This short but challenging hike explores Las Flores Canyon, known also as the Enchanted Forest and Haunted Forest. Abandoned mines (and tales of paranormal activity) give the canyon an air of mystery while its narrow walls block out the outside world and create a sense of isolation not found in many natural areas this close to suburbia. Sadly, this same accessibility has led to the canyon being victimized by trash and graffiti, but for those who live in the area and want a taste of adventure, Las Flores Canyon is a good place to keep in mind.
Begin from the Sam Merrill trail head on the corner of Lake and Loma Alta, passing the Cobb Estate gates. Follow the crumbling paved road past the turnoff for Echo Mountain and uphill toward the estate. Originally built by lumber baron Charles H. Cobb, the estate was owned by the Marx Brothers from 1956 to 1971, during which time it became a notorious hangout for drifters and acquired its reputation as a hotbed of paranormal activity. Only stone foundations and staircases remain of the estate.
After half a mile of climbing and 350 feet of elevation gain, the dirt road ends at an underground reservoir. Here, you can catch your breath and enjoy a panoramic view of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. On the opposite side of the canyon, you’ll see hikers making their way up and down the Sam Merrill Trail’s switchbacks to and from Echo Mountain.
A fire break leaves the reservoir. Just before it starts to head steeply uphill, veer right on an obscure path continuing up-canyon. The next half mile has several potentially difficult spots, so exercise caution and unless you have experience with this type of hiking, don’t go alone (especially at night.) The exact route from the reservoir to the mine may vary slightly, depending on whether you prefer to crawl under fallen trees or climb washed-out slopes. Either way, you’ll never stray too far from the stream bed.
The first 0.1 mile from the reservoir is easy, although there are a few spots where the trail is overgrown and where the trail is washed out, so be wary. After passing the McNally Mine on the left, the trail appears to end at the top of a 15-foot high rock wall. Moderate scrambling will get you to the bottom, where you make the first of six stream crossings. Almost immediately, you cross the stream again and climb up a steep slope. You’ll follow along the west wall of the canyon, aided by a water pipe paralleling the “trail” that serves as a handhold. A descent over loose terrain brings you back down to the stream for your third crossing.
Soon after (0.8 mile from the start) you reach two abandoned stone structures which used to house water pumps. On the opposite side of the creek, make a steep ascent over potentially treacherous terrain (a large, strategically positioned oak tree will help as a handhold.) The sketchy use trail continues uphill, but to reach the mine, head back downhill and rejoin the stream bed. (It may be possible to bypass this ascent and descent by following the stream bed from the concrete structures, although this requires scrambling under several low-lying tree branches.)
Just before the stream bed reaches a 10-foot seasonal waterfall, veer left and climb another rock wall. Continue along the west side of the stream bed before dropping back down and crossing it for the fifth time. A steep climb out of the stream bed brings you to Tunnel #4, the turnaround point. Exploring abandoned mines is very risky, but it’s easy to sit inside the entrance to this mine and enjoy the view back down the canyon without challenging your survival instinct. Those who want to take their lives into their own hands can venture farther back into the shaft. After enjoying this peaceful, quiet spot (graffiti notwithstanding), retrace your steps.
Text and photography copyright 2016 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.