June 30th – Eaton Canyon

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Ten hikers carpooled to the Eaton Canyon Nature Center (960’) [closed] in Pasadena on a cool early summer morning. Our hike began along the seasonally dry streambed in Eaton Canyon as we headed northward. When we reached the trail’s junction with the “Horse Trail” at Walnut Canyon, we decided to bypass this steep “shortcut” trail leading up to the Mt. Wilson Toll Road; instead we continued upstream in Eaton Canyon to the lower end of the Mt. Wilson Toll Road which we turned onto.

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There were scores of early-bird hikers in Eaton Canyon, nearly all of whom were headed to Eaton Falls (or returning from there). We encountered only a few other hikers as we headed up the old toll road, enjoying increasingly wide views as we steadily gained elevation as well as a surprising display of blooming plants including prickly phlox and scarlet larkspur (among others). As we followed the old toll road up the mountain the view expanded, but was limited by the haze over Pasadena and downtown Los Angeles. Somewhat winded due to the nearly 1,700’ elevation gain, we eventually reached lovely Henninger Flats (2,630’), a cool forested notch sitting high on the mountain slopes above Altadena. Henninger Flats was complete in the past with water (none today), picnic tables, bathrooms (padlocked today), and a nature center/museum (closed today). It is the home of the Los Angeles County Experimental Forestry Nursery. After taking a leisurely break in the shade of the forest, we descended along the Mt. Wilson Toll Road to Eaton Canyon. We then continued hiking upstream in the canyon bottom which soon provided shade and a little water in the stream (as well as scores of other day hikers) until we reached Eaton Falls. After enjoying the lower waterfall and its pool, we returned along the Eaton Canyon Trail to the Nature Center (now open) and then headed home having hiked 10 miles with about 1,950’ of elevation gain/loss. NOTE: During our hike we observed a variety of wildflowers including Prickly Phlox, California Buckwheat, Sticky Monkey Flower, Cliff Asters, Scarlet Larkspur, Deerweed, Chaparrel Yucca, Bush Sunflowers, Golden Yarrow, Tree Tobacco, and Spanish Broom (non-native).

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June 23rd – Work Party: The Hummingbird Trail

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We started today with 9 volunteers from a local church (St. Peter Claver, their group “Missions of Mercy”), another 9 volunteers from local Geocachers (one from LA and another from Canada), and a couple of community members for a total of 20 people.

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Now this group was only 20, but they worked like they were 40! People were on the lower and upper waterfalls, painting, picking up trash and just overall, cleaning the area up. We had people rock climbing, getting that hard to reach graffiti, along with crawling into caves to pick up water bottles and cans.

On the way out we even got all the trash in the tunnel under the freeway. In all we collected 125 lbs. of trash, 5 lbs. of which were plastic and aluminum cans that we can turn in for money, and purchase more paint to get even more graffiti in other areas.
We thank all the volunteers for coming out today and helping the community kept our trails looking good.

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June 17 – Hondo Canyon to Topanga Lookout

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Eighteen hikers arrived on a cool overcast morning at the trailhead located 0.4 mile northwest of “downtown” Topanga along Old Topanga Canyon Road where the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area’s “Backbone Trail” crosses the road.  As we began our hike up the steep north-facing mountain slope we crossed a dry streambed and soon passed through meadows filled with dry yellow grasses and dotted with oak trees and interesting rock formations. 

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Next we reached a wonderful pink gorge on the right (west) side of the trail where a small waterfall is sometimes visible (but not today).  As we continued upward through chaparral, there were glimpses of the pink-colored sedimentary rock formations/cliffs (the Sespe Formation) that form the west side of the canyon.  We then entered a dense forest comprised mostly of oak and bay laurel trees; the trail was also adorned with ferns, moss-covered rocks, and lots of poison oak as well as a variety of wildflowers.  After negotiating a long series of heavily shaded switchbacks through the forest we neared Saddle Peak Road.  However, we headed west on the Fossil Ridge Trail that paralleled/overlooked the road; it was also adorned with a variety of wildflowers.  Upon reaching the old Topanga Tower Motorway we left the Backbone Trail and headed north to the end of the road where there was once a fire lookout tower.  After a lunch/rest break we retraced our steps and returned home having completed a 10.7-mile hike with 2,350’ of elevation gain/loss on a very pleasant day for hiking.  NOTE: During our hike we observed a variety of wildflowers including most notably Matilija Poppies and Plummer’s Mariposa Lilies as well as Sticky Monkey Flower, Cliff Asters, Large Flowered Phacilia, Climbing Penstamon, California Buckwheat, Caterpillar Phacelia, Deerweed, Chaparrall Yucca, Canyon Sunflowers, and Chemise.

