South Palo Comado/Cheeseboro Canyon Loop
- Location: Sunrise Meadows Open Space, Oak Park. From the 101 Freeway, take the Kanan Rd. exit (36) and head north for 1.9 miles. Turn right on Conifer St., go 0.4 mile and turn right on Smoke Tree Ave. The trail head will be on the left in 0.1 mile. From the 23 Freeway, take the Avenida de los Arboles exit (15). Head east for 1.6 miles to Westlake Blvd. Turn right and go 1.5 miles to Kanan Rd. Turn left and go 4.6 miles to Smoke Tree Avenue. Turn left and go 0.6 mile to the trail head, which will be on the left.
- Agency: Rancho Simi Parks & Recreation/Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
- Distance: 5.7 miles
- Elevation gain: 900 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 2.5 hours
- Best season: October – May
- Recommended gear: hiking poles sun hat
- Dogs: Allowed on leash (exercise caution during warm months; be on the lookout for ticks in the spring and be aware of cyclists)
- Cell phone reception: Good for the first and last half mile; none in the canyons
- Water: none
- Restrooms: none
- Camping: none
- More information: Trip description (similar, longer route) here; area trail map here; Cheeseboro Canyon Yelp page here
- Rating: 7
It’s easy and fun to lose yourself in Palo Comado and Cheeseboro Canyons. Despite their proximity to the suburbs, these adjacent open spaces feel pleasantly isolated. A wide network of trails make for countless possible routes of all lengths and difficulty levels. The loop described here, in the southwestern corner of the park, provides a good workout that can be knocked off in a morning or afternoon. Following rain, the green hillsides are particularly attractive.
From the trailhead on Smoke Tree Avenue, cross though the gate and climb uphill for 0.3 mile through the Sunrise Meadows Open Space. At the top of the ridge, you officially enter the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The trail drops another 0.2 mile into Palo Comado Canyon to a T-junction, marking the start of the loop. Turn right and follow the wide Palo Comado trail south for 0.8 mile in and out of pockets of oak woodland. The trail skirts the boundary of the park and begins to head east, making a steady ascent to a ridge that separates the two canyons. After dropping into a ravine, you climb to another ridge, pass a junction with the Modelo Trail and drop into the shade of Cheeseboro Canyon, reaching the bottom at 2.5 miles.
Turn left and head north, passing by a picnic table tucked under the oaks. At this point another trail branches off to the right, bound for Cheeseboro Ridge, but your route stays straight. After another 0.9 mile in the picturesque confines of Cheeseboro Canyon, you reach the Ranch Center Trail. Turn left and begin the major ascent of the route, picking up 300 feet in half a mile. As you climb, you’ll enjoy views of Simi Peak, the rock outcrop known as the Baleen Wall and an aerial perspective on Cheeseboro Canyon.
At a saddle (4.2 miles from the start) you begin your descent back into Palo Comado Canyon, with views of the western Santa Monica Mountains making for a dramatic backdrop. The steep descent brings you to the canyon floor in 0.6 mile. Turn left and head south through Palo Comado Canyon, reaching the connector trail in 0.4 mile. Retrace your steps back to your starting point.
Photo gallery (click thumbnails to see full sized versions)
Text and photography copyright 2017 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.