- Location: Santa Susana Mountains, near Newhall and Valencia. From the south, take Interstate 5 to Calgrove. Take a left and follow Calgrove under the freeway and bear left onto The Old Road. Drive 0.8 miles and the trail head will be on the right. From Valencia and the north, take I-5 south to the Calgrove exit. Turn right, and the trailhead will be on the right in 0.4 miles (Calgrove becoems The Old Road). Parking in the lot is $5 per vehicle.
- Agency: Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy
- Distance: 7 miles
- Elevation gain: 1,600 feet
- Suggested time: 3.5 hours
- Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain, distance)
- Best season: October – May
- Dogs: Allowed on leash (exercise caution on warm days)
- Cell phone reception: Good for most of the route; weak to fair in some spots
- Water: None (Rice Canyon has a seasonal stream but there will likely not be enough water to be worth filtering)
- Restrooms: None
- Camping/backpacking: None
- Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat; hiking poles; insect repellent
- More information: here; Yelp page here; trip description (with extension to Mission Peak) here; description of East Canyon here; mountain biking in East Canyon video here
- Rating: 7
This hike explores two adjacent canyons on the north slope of the Santa Susana Mountains. The 6.6-mile trek up both canyons is a good afternoon’s workout with panoramic views and scenic variety and it can also be shortened or extended as needed. Unfortunately, you will likely hear noise from the freeway and the nearby firing range, but the trail is still understandably popular with Santa Clarita Valley and San Fernando Valley hikers; even those who live farther away will find it well worth a visit.
From the parking area, follow the road past the horse corral up the pleasant, oak-lined canyon. At 0.4 mile you reach a Y-junction in a meadow where the two trails split (East to the left, Rice to the right). The Rice Canyon Trail heads southwest, following a seasonal stream through an attractive oak woodland before making a short but steep climb to a field, one mile from the junction. This is the official end of the Rice Canyon Trail, although you can scramble higher up a use trail to get more views.
After retracing your steps, continue south along East Canyon. The first stretch, under oaks and sycamores, has almost no grade, but at about 0.4 mile from the junction, the climb starts to begin. You will pick up about 1,000 feet in the next 1.7 miles. The good news is that as you ascend, the views get better and better, encompassing the Santa Clarita Valley, the western end of the San Gabriels and the Antelope Valley. Far below, I-5 works its way north past Six Flags on its way up to the Grapevine.
At about 1.7 miles from the junction, a short use trail leads to a vista point with views into Rice and East Canyons. The trail continues the Weldon Motorway (2.1 miles from the split and 2.5 miles from the parking lot.) From here, the views include East Canyon to the north and the Hollywood Hills (and, on days of good visibility, the ocean) to the south. The simplest option, of course, is to retrace your steps down East Canyon, but you can also make a loop by following the Weldon Motorway downhill for 2.5 miles (requiring either a car shuttle or a 1.5 mile walk alone Old Road). You can also continue onto Mission Point by following the Weldon Motorway south, then southeast, for 1.8 miles.
Text and photography copyright 2017 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.