Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Hiking Descano Motorway
It is becoming quickly apparent to me that my voracious appetite for hiking trails in Los Angeles has created a double edged sword because while LA has a lot of trails close to the main city center, you eventually hit all of those and then have to go further afield to hike any "fresh" trails. What I was not aware until just recently was a really nice hike only 30 minutes from central Los Angeles, in the rolling hills of La Canada Flintridge.
You can pick up the trail for the Descano Motorway in several places in LCF and I chose to start hiking the trail near Descano Gardens on the appropriately named Descano Drive. The trail runs North to South parallel to The 2 freeway although you definitely get a wilderness experience at times.
Like other trails in SoCal, this trail is very friendly to horses. I did not see any equines on the trails the day I was there but with words like "dismount" and the number of hitching posts equaling picnic tables, you know there are around there somewhere.
One thing that is striking about this trail is while the elevation tops out at only 1800 feet, the hills do roll so you gain and lose elevation no matter what trail you are on. For example, right out of the gate, switchbacks!
Unreal, what a start! Not the worst in the world but it definitely gets the blood pumping early. Eventually you gain the ridge and the park comes into focus.
As you look North, great mountain views tap you on the shoulder.
This park has quirks, no doubt about it. Many of the trails almost double back upon themselves, crossing and crisscrossing the Descano trail and the Cherry Canyon trails.
Additionally, it seemed Spring comes late to Descano as many flowers were in bloom along the trail.
Nature don't have nuttin on human-made quirks however. For example, what is going on here?
Ahhh, that is what is going on here.
The park, in addition to celebrity sightings, offers a nice mixture of terrain from wide (canoe) trails
to narrow singletrack (kayak) trails
and often gives you option how you want to attack a particular section
No matter where you want to go, basically everything starts at the Five Points
From the Five Points you have a variety of terrain to explore. There are several canyons (including Cherry Canyon which mentioned on no less than half the trail signs throughout the park) but I decided to head South and explore some of the side trails as I made my way to a fire tower lookout.
While trekking on the non-Cherry Canyon trails, I saw that there was an Ultimate Destination trail and I knew I had to check it out.
Basically, the trail brings you to a nice flat area to look over the mountains to the North.
It doesn't quite live up to its "ultimate" name but a nice side trail nonetheless.
The main thrust of the Descano trail is to head you to the fire tower
(frustratingly gated) with a great view of the whole area and a summit disk to boot!
Once you get up to the high point, you can see how the Southern portion of the trail shapes up.
Those ridges in the far distance are each about a mile away from the fire tower. It is all downhill to reach the ridges so be prepared for a slog back up to the fire tower ridgeline if you go further South. Once you get to this gate
you can then follow the road and choose which path you want to follow. I went up a rather steep but doable slope immediately after this gate and was rewarded with nice views of downtown LA
Some might say downtown views of LA are not "nice" but you are crazy. Fine, fine, you want some mountains, here, have some pictures.
One negative on the day: In addition to the non-existent horses, there is a decent mountain bike contingent on the trails. Not overwhelming in number but I was a little less than impressed by their trail etiquette. Some of the single tracks are VERY narrow so just keep your ears open as you are hiking on some of the narrower trails.
Overall, this is a really nice hike no matter where you are tromping to in LCF and is a definite recommend. Try to hike early in the morning as there is shade but most of it is fleeting.
Check out the LCT Trails Council for further insight to hiking in this area: http://www.lcftrails.org/
Also check out this map of Descano to give you a better sense of how things fit together: http://www.foothillflyers.org/reviews/cherrycanyon.html