Palo Comado Canyon

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Hills about Shepherds Flat
Descending into Palo Comado Canyon

Text and photography copyright 2011 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.

Palo Comado Canyon

  • Location: Off highway 101 near Thousand Oaks.  From the 101 freeway, take the Kanan Road exit.  Head north for 2.1 miles and turn right on Sunnycrest Drive.  Go 0.7 miles and park at the signed trailhead where the street name changes to Double Tree.
  • Agency:  Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
  • Distance: 6.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 800 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 3 hours
  • Best season:  October – June
  • USGS topo map: Calabasas; Thousand Oaks
  • Recommended gear: sun hat
  • More information: here; trail map here (Palo Comado area is on the left side)
  • Rating: 7

Quiet Palo Comado Canyon is hidden in the Simi Hills, just beyond the end of the San Fernando Valley.  Although the area gets a fair amount of traffic from mountain bikers and equestrians, there is still a definite feeling of  “being away from it all”, due to the extensive network of trails an huge variety of routes that can be taken.  The six mile-plus trip to a junction known as Shepherds Flat is a nice, moderate hike that should be doable for almost anyone, but if you are short for time and can’t make the whole thing, just a little bit is still enjoyable, and if you want to extend your hike farther, there are plenty of ways to do so.

From Double Tree, follow the trail up a brief incline and down into the canyon. In 0.4 miles you reach the Palo Comado Trail. Turn left and make your way north through the canyon, where your scenery includes some of the taller peaks in the area, some old oaks and some interesting geology. The first mile or so is very pleasant and easy going. Soon you begin the main ascent on the route, climbing out of the canyon and providing great views along the way. Several false trails and fire breaks branch off, but the main route stays straight until you reach the signed Sheep Corral Trail.

Take a sharp right and continue your ascent. Spurs to the right lead to view points where you can look down into the canyon. You start to descend, passing underneath some chaparral along the way, and make your way east. After about a mile, you stay right where the trail splits, pass by a giant oak, and arrive at Shepherds Flat. Here, you can retrace your steps or make the hike into a loop by heading south on the Cheeseboro Canyon trail and west on the Ranch Center Trail.

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