- Location: West Hills, on the corner of Vanowen and Sunset Ridge Court. From highway 101, take the Mulholland/Valley Circle exit and head north for 3 miles. Turn left onto Vanowen and park on the curb, and begin hiking across the street.
- Agency: Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation
- Distance: 1.2 miles
- Elevation gain: 650 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 1 hour
- Best season: Year round (Hot during summer)
- USGS topo map: Calabasas
- Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
- More information: here; trip reports here and here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 6
Located on the western end of the San Fernando Valley, Castle Peak offers wide-ranging views and interesting geology. To get these views, however, hikers must subject themselves to a short–but very steep–climb, with trails that are not always clear.
From Vanowen, pick up the trail on the south side of the street. Follow the fire road into Bell Canyon (it eventually leads to the Las Virgenes Open Space). Almost immediately, head right and cross the canyon. Then you start climbing, and you don’t stop.
A steep ascent brings you to a plateau where you get nice views of the homes below you. From here, the trail becomes a little vague, heading steeply uphill. You cross under a large outcrop of volcanic rock and make a few switchbacks (in some spots, it might almost be easier to cut across, straight up the slope, as many hikers apparently do). Near the top, you are sure to use your hands as well as your feet. At the summit, a sort of alcove cut into the rock provides a nice spot to relax and catch your breath. For your troubles, you’re rewarded with great views of the Santa Susana Mountains to the north, the Santa Monicas to the south and on clear days the San Gabriels to the east, towering above the valley.
Make sure you’re careful on the descent; much of the trail is loose as well as steep. Hiking poles are sure to come in handy. Your route might not be exactly the same going up and down (as evidenced by my GPS tracking on Everytrail, mine wasn’t.) Fortunately, the street and the trailhead are visible during the whole descent, so navigation is easy.
Hikers who enjoyed the steep off-trail climbing here might want to check out Ladyface, a similar but more challenging peak a few miles west in Agoura Hills.
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. 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.