Clarita Valley, CA

Panoramic view from the Highland Loop Trail

Wildwood Canyon Park, Santa Clarita, CA

Oak grove on the Wildwood Loop Trail

Wildwood Canyon (Santa Clarita)

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

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

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

Wildwood Canyon Park, Santa Clarita, CA

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

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

Wildwood Canyon Park, Santa Clarita, CA

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

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

Highland Loop Trail, Wildwood Canyon, Santa Clarita, CA

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

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

Water tank in Wildwood Canyon Park, Santa Clarita, CA

0:47 – Passing the water tank on the descent

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

Wildwood Canyon Park, Santa Clarita, CA

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

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

Deep Creek Hot Springs via Bowen Ranch

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Deep Creek, San Bernardino National Forest, CA

Upstream view of Deep Creek from the trail

Spring wildflowers above Deep Creek, San Bernardino Mountains, Lake Arrowhead, CA

Spring wildflowers above Deep Creek

Deep Creek Hot Springs via Bowen Ranch

      • Location: Northwest San Bernardino Mountains between Hesperia and Lake Arrowhead. From I-15 in Hesperia, head east on Main Street for 7.2 miles. Just as the road bends south, take a right on Rock Springs Road, which becomes Roundup Way after 2.8 miles. Continue for 4.3 miles on Roundup Way (the last mile or so is dirt) and turn right on Bowen Ranch Road. Follow Bowen Ranch Road for a total of 5.4 miles to the signed entrance to the ranch (stay right at the junctions with Coxey Creek Road and Oak Hill Road). The road is overall in decent condition but there are a few rough spots; high clearance and 4WD vehicles are best but not required. After paying a $5 per person fee (or $10 per person for overnight use) continue 0.7 miles to the trail head. As of this writing, the last few hundred yards of the road are in rough condition so if you’re uncomfortable taking your car over it, you can park in a small turnout shortly before and walk the rest of the way. Trail head coordinates are N 34 21.510, W 117 09.881.
      • Agency: San Bernardino National Forest/Arrowhead Ranger Station
      • Distance: 3.6 miles
      • Elevation gain: 1,000 feet
      • Difficulty Rating: PG
      • Suggested time: 2 hours
      • Best season: September – May
      • USGS topo map: Lake Arrowhead
      • Recommended gear: Hiking polessun hat;  sunblock
      • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire
      • More information: Deep Creek Hot Springs information here; trip description here; Everytrail report here; Yelp page here; photos and videos of the hike here
      • Rating: 7
Deep Creek Hot Springs Trail Head, Bowen Ranch, San Bernardino County, CA

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

The most popular way to reach Deep Creek Hot Springs is from the north, starting at Bowen Ranch. This route is also the easiest, covering the shortest distance and the least amount of elevation gain compared to the routes via the Pacific Crest Trail and Bradford Ridge. It is also arguably the most scenically interesting, providing dramatic views of the creek on the descent. There are a few caveats, though: the descent is steep and exposed, often over somewhat loose terrain. Temperatures in the area can be notoriously hot, making for difficult ascents from the springs for those who don’t plan accordingly. Getting to the trail head is somewhat tricky, requiring almost seven miles of driving on dirt roads. This is also the only route that requires payment; $5 per person (not per vehicle). Lastly, unlike the other two approaches, this one requires fording Deep Creek to visit the hot springs. If the water levels are low, the creek is fairly easy to traverse but caution should still be exercised. Despite these potential challenges, this is an enjoyable hike to a unique destination; its popularity is understandable.

San Bernardino Mountains panorama en route to Deep Creek Hot Springs

0:08 – Top of the ridge, before the first steep descent (times are approximate)

From the parking area, follow the trail south. You soon reach an overlook with a pair of interpretive plaques that sadly have been vandalized beyond the point of recognition. There is, however, an impressive view of the eastern San Gabriel summits (Baldy, Telegraph, etc) and of the western San Bernardino Mountains.