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June 10th – Trippet Ranch, Eagle Rock, Hub Junction, and Musch Trail

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18 hikers met in the parking lot at Trippet Ranch in Topanga State Park on a nice late-spring morning. We began our hike along the Nature Trail that wound its way upward to the junction of the Santa Ynez Canyon Trail and the Eagle Springs Fire Road. We then followed the fire road up to Eagle Junction and then on up to the western approach to Eagle Rock.

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Along the way there was a remarkable display of blooming plants; in particular there were huge quantities of deerweed, buckwheat, and cliff asters. Although the temperature had risen, we were cooled by a fairly steady ocean breeze. Most of the participants climbed up to the top of Eagle Rock, a huge rock monolith providing 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains. Some of the hikers also climbed up on a nearby knob which provided an excellent perch from which to take photos of Eagle Rock and their fellow hikers atop it. We continued our hike along the fire road to Hub Junction where we took a break before following two sections of the Santa Monica Mountains Backbone Trail (BBT) westward back to the Trippet Ranch parking lot. As before, our route was adorned with a variety of blooming plants. The first section was a dirt road, but the second (and final) section was the Musch Trail (a section of the BBT containing sections of chaparral, woodlands, meadows, and seasonal streams (presently dry) which provided us with a pleasant mostly downhill (in our case) stroll along a pretty trail interspersed with heavily shaded sections. We reached our vehicles having completed a very pleasant 7.5-mile figure-eight loop hike with about 1,400’ of elevation gain/loss. NOTE: During our hike we also observed the following blooming plants: Yucca, Canyon Sunflowers, Black Mustard, Notable Penstemon, Sticky Monkey Flower, Morning Glories, Purple Sage, Golden Yarrow, Chemise, Tree Tobacco, and a small number of Catalina Mariposa Lilies.

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June 2nd – El Escorpion Park, Cave of Munits, and Castle Peak

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14 hikers carpooled to the El Escorpion Park entrance (905’) at the west end of Vanowen Street in the San Fernando Valley on a not-yet-hot late spring morning. We began our hike into the Simi Hills along the Hunter Allen Trail (aka Moore Canyon Road), a wide dirt road with no shade, but soon turned right/north on a “use” trail which led down to a heavily shaded “use” trail that led us westward parallel to (but out of sight of) the dirt road.

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We eventually reached the well-defined “use” trail leading north up to the entrance to the Cave of Munits. Upon reaching the vertical cave entrance most of the group decided to climb steeply up into the cave. Doing so required the use of both hands and both feet (a short class 3 climb). As described on the excellent Modern Hiker web site, “The walls of the interior fold and undulate into a seemingly endless series of side caves and back caverns … it’s ceiling is very tall and it can feel like you’re standing inside a natural rock cathedral … this area was spiritually important to the Chumash [Indians].” After exploring the interior of the cave, most of the hikers exited by climbing out one of the cave’s chimneys and carefully circling around on the mountainside back down to the cave’s entrance; the other hikers returned the way they entered the cave.

After regrouping, we headed southward down to the Hunter Allen Trail and followed it westward a short distance until it turned southward. At that point we continued westward along a trail/dirt road which we followed to another “use” trail that led us mostly northward past several oak trees and then steeply up a north-south ridge to the main east-west ridge (with Castle Peak at its east end). NOTE: By this time the temperature had risen into the 80’s so we took our time climbing up the ridge. Once up on the east-west ridge, we followed a mostly well-defined single track trail east to Castle Peak until it ended about 20′ from the top of the peak. Along the way we were treated to wide views of the surrounding area as well as interesting rock formations. Several members of our group climbed up to (or near) the top of Castle Peak (1,475’). After resting for a while, we returned the way we came (passing by the Cave of Munits turnoff) and reached our vehicles having hiked 4.9 miles with 1,200’ of elevation gain/loss.

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