Cherry Canyon Loop

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View of the San Gabriels from below Cerro Negro
View of the San Gabriels from below Cerro Negro
Shade in Cherry Canyon near the end of the loop
Shade in Cherry Canyon near the end of the loop

Cherry Canyon Loop

  • Location: In La Canada, behind Descanso Gardens, at 4157 Hampstead.  From the 2 freeway, take the Verdugo exit (go as if you are heading on to I-210 east).  Go 0.3 miles on Verdugo, take a right on Descanso and go 0.9 miles to Chevy Chase.  Take a right on Chevy Chase and a quick right on Hampstead.  Look for the entrance to the park on the right in 0.4 miles.  Park on the street, or in the dirt lot inside.
  • Agency: Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy/City of La Canada
  • Distance: 3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 750 feet
  • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Best season:  October – June
  • USGS topo map: “Pasadena”
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sunblock; sun hat; insect repellent
  • More information: Yelp page here; video about Cherry Canyon here; article about Cherry Canyon hiking here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 6

Located near the more famous Descanso Gardens, Cherry Canyon Park features a nice variety of single-track trails, fire roads and rough fire breaks.   Whether you’re looking for a short stroll after work or a more challenging hike, you can visit the park many times without hiking the same route twice. The loop described here visits the highest peak in the park, Cerro Negro, and another unnamed summit. It is a little convoluted, but doesn’t need to be followed exactly. The signage in Cherry Canyon is pretty good, and as close to civilization as it is, it’s hard to really get lost.

From the entrance, bear right and head toward the Cherry Canyon Motorway. Almost immediately, take a hard right on a steep, narrow trail that curves around and follows the ridge, with nice views of the San Gabriels. You’ll stay straight as other trails branch off, reaching a junction with the Conservancy Trail at 0.6 miles. Head right, soon reaching a clearing with power lines. Take a hard right and begin a steep climb up a rough fire break, soon arriving at the Descanso Motorway (0.8 miles.) Your steep climb continues – the short stretch above the motorway is particularly tricky – but soon you are on a summit, where you get great views of the Verdugo Mountains, downtown L.A., and if the air is clear, Catalina Island.

After enjoying the view, head downhill, soon rejoining the fire road (if you see a sign reading “Glendale Police Firing Range”, you’ve come too far.) Head downhill and turn right at the next junction (1.1 miles.) Continuing along, you reach an intersection known as Five Points, where you can sit on a bench before beginning another steep climb.

Follow the fire break in front of you (or continue along the motorway; the two routes end up meeting again soon.) At the top of the ridge, follow the fire road toward the antennas on top of Cerro Negro. The antennas detract from the view, but you can still see Old Saddleback and San Jacinto if visibility is good.

Back on the motorway, continue east toward Sugar Loaf Drive. Just before you reach the end of the street, take a hard left on a single-track which drops back down into the canyon, hugging the side of the ridge. At 2 miles, turn left on the Cerro Negro trail, briefly head uphill and turn right at the next junction. You reach an overlook with a picnic table, take a hard right and come to another picnic table, this one tucked away in the shade (2.3 miles.)

At the next intersection with the Cerro Negro trail, turn left and continue your trip along the northeast face of the hill. A brief ascent brings you to the Owl Trail, which heads downhill steeply to the right. The trail is loose, and a little slippery in places, so be careful.

At 2.8 miles, you reach the pleasant, well-deserved shade of Cherry Canyon.  You head right and follow the trail down into the oak and sycamore lined canyon, finally arriving back at the starting point.

Remember, you don’t have to follow the route to the letter for it to be an enjoyable experience.

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.

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