Castaic Lake Trails
- Location: Castaic Lake State Recreation Area. From L.A, take I-5 to the Lake Hughes Road exit (176B). Turn right and go 0.4 miles to Ridge Route Road. Turn left and go 0.3 miles to Castaic Lake Drive. Turn right and go 0.2 miles to the park entrance. After paying the entry fee of $11 per vehicle at the booth, turn left and follow the main road 0.3 miles. Park in any of the lots near the the start of the Castaic Brick Trail (unsigned in the park, but shown on Google Maps.) If you are coming from the north, take I-5 south to the Lake Hughes Road exit (176). Turn left on the Old Road and then left again on Lake Hughes Road and follow the directions above.
- Agency: Castaic Lake SRA/Los Angeles County Trails
- Distance: 6.4 miles
- Elevation gain: 1,150 feet
- Suggested time: 3 hours
- Difficulty rating: PG-13 (elevation gain, distance)
- Best season: October- May
- USGS topo map: Warm Springs Mountain
- Recommended gear: sun screen; sun hat; hiking poles; insect repellent
- More information: Map My Hike report here; Castaic Lake Yelp page here; Castaic Lake homepage here
- Rating: 5
Castaic Lake isn’t known as a hiking destination, but the park features several miles of trails overseen by L.A. County Parks and Recreation. The loop described here circles the ridges and canyon’s on the lake’s west side.
Begin at parking area #10, where you can head north on either the Castaic Brick Trail or a service road paralleling it. The two meet again at 0.3 miles, which is the start of the loop. The route can be hiked either way but by going counter-clockwise as described here you get the least interesting part of the trip out of the way first, saving some of the best views for last.
Cross the street and start out on the West Ridge Trail. Stay straight at a three-way junction, taking the middle fork. As of this writing, fallen logs cover the path, leading one to believe that the route is blocked, but this is the correct way.
The trail begins a steep ascent, taking in views of Castaic Lagoon and the dam separating it from much larger Castaic Lake to the north. After passing by a picnic area with good views of Castaic Lake, you cross the service road again (1.3 miles) and begin hiking on the Pine Ridge Fire Road.
Almost immediately, you reach a Y-junction. The paved road, on the right, is actually the more scenic of the two routes, which soon merge again. It climbs to a water tank and then becomes a single-track following a narrow ridge to a picnic table (1.6 miles), a place to catch your breath. Almost half of the total climbing on the route is now behind you.
From the picnic area, descend gradually on the ridge, reaching a junction at 2 miles. Make a hard right on the Fisherman Trail, which descends a series of bulldozed switchbacks to just above the lake’s shore. You trace the contour of an inlet and enter a pine grove (2.5 miles from the start), a good place to stop and catch your breath for the stiff ascent.
The trail leaves the pines and switchbacks up to the ridge, climbing 200 feet in 0.3 miles. Upon rejoining the Pine Ridge Fire Road, head right (north) and continue ascending before the trail finally tops out. You begin a gradual descent to the northern end of the Pine Ridge Fire Road, which now bends left and heads south as the Cutler Canyon Fire Road (3.3 miles.)
Follow shallow Cutler Canyon south for just under a mile. As the trail enters a pine grove (4.2 miles), you begin your last challenge: a steep ascent on the Pro Uphill Trail, which branches off to the right. It steadily climbs the west wall of Cutler Canyon, soon reaching a junction where two trails head hard left. Take the outside of the two (the inner one rejoins, but the outer route is more scenic). Follow it to the top of the ridge (5 miles), where you can enjoy some panoramic views of the lake, the Santa Clarita Valley and the north slopes of the San Gabriels before beginning the final descent.
The Vista Ridge Fire Road descends south, paralleling a bikes-only route called the Grapevine and rejoining the Cutler Canyon Trail and then descending into Grasshopper Canyon. Bear left and follow the Grasshopper Canyon Trail back to the junction with the service road and the West Ridge Trail. From here, retrace your steps back to your car using either the Castaic Brick Trail or the service road.
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.