Tucked off the side of the road in Valencia California (about half an hour north of LA on the 5), this was really a last minute hike for me. The girlfriend had some business to take care of near Valencia and suggested I come with her and take in a hike (I know she's the one just for that). I did a quick internet search and came up with Towsley Canyon, printed out a map, did no other research and went.
First off the wildlife. The sign at the beginning of the trail (which you can sort of see here) said that the bees and the wasps in the area were "upset" because a bear had been knocking over all their hives for honey. My first thought wasn't, oooh angry bees, it was, bears? Did I have enough protection? Of course, there were no bears on the pathways (or even evidence of them anywhere) but there was much more wildlife than I have experienced on any Californian trail thus far...combined. Lizards rule the roost here in all sizes and in all manners of apathy towards your presence. There were also several bunnies that decided to check me out.
What really freaked me out was coming across my first rattlesnake. A biker alerted me to the snake which I would have never seen going through the trail (he was off in the side brush). We stood checking him out (black and blue but couldn't see the head) until he rattled and I was like "yup, I will be on my way now".
Another thing the LAMountains.com gets right is the variety of the terrain. Parts of me thought I was in China
Other parts were like grasslands of Malibu.
Still others parts of the trail had tar pits and the smell of sulfur!
And pine trees
All on the same hike! Crazy.
So what about that hike? Well there are several options. The park extends east to west and you either take the north trail or the south trail. The north trail is very flat for the first 1.5 miles but here is a hint, you have to follow the road from the parking lot in order to take it directly.
If you start hiking from the bear sign you eventually come to a junction
where you can continue left on the trail for "4.3" miles (allegedly) or you go on a great little side trail on the right that brings you up to some grasslands.
Since I didn't really research this hike, I took the right side trail which I thought would meet up with the north trail. It does but when you get to the north trail junction its still 5.1 miles roundtrip from that point!. On this day I hiked 6.2 miles and felt good about it.
Also, there are a few other side trails, one that leads to the bunny cave.
Once you get to the north trail it is flat with relatively little shade. However, it comes to one of the coolest places I have hiked yet in SoCal, The Narrows.
The Narrows is this little footpath that follows a dry creek bed with severe canyon walls on either side. It is so cool and cool in there, I wanted to spend more time there. The pictures do not do it justice.
After The Narrows, if you are hiking north to south, you start up many many switchbacks. The grade isn't too severe but if you are looking for a workout, definitely hike north to south. The good news about this section of trail is that there was a lot of shade. It wasn't completely sun free but if you hike during the summer, hike later in the day to benefit from all the shade.
Eventually you get on top with more swale grass and amazing views of all the mountains/canyons.
Then you start down the canyon. Of course, if you looking for an easier time of it, hike south to north. After all, you have stairs on the way up!
When I looked at those after doing the switchbacks all I could do was shake my head and continue on.
The descent goes for about 2 miles and I was actually getting my second wind. I had a bit of a second wind when I hiked with @100Peaks and @TheSoCalHiker but this was even better than that. I was starting to jog down the mountain, something I never do.
Overall, I did 6.2 miles in 2 hours and 15 minutes. A really good time for me considering I am still out of shape. I tried to take my time as well but I did walk a bit faster through some sections. Overall, this is a real gem of a hike and pretty close to LA so if you feel like stretching you car's legs on the 5, I HIGHLY recommend it.
There is not much on the web about this hike so here is the map I used. Its pretty accurate (although I swear I went on 4 more switchbacks than shown here): http://www.lamountains.com/maps/towsley.pdf