South Elsmere Canyon Loop from Rim of the Valley Trail


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  • Location: North San Fernando Valley. From the 210 Freeway, take the Yarnell exit and head south (turn left if you are coming from the east, right if you are coming from I-5) to Foothill Blvd. Turn right and go half a mile to Balboa Blvd. Turn right and go half a mile to the Rim of the World trail head which an unsigned paved road on the right, just past Children’s Hunger Fund and across from MS Aerospace. (If you come back to Foothill Blvd., you have gone too far). Park where available. Alternately from the 5 and 14 Freeways, take the Balboa Blvd. exit from I-5 (161A). Turn right into San Fernando Rd., go half a mile and turn right on Balboa Blvd. At the next intersection, turn left to stay on Balboa Blvd. and follow it 0.5 mile to the Rim of the World trail head, which will be on the left. park where available.
  • Agency: City of Santa Clarita/Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy
  • Distance: 5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,100 feet
  • Suggested time: 2.5 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG
  • Best season:  October – June
  • Dogs: Allowed on leash (exercise caution on warm days)
  • Cell phone reception: Good for most of the route; weak to fair in some spots
  • Water: None
  • Restrooms: None
  • Camping/backpacking: None
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
  • More information: Trail map of Elsmere Canyon Open Space, including the northern portion of the route described below, here
  • Rating: 4

Updated January 2019

This hike might not be for every taste, but if you don’t mind power lines and pavement, you can enjoy some panoramic views of the San Fernando Valley and the Santa Clarita Valley and get a good workout in the bargain. This route is a balloon-shaped hike that uses the Marge Feinberg Rim of the Valley Trail and a few fire roads in Elsmere Canyon Open Space. The route has multiple junctions, but most of them are pretty self-explanatory and easy to find.

From Balboa Blvd., take the paved road past a yellow gate to Nicklaus Drive. On the opposite side of Nicklaus Drive, take a concrete walkway down to a grassy field. Turn left – the first of four consecutive left turns you’ll make – and follow the walkway around the perimeter of the field, reaching a junction half a mile from the start. Turn left and head downhill into the canyon. As of this writing, several fallen oaks are blocking the way, casualties of recent wind storms, but they are not too difficult to bypass. Soon you reach a service road. Head left toward the mouth of the canyon, keeping an eye out for service vehicles. You pass by the ruins of a burned facility before reaching another T-junction (0.8 mile from the start). Turn left and head 0.2 mile to another intersection. Stay straight this time and begin your ascent, passing a green metal gate that marks the boundary of Elsmere Canyon Open Space.

Here the scenery improves as you make your way up the oak-shaded fire road. If there have been recent rains, you may even hear a seasonal stream in the canyon on your left. Most of the surrounding traffic noise is blocked by the walls of the canyon. In 0.3 mile (1.3 miles from the start) you reach the start of the loop. Head right (the steeper left fork is your return route) and climb to a hairpin turn with views to the south. You climb steadily, picking up over 600 feet in the next 1.1 miles before reaching a junction.

If you are short on time, you can shorten the hike by heading straight and picking up the Elm Shore Canyon Mountainway. For additional exercise and views however, head right and climb an additional 0.1 mile to a junction. Bear left and follow the spur 0.1 mile to its end, where an obscure use trail heads up to the ridge a short distance above. Your exact route may vary depending on conditions, but you should be able to get to the top without too much bushwhacking.

Here you are treated to an impressive view of the Santa Clarita Valley. Follow the rocky ridge a short distance, where it rejoins the fire road. Begin your descent, staying left at the next junction (2.7 miles from the start) and right at the following junction (2.9 miles; the left fork returns you to your earlier spot.) Three miles from the start, you reach an X-junction. Bear left; the hard right turn brings you north toward the rest of Elsmere Canyon Open Space and heading straight dead-ends at a utility pole.

You now begin a steep descent back into the canyon, losing about 600 feet in the next 0.7 mile, returning you to the first junction. From here, retrace your steps 1.3 miles back to the trail head.

Rim of the World Trail, San Fernando Valley, CA

Start of the hike on Balboa Blvd.

Elsmere Canyon, Los Angeles, CA

Leaving the field, heading down into the canyon

Elsmere Canyon Open Space, Santa Clarita, CA

“Y” Junction in Elsmere Canyon Open Space – start of the loop

Elsmere Canyon Open Space, Santa Clarita, CA

Shade oaks, ascending to the saddle

Elsmere Canyon Open Space, Santa Clarita, CA

Junction at the ridge (turn right to continue the ascent)

Elsmere Canyon Open Space, Santa Clarita, CA

Start of the use trail at the end of the service spur

Elsmere Canyon Open Space, Santa Clarita, CA

Northwest view from the ridge, before the descent

Elsmere Canyon Open Space, Santa Clarita, CA

Descending back into the canyon at dusk

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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