At 0.3 miles, the trail drops sharply, making a steep descent over loose terrain into a wash. At the bottom, bear right and follow the trail to a dirt road. Turn left, walk a few hundred feet to an alternate trail head (0.5 miles from the start) and begin hiking the “official” Deep Creek trail, signed 3W02.

Trail to Deep Creek Hot Springs, San Bernardino National Forest

0:16 – Bear right on the trail after leaving the dirt road

You follow the trail through a canyon, getting a glimpse of Deep Creek’s gorge at about 0.8 miles. Vegetation includes mesquite, Manzanita and cat’s claw. At 1.1 miles, you get your first view of the creek itself, cutting its serpentine path through the mountains. From here, the trail begins another steep descent, making a switchback that provides an impressive view to the west and finally dropping to the sandy shores of Deep Creek (1.8 miles.) The year-round stream supports a diverse array of plants, including cottonwoods, sycamores and even a lone pine.

Panoramic view of Deep Creek, San Bernardino National Forest, CA

0:26 – Looking down at the gorge

If you are nervous about crossing the creek, this can be a nice spot to sit and enjoy the scenery before heading back. Adventurous hikers can wade through water that is likely to be at least knee-high to the pools on the south side of the creek.

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

Deep Creek, San Bernardino National Forest, CA

0:45 – View of Deep Creek from the north side

Coquina Mine via Las Llajas Canyon

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Sunset over Simi Valley from Coquina Mine, Ventura County, CA

Sunset from Coquina Mine

Panoramic view of Las Llajas Canyon, Simi Valley, CA

Descending into Las Lllajas Canyon on the return

Coquina Mine via Las Llajas Canyon

  • Location: Evening Sky Drive, Simi Valley. From the 118 Freeway, take the Yosemite Ave. exit. Head north (turn right if you’re coming from the east; left if from the west) and go 1.3 miles to Evening Sky Drive. Turn right and drive 0.5 miles to the signed trail head on the left side of the road. Park where available.
  • Agency: Rancho Simi Recreation and Parks Department
  • Distance: 6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,050 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Distance, elevation gain)
  • Suggested time: 3 hours
  • Best season: October – May
  • USGS topo map: Simi Valley East
  • Recommended gear: sun hathiking poles
  • More information: Trip description here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 7

Panoramic city and mountain views, abandoned mining gear, limestone formations, a quiet oak canyon and a rigorous workout are the highlights of this enjoyable trip on the outskirts of Simi Valley. The destination is Coquina Mine, a limestone quarry that was abandoned in the 1930s, although the expansive network of trails in Marr Ranch Open Space, Las Llajas (YA-has) make it easy to extend the hike.

Las Llajas Trail Head, Simi Valley, CA

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

From the Las Llajas trail head, follow the paved road to a T-junction. Bear right and descend into Las Llajas Canyon. The road becomes dirt and you follow it for an attractive if not terribly varied 1.5 miles or so, passing a few private inholdings and private roads branching off, including a bee colony about 1.1 miles from the trail head. As you head up the canyon, keep an eye out for interesting limestone formations on the hills above. If there have been recent rains, the sounds of a seasonal stream accompanies your walk.

Oaks in Las Llajas Canyon near Simi Valley, Ventura County, CA

0:18 – Oaks in Las Llajas Canyon (times are approximate)

At 1.8 miles, shortly after the trail crosses the stream, look for a faint but unambiguous single-track trail branching off to the left. The trail begins a steep, crooked ascent, clinging to the hillside, providing a nice aerial view of Las Llajas Canyon. After 0.6 miles of steady climbing, the trail briefly levels out. You pass by some rusting mining equipment as the trail winds around the north side of a ridge.

0:38 - Umarked trail leaving Las Llajas Canyon

0:38 – Umarked trail leaving Las Llajas Canyon

At 2.7 miles, you reach a T-junction. Follow the trail as it makes a hard left, climbing a few more switchbacks with excellent views to the south of Simi Valley, the Simi Hills and the Santa Monica Mountains. As you pass by an abandoned engine on the left side of the trail, you’ll also notice a large steam shovel perched on the hill in the distance; that is the destination. At another T-junction, turn left and walk the last few yards to the steam shovel. Shortly beyond it, you get an outstanding view which includes Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands. In the distance to the north is the round, antenna-covered summit of Oat Mountain, the highest peak in the immediate area.

