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.
Ritter Ranch Loop
- Location: Antelope Valley, north of Acton and south of Palmdale. From the 14 freeway, take exit 22, Red Rover Mine/Sierra Highway. (Note that there is another exit for Sierra Highway farther south). Head northwest on Sierra Highway for 1.8 miles and turn right Boiling Point, an unmarked dirt road shortly past Shannondale. The dirt road isn’t too rough, but it is narrow, so be careful as you ascend into the mountains. At 1.7 miles, look for an unsigned junction with the Ritter Motorway. There’s a small dirt area by the junction where you can park.
- Agency: Ritter Ranch Park
- Distance: 4.5 miles
- Elevation gain: 950 feet
- Suggested time: 2.5 hours
- Difficulty rating: PG
- Best season: October – June
- USGS topo maps: Sleepy Valley; Ritter Ridge
- Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat
- More information: here
- Rating: 7
So-Cal hikers who think they’ve seen it all might want to give Ritter Ranch a look. The large park is located in the Sierra Pelona Mountains, a range that isn’t as well known as the Santa Monicas or San Gabriels. The route here is entirely on fire roads, which may be a turn-off to some people, but the views, which include the San Gabriels, the high desert and more, are hard to beat. The sights and sounds of the nearby highways are prevalent, but the trail still has an isolated feel. As the crow flies, it’s not far from the nearby cities of Palmdale, Acton or even the San Fernando Valley, but when hiking here, you’re not likely to have much company.
This loop can be hiked in either direction, but when going counter-clockwise (as described here), the major climbing is broken up. Start by continuing northeast and uphill on Boiling Point Road. You get great aerial views of the farmlands below as you ascend. At 0.6 miles, you pass a sign that marks the official boundary of the park. The trail continues at a steady incline, although never too steep, and soon tops a ridge (elevation 5,000) and connects with the Ana Verde Motorway.
Take a left and begin a steep descent. You get a good view of the Antelope Valley and the rest of the Sierra Pelona range. After a mile, look for another junction (several small trails branch off along the way, but the main route is easy to find). Take a hard left onto the Ritter Motorway and continue the descent. This is one of the most attractive stretches of the loop, as the road winds around the side of the green hills. After a mile, stay left as another fire road branches off, and begin a moderate ascent. The trail wraps around the south side of the hill, taking in more panoramic views, before returning to the starting point.
While the Antelope Valley might best be known to hikers for the dramatic geology of Vasquez Rocks and the Devil’s Punchbowl, Ritter Ranch and the surrounding Sierra Pelonas are well worth a visit.