Upper las Virgenes Preserve, Agoura Hills, CA

Upper Las Virgenes Canyon and Bell Canyon Trails


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    • Location: Calabasas. From the 101 Freeway, take the Las Virgenes Road exit and head north for 1.4 miles. Parking is available at the end of the street.
    • Agency: Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (Cheseboro/Palo Comado Canyons; Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space)
    • Distance: 10.6 miles
    • Elevation gain: 1,500 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (elevation gain, distance)
    • Suggested time: 5 hours
    • Best season: October – June
    • Dogs: Allowed on leash
    • Cell phone reception: Good at the trail head and at the turnaround point; weak to none for most of the route
    • Water: None
    • Restrooms: None
    • Camping/backpacking: None
    • Recommended gear: sun hat, hiking poles
    • More information: Trail map here; Mountain Bike Project page here
    • Rating: 7

Updated February 2019

Popular Upper Las Virgenes and Cheseboro Canyons were hit hard by the 2018 Woolsey Fire, but thankfully the areas have opened and provide hikers a chance to see the recovery. Recent rains have brought out the green in the hillsides – and also made for muddy conditions on some of the trails, particularly in the canyons and a few stream crossings that may be more challenging than usual. The area’s wide network of trails make for many possible routes including the trip described below, which meanders pleasantly along the floor of Upper Las Virgenes Canyon before climbing to an unnamed bump high above Bell Canyon with a 360-degree view. There are many options for extending or shortening the hike as needed.

From the trail head, follow the wide Las Virgenes Canyon Trail north (a single track branches off, making for a more challenging alternative). After crossing a stream, you reach a T-junction. Head left (the right fork heads east toward Lasky Mesa.) About 1.1 miles from the start, you reach another junction with a trail heading east. Continue for another 1.3 mile to a Y-junction with the single-track Sheep Corral trail, a possible return route for a longer loop hike. This route heads right however, onto the unsigned Bell Canyon Loop trail. Now the first major ascent begins as you climb over 600 feet in the next 1.3 miles. As you ascend the views get better and better. At about 3.2 miles from the start, you enter a grove of oaks and cross the top of a waterfall that might be flowing  if there have been recent heavy rains.

At about 3.8 miles from the start, the trail reaches the top of a ridge and descends to another Y-junction. Bear left and descend back into the upper reaches of Las Virgenes Canyon, now heading west. The trail drops almost 200 feet before making the second major ascent. At about 4.6 miles, an obscure, unsigned single-track branches off on the left. This is the continuation of the Bell Canyon Loop Trail, which eventually hooks up with the Sheep Corral trail, leading you back to the junction in Las Virgenes Canyon for a 12-plus mile balloon loop.

After reaching the next bump on the ridge, you then drop to a saddle before making one last steep climb of some 200 feet. The fire road makes a sharp bend to the right and climbs to an unnamed but obvious bump (elevation about 2,000 feet). Here you are rewarded for your efforts with excellent views in all directions. The Santa Monica Mountains stretch out to the south beyond the folds of Las Virgenes Canyon and Cheseboro Canyon while the Santa Susana Mountains lie to the north past Simi Valley.

Las Virgenes Open Space Trail Head, Calabasas, CA
Trail head
Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space, Calabasas, CA
One of several stream crossings in Las Virgenes Canyon

 

Upper Las Virgenes Canyon, Calabasas, CA
Junction with the Sheep Corral Trail
Upper Las Virgenes Canyon, Calabasas, CA
Climbing the Bell Canyon Trail
Bell Canyon Trail, Upper Las Virgenes Canyon, Calabasas
View from the top of the first ascent
Upper Las Virgenes Open Space, Calabasas, CA
Looking northeast from the turnaround point
Bell Canyon Trail, Las Virgenes Open Space
Northwest view from the turnaround point
Las Virgenes Canyon, Calabasas, CA
Dusk in Las Virgenes Canyon

Text and photography copyright 2019 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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