Trail in the hills above Las Llajas Canyon near Coquina Mine, Simi Valley, CA

1:07 – Left turn at the T-junction

After enjoying the view, retrace your steps. If you want to extend the hike, you can walk farther up Las Llajas Canyon; back at the first T-junction, you can also explore more by following the vague path to the right. This reaches a saddle where you can climb to a vista point with more all-encompassing views.

Steam shovel, Coquina Mine, Simi Valley, CA

1:18 – Steam shovel at the Coquina Mine site (turnaround point)

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

Willow Hole (Joshua Tree National Park)

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Sunlight at Willow Hole, Joshua Tree National Park

Sunlight above Willow Hole

Willow Hole Trail, Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Trees on the Willow Hole Trail

Willow Hole  (Joshua Tree National Park)

  • Location: Joshua Tree National Park. From Highway 62 in the town of Joshua Tree (about 6 miles east of Yucca Valley, 27 miles east of I-10 and about 15 miles west of Twentynine Palms) take Park Blvd. (signed for the park) south, past the entrance booth, and drive for a total of 11.6 miles to the Boy Scout Trail Head. The park entrance fee is $15 per vehicle for a 7-day pass or $30 per vehicle for an annual pass. The America the Beautiful inter-agency pass ($80 per year) is also accepted here.
  • Agency: Joshua Tree National Park
  • Distance: 7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 250 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 3 hours
  • Best season:  October – April (day use only)
  • USGS topo map: “Indian Cove”
  • Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire
  • More information: Trip descriptions here, here and here
  • Rating: 7
Boy Scout Trail Head, start of the hike to Willow Hole, Joshua Tree National Park

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

This long but nearly level hike travels through a wide plain filled with Joshua trees and jumbles of boulders, enters a wash and finally arrives at oasis-like Willow Hole. Some veteran hikers might find the flat stretches monotonous, but the scenic variety of the last mile is worth the journey.

View of San Gorgonio from the Willow Hole Trail, Joshua Tree National Park

0:30 – View of San Gorgonio at the junction with the Willow Hole Trail

From the Keys West trail head, follow the Boy Scout Trail north for 1.2 miles. Along the way, look for San Gorgonio in the distance on the left. At a Y-junction, bear right on the trail signed for Willow Hole. It continues its flat course through the Joshua trees with the Wonderland of Rocks formation in the distance, for just over a mile.

Entering a wash on the Willow Hole Trail, Joshua Tree National Park

0:57 – Entering the wash

At about 2.3 miles, you enter a wash where the vegetation becomes predominantly juniper trees. The trail bears right and briefly leaves the wash before re-entering it. There are a few rocks to climb over, though nothing too strenuous. Stay straight as another wash comes in from the right.

Leaving the wash on the Willow Hole Trail, Joshua Tree National Park

1:05 – Leaving the wash

At 3.2 miles, you reach a wide sandy clearing.  On the left side, and narrow trail leads between the rocks. Follow it into a sandy branch of the wash, soon arriving at a majestic gateway formed by two towers of rocks. Soon after, you will see the trees of Willow Hole.

1:20 - Heading between the rocks, approaching Willow Hole

1:20 – Heading between the rocks, approaching Willow Hole

Here, you can relax beneath the shade and enjoy the peace and quiet before returning by the same route. If you go during a particularly wet winter you may find pools of water (or perhaps ice). Hikers wanting more of an adventure can continue through the wash for a more difficult 2.5 miles, eventually reaching Rattlesnake Canyon and Indian Cove.

Geology near Willow Hole, Joshua Tree National Park

1:27 – “Gateway” to Willow hole

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

Trees and geology at Willow Hole, Joshua Tree National Park

1:35 – Willow Hole