Monday, January 20, 2020


Mentryville is an old oil town located in Santa Clarita and is one of the coolest trailheads in SoCal. There are a few buildings left of the town founded in 1876 and you should definitely poke around either before or after your hike.

But hike you should and one of the other great benefits of hiking in the Mentryville/Santa Clarita Woodlands Park is that the trail has natural stopping points along the way so you can tailor the hike to whatever your level/preference is. Most hikes don't give you options on the type of hike that you can go on which is a triple bonus of this hike.

Hike The First: Onward To Plaques! 

As you hike out of Mentryville and into the mountains, the trail for the most part is a gravel-y road with a very modest elevation gain.

In fact, I would call this portion of the trail flat although you do go uphill slightly as you make your way toward a picnic facility on the left and in the early morning that canyon can run COLD with all the shade.

The trail/road follows a stream that has actually honest-to-goodness water in it (a rarity here in the desert southwest) and I definitely recommend taking some time to check out all the stream action you can handle. There are great geological features and trees to check out along the path.

Eventually the trail decides to gain a bit more elevation, a bit more elevated heart pumping and then you made it. To the plaques, which celebrate the drilling of the first successful oil well in California. While oil has been a mixed blessing for humanity and the planet, the history at this spot still is fascinating and they even have some of the old equipment there to take a look at!

Hike The Second: Onward To The Rock! 

The second section of the hike is your more classic SoCal dirt hike which wends it way up into the mountain. Going through this gate means you are going the right way.

The hike is beauty and also quiet. Freeways are a fact of life in SoCal and it's surprising that there are so many trails right next to them. This trail is quiet and you are just surrounded by mountains which is definitely my jam.

This section of the trail has a pretty decent elevation gain as you make your way a little northwest into the park. Eventually the trail flattens out and there is a big rock in the middle of the trail. Yet another natural stopping point if you are feeling the burn.

Hike The Third: To The Picnic Table!

If you are feeling good and want to push on, then do it because there is some awesome scenery ahead. After some more elevation gain (the trail is never severely steep but you will get a good workout) you finally make it to the ridegline.

This section of the trail is a little rollercoaster-y but not terrible as you make your away around little bumps in the mountains. Eventually you make your way to a pseudo-helicopter pad, gravel top which is your destination (with the aforementioned picnic bench!)

I can't think of a better place to have lunch. You are surrounded by mountains and will most likely have the top all to yourself. This is one of the better resting spots in all of SoCal and a great capstone to the hike.

There is a goat trail that extends out into the unknown but I might save that hike for another day. This hike really surprised me with its variety and serenity and is now one of my favorites in the Santa Clarita area!

For more info about hiking around Mentryville, check out this link!

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Horse Peak - Golden Valley Ranch

Santa Clarita has a fantastic amount of open space to hike around in and a fantastic pocket of space is the Golden Valley Ranch. Within the rolling hills of GVR is the highest point in Santa Clarita, Horse Peak. While I could wax poetically about the GVR trails, I noticed there is a paucity of information about actually hiking to the peak itself so off we go!

There are several ways to hike into the GVR but I started off on the public turnout off Placerita Canyon Road. There you are greeted with some awesome vistas

and some no nonsense switchbacks as you slowly gain the ridge line. The area has really had a tough time with fire over the last few years so I stayed on the trails which were in good shape (and some grass popping up here and there due to the rain).

Eventually you do make it to the ridge line and you get to see the Santa Clarita Valley and the start of the Antelope Valley laid out before you which is a great sight.

Since you will be ill advised to go straight into the canyon your options are left or right. If you are headed to Horse Peak then head your way to the right for another mile (ish). There are some great vistas along the way

and as a newly minted fan of hawks, well there are a lot of em. A lot of hawks. If you like hawks definitely hike the GVR.

There is a junction where you can head down a steep trail toward the 14 freeway but as with everything on this hike, if you keep bearing to the right you will be fine. After a few curves and a few more ups and downs Horse Peak comes into view.

Now look, Horse Peak ain't exactly Mt. Baldy on the skyline but this is a really good short hike that gets the heart rate up with some awesome views and ends with claiming a peak. That to be is a fun day out.  There is a well maintained goat trail off the main fire road to the...wait for it...right of the fire road that you should take to attempt the peak.

I felt like this trail was maintained sufficiently and does appear on maps that I think it is safe to assume you can tromp around on it without damaging any vegetation making its way back from the fires.

After hiking a bit you come to the last 100 feet or so before the summit.

While it looks steep it really isn't too bad and someone has kicked in dirt stairs on the way up and down in case your foot is feeling a little shaky. I am terrible with heights and this is very doable both on the way up and (more importantly) on the way down.

(I am so menacing in shadow form)

The peak is a good place to hang out and check out the surrounding scenery of the GVR. In a sea of people, it was great to be alone and take in the snow capped peaks in the Antelope Valley. I only did the peak hike on my trip to the GVR but there are several other trails and I can't wait to get back there and hike more of em!

For more information about the Golden Valley Ranch, check it out here!

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Vasquez Rocks Revisited

Vasquez Rocks are iconic rock formations in the Antelope Valley that you have probably seen a million times in movies and TV shows. Just because a piece of the outdoors is famous doesn't mean it isn't a killer hiking spot and I recently went back to Vasquez and rediscovered the gem that it is!

Also there was a snow. Snow! Recent winter storms had brought the snowline down to about 3,000 feet and with the park sitting at about 2,800 feet in elevation you better believe I found some snow on my hike.

This time in the park I took the Horse Trail and there are a ton of nooks and crannies off the main trail that you can explore. One of my favorite places in the entire park requires knowing where a particular goat trail is and navigating some boulders but the end result is this view.

In general the Horse Trail is a little rough but plenty of fun (and yes there are reminders that horses take that trail so watch your step!

What I dug most about the park is that while there are plenty of people there enjoying the outdoors, there are plenty of trails to get lost on and enjoy the solitude of nature. What I especially liked was that I wanted to go back. Sure the hikes may last anywhere from 1-4 miles (depending on the loops you take, etc.) but they are FUN trails and putting a little bit of nip in the air with snow covered peaks and I am going back to Vasquez sooner rather than later. Here are a few extra shots for ya:

For more info about Vasquez, be sure to check out this link:

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