Devil Canyon (San Fernando Valley)
- Location: Chatsworth. From the 118 Freeway, take the Topanga Canyon Blvd/Highway 27 exit and head north (turn right if you’re coming from L.A.; left if from Simi Valley) to its almost immediate dead end at Poema Place. Turn left on Poema, drive 0.3 miles and park by the Summerset Village Apartment complex numbered 11500. The trail can be accessed through the parking lot as described below. (Note: since you are walking across private property to reach the trail, act accordingly).
- Agency: Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy
- Distance: 10 miles
- Elevation gain: 950 feet
- Suggested time: 4.5 hours
- Difficulty rating: PG-13 (distance)
- Best season: September – May
- USGS topo map: “Oat Mountain”
- Recommended gear: insect repellent
- More information: Trip descriptions here (different access point), here and here (both descriptions up to the gate at 2.3 miles); Map My Hike report here
- Rating: 7
Not to be confused with Devil’s Canyon in the San Gabriel Mountains, Devil Canyon of Chatsworth is an understandably popular destination, due to its seclusion, scenic variety and proximity to the Valley. While many hikers enjoy exploring the jungle-like confines of the lower canyon with its numerous sandstone caves and other geological formations, the pastoral upper reaches of the canyon, consisting of rolling hills, oak woodlands and ultimately excellent city and mountain views, are also worth a look. “Afoot and Afield: Los Angeles County” and several online writeups of the hike describe a gate 2.3 miles into the canyon, blocking off progress, but as of this writing, the gate is no longer there, allowing hikers to go as far as they want. The entire 10-mile round trip with its easy slope and ample shade is an enjoyable and efficient training hike.
While access to the canyon has changed and may change again in the years to come, it can currently be reached by walking through the parking lot of a private condo complex on N. Poema Place. As this is private property, access to the trail cannot be guaranteed, but it is likely that hikers who exercise common sense and don’t create a disturbance will not be given difficulty by residents. Bear right at the first major “intersection” (by building 11504) and you’ll see an open metal gate with a staircase descending steeply. The staircase drops to short use spur leads you to the main trail, signed here as the Santa Susana Pass Trail. Bear left and continue your descent into Devil’s Canyon, arriving at the floor in about 0.3 miles.
From here, make your way up canyon, keeping an eye out for poison oak which frequently encroaches the trail, sometimes from both sides at once. If the water level is high, some of the stream crossings can be tricky and the trail follows the stream bed itself from time to time, but while it is a little overgrown in some places, it’s fairly easy to follow; if you find yourself bushwhacking, you’ve likely strayed from the course.
At 1.3 miles, bear right as a trail steeply ascends to the left. You briefly follow the stream before emerging into an attractive wooded area where several rocks and logs make it a nice place for a break. Soon after, the trail emerges into the open, passing a junction with Ybarra Canyon (1.9 miles.) After passing over a concrete flood dam, the trail continues through more scenic terrain, in and out of shade. Poison oak, while still present, isn’t as much of an issue from here on out.
At 3.3 miles, the trail enters a meadow and bears northwest, climbing briefly away from the stream bed. You pass by a particularly impressive oak that makes a good turnaround point if you’re short on time and continue, ascending slightly more steadily, into another pocket of trees, crossing a tributary of Devil Canyon (4 3/4 miles) and finally making the final climb to the trail’s end at the Brown Mountain Fire Road.
Hikers with additional time and energy can explore this road in either direction but for most casual visitors this the recommended turnaround point. On the way back, you can enjoy a particularly good view of the Santa Susana foothills, the Simi Hills and the western San Fernando Valley.
Text and photography copyright 2015 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.