North Ranch Open Space
- Location: Thousand Oaks. The most convenient starting point is the intersection of Pathfinder Avenue and Falling Star Avenue. From the 101 Freeway, take the Lindero Canyon Road exit (39) and head north for 2.9 miles (turn left if you’re coming from the west; right if from the east.) At Kanan Road, turn left and go 0.2 miles to Falling Star Avenue. Turn right and follow Falling Star Avenue 0.5 miles to the SECOND junction with Pathfinder Avenue and park where available. From the 23 Freeway, take the Avenida De Los Arboles exit (15). Turn left and follow Avenida De Los Arboles 1.6 miles to Westlake Blvd. Turn right and follow Westlake 1.5 miles to Kanan Road. Turn left on to Kanan and go 2.5 miles to Falling Star. Turn left and follow Falling Star 0.5 miles to the second of the two intersections with Pathfinder Avenue.
- Agency: Conejo Open Space Foundation
- Distance: 4.6 miles
- Elevation gain: 800 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 2.5 hours
- Best season: October – May
- USGS topo map: Thousand Oaks
- Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
- More information: LA Mountains page here; Map My Hike report here
- Rating: 6
This hike offers close-up views of interesting sandstone geology and when visibility is good, views from the Hollywood Hills to Santa Cruz Island. The only downside is that the majority of the hike is on fire roads and residential streets, but it still offers a good workout with a wide variety of scenery, conveniently located to Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village and Agoura Hills.
This post describes the loop as hiked clockwise starting from the corner of Falling Star and Pathfinder Avenues; this is the closest point to the freeway and by hiking clockwise, you get the street portion of the route out of the way first. Head northwest along Falling Star, gradually climbing about 150 feet over 0.6 miles. There is no sidewalk, although car traffic is likely to be light. At the end of Falling Star, pick up the signed Hidden Meadows trail on the north side of the street. The single-track route ascends into the hills, showcasing a preview of the geology to be found later on the hike. After 0.9 miles, you reach a junction with the Sandstone Hills Trail, a fire road. Here you can enjoy a nice view to the north and west, including the hidden meadow that gives the trail its name, before continuing.
The Sandstone Hills Trail heads east, making a stiff ascent before topping out at a ridge. On the way up the views get better and better and a few small caves in the rocks on the left side of the trail help provide visual distractions from the effort. At 2 miles, you reach a Y-junction. Bear left onto another fire road; this is a spur that will lead 0.6 miles to an overlook with a 180-degree view to the south. Sharp-eyed hikers may pick up a small “window” high in the rock wall behind the trail. Unfortunately there is a bunch of broken glass on the ground at the overlook so be careful, especially if you are hiking with small children or dogs.
After rejoining the Sandstone Hills Trail, continue east, enjoying views of the nearby suburbs with the Santa Monica Mountains in the distance. At 3.8 miles, stay right at another Y-junction. Pass by a gate and almost immediately, bear left onto a single-track trail; the fire road leads to private property. The last leg of the Sandstone Hills Trail continues east before bending south. It drops into a ravine, climbs a ridge and crosses a field before making a final descent to Pathfinder Avenue. If you want to continue the hike, you can follow the Lindero Canyon Trail on the opposite side of Pathfinder; to complete the loop, turn right and walk a short distance to Falling Star Avenue.
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.