Dark Canyon, Puente Hills, CA

Sycamore Canyon/Dark Canyon (Whittier)


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  • Location: Whittier.  From I-605, take the Beverly Blvd. exit, head east for 0.6 miles, and turn left (north) on Workman Mill Road.  The trail head is on the right side of the street in 0.4 miles. Park in a small dirt lot.
  • Agency: Habitat Authority
  • Distance: 3.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 350 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Best season:  Year-round
  • Dogs: Not allowed
  • Cell phone reception: Fair at the trail head; weak to none in the canyon
  • Water: None
  • Restrooms: Chemical toilets at the trail head
  • Camping/backpacking: None
  • More information: Yelp page here; trip description here
  • Rating: 5

Nestled in the western Puente Hills, Dark Canyon is a pleasant surprise, providing a true escape from reality just a short distance from the 605 Freeway. While the shaded confines of Dark Canyon make for good warm-day hiking destination, on cool days ambitious hikers can ascend the Switchbacks Trail and continue farther into the Whittier/Turnbull Canyon trail system.

From the dirt parking area, follow the signed trail across a service road and follow a dirt road into Sycamore Canyon. The early goings aren’t particularly attractive as you pass a water treatment facility and still hear noise from Workman Mill Road, but before long you’re engulfed in the attractive rolling terrain of the Puente Hills. Sycamore Canyon lives up to its name with numerous sycamores among the vegetation, along with oaks, chaparral, cacti and a few wild palms.

At 1.3 miles from the start, you reach a junction with the Switchbacks Trail, which climbs 400 feet in 0.6 mile to the ridge on the south wall of the canyon. The short but scenic Dark Canyon trail continues straight ahead. The trail hugs the side of the oak-shaded canyon, paralleling a seasonal stream. Keep an eye out for poison oak, which grows even in the exposed areas. In 0.4 mile from the junction (1.7 miles from the start) you reach the preserve boundary where you can sit beneath the oaks and enjoy the serenity before retracing your steps.

Sycamore Canyon, Whittier, CA
Trail head
Sycamore Canyon, Whittier, CA
Sycamore tree at the junction with the Switchbacks Trail
Puente Hills, CA
Seasonal stream, Dark Canyon
Sycamore Canyon, Whittier, CA
Oaks at the turnaround point

Text and photography copyright 2018 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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2 thoughts on “Sycamore Canyon/Dark Canyon (Whittier)

  1. A cougar was spotted on Sunday, August 19, 2012 on the trailhead as it is closest to Rose Hills. The cat went one way & the hiker went the other.

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