Sierra Pelona Loop
- Location: Sierra Pelona Mountains west of Palmdale and north of Santa Clarita. From L.A. take the 14 Freeway to the Red Rover Mine exit. Merge onto Ward Road, go 0.3 miles and continue onto Sierra Highway. Go a mile and bear right on Shannondale Road. Go 0.7 miles and turn right on Shannon Valley Road. Go 0.8 miles and turn left on Via Famero. Go 0.1 miles and turn right on Shannon View Road, a narrow single-lane that climbs up the side of the mountain (be careful). Along the way it becomes Telephone Road. After a total of 2.6 miles, just past a run-down metal gate, you reach a junction with the Sierra Peloma West Mountainway. Park in a small dirt turnout at the junction.
- Agency: Ritter Ranch Park
- Distance: 10 miles
- Elevation gain: 2,100 feet
- Suggested time: 4.5 hours
- Difficulty rating: PG-13 (distance, elevation gain)
- Best season: October – June
- USGS topo maps: Sleepy Valley; Ritter Ridge
- Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat
- More information: here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 7
The Sierra Pelona Mountains lie between the Santa Clarita Valley and Antelope Valley. If the weather is clear, views of both are great and you can also see the San Gabriel Mountains, the Santa Susanas and a little bit of the Tehachapis. This loop–entirely fire roads and paved roads–tours Ritter Ranch, a large park under the jurisdiction of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. There is no shade but depending on the time of day, the sun may be blocked by the hills. Since the loop reaches a mile above sea level, it can be cold (and windy) during the winter so plan accordingly.
The loop can be hiked in either direction but this post will describe the counter-clockwise direction, allowing a scenic ascent through a canyon (as opposed to an exposed climb on a fire road). Though the loop never gets too far away from civilization–notably due to its proximity to the 14 Freeway and the high presence of power lines and communications towers–it often feels pleasantly rugged and isolated.
From the junction of Telephone Road and the Sierra Pelona West Mountainway, head right and start a long, crooked descent along the eastern side of the ridge. On the way down you are treated to wide-ranging views of the Antelope Valley and the San Gabriel Mountains. Ignoring several short spurs that branch off (when in doubt, keep descending), you arrive at a junction at 2 miles. Bear left and continue to a 5-way junction where you will follow the second fork from the left, resuming the descent. The trail makes a few switchbacks as it drops into a shallow canyon, reaching a T-junction 3 miles from the start.
Turn right and begin a gradual descent down the canyon. Unlike the higher terrain, the canyon is pleasantly wooded, with a grove of juniper trees on the left side. The trail heads north and then west, entering a wide pasture with a nice view of the rounded hills ahead.
At about 3.8 miles, you begin a long, steady ascent, first heading southwest into a canyon and then making a twisting ascent along the north side of the ridge. At 5.4 miles, stay left as you join the Ana Verde Motorway.
Continuing your ascent, you arrive at a saddle after about 1,200 feet of climbing (6.7 miles from the start). Here you are rewarded for your efforts with nice views to the west. When you’re ready to continue, turn left on the Ana Verde Motorway. Stay left again at the next junction and resume your ascent, following a portion of the shorter Ritter Ranch Loop.
Your long ascent finally ascends at 8.3 miles as you reach the top of Sierra Pelona. There’s not much of a summit, per se, but at the top of the ridge you get excellent views in both directions. The next mile or so is more or less level as you pass some communication towers before making a final descent back to the parking area.
Text and photography copyright 2013 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.