March 7th – El Escorpion Park, Cave of Munits, and Castle Peak

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15 hikers met at the El Escorpion Park entrance (905’) at the west end of Vanowen Street in the San Fernando Valley on a cool partially overcast late-winter 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. We eventually reached the well-defined “use” trail leading north up to the entrance to the Cave of Munits.

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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). Our climb was aided by the mild temperature and occasional clouds; the trail was bordered by lots of blooming plants. 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. Most members of our group climbed up to 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 4.8 miles with a little over 1,200’ of elevation gain/loss. NOTE: The blooming plants we saw were most notably fiddleneck, bush sunflowers, and morning glories as well as blue dick, prickly phlox, datura, and lupine.

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