Powder Canyon, Puente Hills, CA

Powder Canyon Black Walnut/Switchbacks Loop


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Powder Canyon Black Walnut/Switchbacks Loop

    • Location: La Habra Heights.  From the 60 freeway, take the Fullerton Road exit and head south for 1.9 miles. Bear right to stay on Fullerton Road (it continues south as Harbor Blvd.) and go 0.1 mile to the trail head, on the right. There is room for a few cars to park. You can also reach the trail head from the south via Harbor Blvd, taking a hard left on Fullerton Road. If there is no parking available by the trail head, you can continue toward the Powder Canyon Trail Head, about 0.2 mile farther up the road. You can then access the loop with an 0.2 mile each way detour on the Powder Canyon and Nogales Trails.
    • Agency: Habitat Authority
    • Distance: 4.5 miles
    • Elevation gain: 800 feet
    • Suggested time: 2 hours
    • Difficulty Rating: PG
    • Best season: Year round but hot during the summer
    • Dogs: Allowed on leash (exercise caution on warm days)
    • Cell phone reception: Good for most of the route; weak to none in Powder Canyon
    • Water: None
    • Restrooms: Chemical toilets at the Powder Canyon Trail Head, 0.2 mile detour from this loop
    • Camping/backpacking: None
    • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
    • More information: Map My Hike report here; Park map here
    • Rating:  6

Updated August 2018

This enjoyable hike samples some of the scenery typical of the eastern Puente Hills including surprisingly secluded canyons and panoramic (at least on clear days) mountain and city views. By hiking clockwise, as described below, you can get the first steep ascent out of the way sooner and have a decent amount of shade on the second, longer ascent.

Assuming you start from the trail head directly on Fullerton Road and not from the main Powder Canyon trail head, begin by following the Black Walnut Trail past the information board and uphill. You pass the Nogales Trail, which leads downhill to the main trail head and continue the exposed ascent, picking up 250 feet in 0.4 mile. The trail levels out just below the power lines and then begins a pleasant descent back into Powder Canyon where shade is provided by oaks and, as the trail’s name promises, black walnut trees.

At 1.1 mile from the start, you join the Powder Canyon Trail. Turn right and follow it uphill to a saddle (1.4 miles from the start). Stay straight (the leftmost fork is the Purple Sage Trail; the other route is a spur leading to a power line.) Follow the Powder Canyon Trail downhill another 0.4 mile to the unsigned start of the Switchbacks Trail on the right.

Though it’s officially known as the Schabarum Trail Extension or the Juan Bautista de Anza Recreation Trail, it immediately becomes obvious why this leg of the loop is nicknamed the Switchbacks Trail. The trail makes a dozen or so of them as it climbs the eastern wall of Powder Canyon, gaining 400 feet in a mile, much of which is shaded by oaks. At the top of the ridge, you are rewarded with views of the San Gabriel Mountains and if visibility is exceptionally good, San Bernardino, San Gorgonio and San Jacinto Peaks.

The trail skirts the hillside, crossing a paved road tat leads downhill to Trail View Park (an alternate starting point) before pulling up alongside Fullerton Road. Complete the loop by walking a short distance on the sidewalk to the Black Walnut trail head. If you parked in the dirt lot, it’s safest to continue by following the Black Walnut Trail to the Nogales Trail, since there is no sidewalk on Fullerton Road past this point.

Powder Canyon Trail Head, La Habra Heights, CA
Trail head on Fullerton Road
Powder Canyon, La Habra Heights, CA
Descending the Black Walnut Trail into Powder Canyon
Switchbacks Trail, La Habra Heights, CA
Ascending the Switchbacks Trail
Switchbacks Trail, Puente Hills, CA
Looking west from the top of the Switchbacks Trail

Text and photography copyright 2018 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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