Placerita Canyon

Cool, gray day. Nice area.

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I parked on the side of the road a couple of miles past Placerita Canyon Nature Center at the Walker Ranch Trailhead.  There are two routes down, a road on the left and a trail on the right, that both lead down to a small campground.  Before starting the seven mile loop I took the signed trail to the area’s waterfall.  This added a mile and half to my total for the day.

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8   The waterfall was nearly dry on this day, as expected.  To get a clear view of the small falls I had to climb around or over all this debris.  There was just a trickle of water coming through the rocks.

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After returning from the falls I headed up Los Pinetos Trail, which provided nice views of the valley below.  The trail is steep in some areas but not too bad.

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15   The trail flattens out at the top of the mountain and travels through a grove of oaks.  At the concrete reservoir shown in photo 4 the trail splits.  Both the left and right forks will bring you to a fire road running on the ridgeline above.  I chose to go left as it seemed like the less traveled trail.  Two deer crossed over the trail in front of me not far from here.  Photo 5 – Now off Los Pinetos Trail and on to the fire road – there was a hazy view of the San Fernando Valley on this side.

16   Antennae on a nearby hill

17     18     19   At the top I was surprised to find a restroom and picnic tables, which I took advantage of.  I also became quite confused as to the correct trail to take as at least three roads and trails break off from the fire road.  I knew I had to stay right so I followed the sign marked “Wilson Saddle Picnic Area”. After passing a couple more trail junctions I saw a skinny trail breaking off down the hill to the right.  I got very lucky here as I saw a woman ascending the trail.  When she made it to the top she confirmed that this trail is Firebreak Road, which leads down to the Nature Center.  I never would have taken this trail as I was looking for a route that looked like a road, as the name would imply.  It’s not a road, it’s a narrow trail.  On Placerita Canyon Park’s website they provide a route that makes up the seven mile loop I was following.  Part of this loop includes Firebreak Road.  I found it odd, when reading the description, that they have a disclaimer stating that Firebreak Road is not a trail and they don’t endorse it’s use as such.  I soon discovered why.  This trail goes from very steep, to flat, to very steep, all the way down the mountain.  The loose dirt makes the footing slick.  If I didn’t have my hiking poles I probably would have fallen on my butt at least a half dozen times.

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Views of Santa Clarita Valley from Firebreak Road


Firebreak Road winds down the mountain.


Looking back up at the antennae from Firebreak Road.

24     25   Photo 1 – This sign marks the turn-off for Manzanita Mountain Trail which leads down to the Nature Center.  Firebreak Road continues on to the left.  Go right here.  Photo 2 – Looking back at the first steep slope of Firebreak Road.  I’d hate to try and climb up this trail.

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From above I spotted the nature center and the water tank I would pass along the way.

28     29     31   I finally reached Placerita Canyon Park and Nature Center.  The park has three short trails – the Heritage, Botany and Ecology Trails, all of which I explored.  Photo 2 – Old oil pumping machinery sitting near the parking lot.

30     32   This old cabin, Walker’s Cabin, was built in the early 1900’s.  The inside of the cabin is not accessible but you can look through the windows.  They have it made up to look like it did when people still lived there.

33   Heritage Trail took me to the left of the parking lot and then under Placerita Canyon Road through these tunnels.

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36   On the walls of the tunnels are murals depicting the evolution of this area, from before man to Native Americans to Spanish missionaries to ranchers to gold prospectors.  Photo 1 shows part is my favorite – Placerita Canyon Before Man.  Photo 3 – This painting shows a man standing next to a tree holding up a bunch of onions.  This is all explained on a couple of plaques right next to the tunnel.  Just a few feet away is the spot where gold was first discovered in California, pre-dating the find at Sutter’s Mill by six years.

39     40   Two plaques give greater detail on the legend of the Oak of the Golden Dream.

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This fenced off tree is the Oak of the Golden Dream.  It’s just a little oak, relatively speaking.  Legend has it that the man who first discovered gold here was napping under this very tree and had a dream that he was rich with gold.  Later that day he dug up some onions to season his meal and found gold nuggets clinging to the roots.

41     42     43   Photo 1Now exploring other parts of the park – there is a butterfly garden and pond.  There were no butterflies while I was there.  Photo 2 –   A mock up of a Chumash dwelling  Photo 3 – This was a treat.  After I looped around the Ecology Trail I walked up on this lady and this great looking owl.  She was taking him out for some fresh air.  The Nature Center has several rescued birds.  I was told this owl was raised by humans and therefor could not survive in the wild.  He’s about 20 years old.


He was really calm.  Isn’t he handsome?

45     47     48   The last leg of the loop is Canyon Trail – a mostly flat and easy two miles.  I was told there was a legal dispute between the park and mountain bikers, who sued to gain access to these trails.  To slow the bikers down big rocks and fences have been placed in the center of the trail.  Photo 3 – Next to the trail is this pool of bubbling “white oil”.  When I’ve encountered such pools before they have always had two odors – either sulphur or tar.  This pool smelled more like gasoline.


The Ghoul

49     50     51   Almost back to Walker Ranch now – a very old looking oak stands by the trail.  Also at Walker Ranch campground – all that is left of another cabin is this cool looking fireplace.  The rocks they used are really interesting looking.  This is a fun place to hike.


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