Rocky Peak Trail

Rocky Peak Park in Simi Valley was one of my first hikes outside of the Santa Monica Mountains, way back in 2012.  On that day I started on Hummingbird Trail and never actually made it to the peak.  I returned on this day, starting right off the 118 Freeway on Rocky Peak Trail, and this time made it to the summit.  Overall, an enjoyable day.

Directions: From the 118 Fwy heading west, exit on Rocky Peak Road.  Turn right at the crest in the road across from the overpass.  The parking lot and trailhead are mere feet away.  If you are traveling east on the 118, there is no off ramp.  You must exit on Kuehner Dr., go right (south) to Santa Susana Pass Rd.  Follow the road left and make your way to the overpass.  Cross over and park in the lot, which can handle about seven or eight cars.

1     2   Simi Valley was going to be hot on my hike day, and that’s why I chose it.  I wanted to try out a few new hot weather hiking strategies.  The biggest test would involve my new trekking umbrella, a hands free version that attaches to my pack’s hip belt and harness straps.  The umbrella is not exactly small and compact, and is pretty much the size of a regular, full-size umbrella.

3     4   The weather forecast for Simi Valley had a high of 91 degrees.  I geared up at around 6:15 a.m. and strapped on my new umbrella.  I wore a short-sleeved shirt and no hat.

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I ascended the fire road on a moderate grade.  There was the smell of smoke in the air, blown in from the wildfires burning to the east.  Although not close enough to be a threat, that smoky odor always makes me nervous.  Photo 2 – In a saddle across the freeway, I spotted what I believe to be Sage Ranch Park.  I remember looking through that gap over to Rocky Peak when I hiked there awhile back.

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A small cave off the trail.  This area is a rock lover’s dream, with a billion boulders and a handful of caves to explore.  I immediately began to realize some of the limitations to my new umbrella, such as not being able to crouch down and explore the cave.  There were other things too, some I hadn’t really considered.  The canopy stuck out and I was concerned I would hit someone or someone would run into it.  It dragged a bit in the breeze.  Also, in life and on the trail, I like to blend in to my environment, not stand out.  Carrying a silver umbrella on the trail makes one stand out big time.

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13   And the one thing about the umbrella that I found most frustrating was that it didn’t always keep the Sun off of me.  I was hiking south to north with the Sun rising to in the east, so I set the umbrella to block the sun coming in on my right.  But the trail sometimes swings back and heads east, directly into the Sun.  Whereas I would normally just dip my head and be protected by the brim of my hat, I couldn’t really dip my whole body to properly position the umbrella.  I had to unclip it from my harness and basically point it right at the Sun while still holding my hiking pole.

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In less than a mile I reached the junction with Hummingbird Trail, coming in from the west. I continued straight on Rocky Peak Trail.  Photo 4 – It was pretty hazy/smoky today. Kind of gross down there.

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Rocky Peak came into view.  It’s the pile of rocks on top of the ridge to the far right.

20     21   Photo 1 – I spotted Hummingbird Ranch below – a place for weddings and other such events.  Photo 2 – Looks like a snake had slithered across the trail sometime earlier.

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I kept climbing up the fire road which goes up the side of the mountain.  At the crest in the road there is a wide trail which breaks to the right.  This is the trail to Rocky Peak.  Rocky Peak stands 0.4 miles away.  This trail is rougher than the fire road and involves a bit of easy scrambling.  I climbed atop one of the rock piles on the way to the peak to get a look.

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28   The entire Santa Monica Mountains Range is visible, from Point Mugu to Griffith Park.  Just beyond Point Mugu, some of the Channel Islands can also be seen.  The big one is Santa Cruz.

29     30   I continued winding my way toward the peak.  I stowed my umbrella here as I knew some scrambling lay ahead.  There is a shorter peak right before Rocky Peak.  I scrambled to the top but there’s no need.  An easier way is to follow the trail to the right which goes around.

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33   While one may circumvent the shorter peak, I would suggest exploring it as it has the best boulders, better than the ones on Rocky Peak.

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Rocky Peak from the shorter peak.

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38     40   I came to a point where it didn’t seem I could go forward because of a short drop.  I could see the trail I spoke of earlier on the right.  I made my way down a short but steep and slippery hill to get to it.

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45   The last bit up to the peak was another scramble.  Fortunately the rocks are sandstone which has a rough and tacky feel – good grip for both hands and feet.  The climb to the top is steep but easy enough.  Photo 4 – I found myself at another pile of boulders.  I peered over the side to make sure there wasn’t another peak behind this one.  Nope – this is Rocky Peak.  I’ve photographed this peak from so many places, it was great to finally be standing on top.

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I stood atop the highest rock and spun around 360 degrees.  To the north is Oat Mountain with it’s orb-shaped antenna.

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Looking south and southwest, I was in awe of the boulder fields that make up Rocky Peak Park.

52     53   Birds, Turkey Vultures I believe, flew high above.

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Coming back from Rocky Peak, I decided to take that trail which goes around the shorter peak, but somehow found myself heading down the side of the hill.  There are a few trails which lead from the foot of the hill directly up to the peak, in case you don’t want to climb to the crest on the fire road.  Photo 2 – Looking back up, in this picture, I came down to the left of the rocks on the left, and Rocky Peak is on the right.

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Where the trail reconnects with the fire road, I met another hiker.  We had a nice conversation for the next mile or so until we reached the junction between Rocky Peak Trail and Hummingbird Trail.  Such a thing is quite unusual for me, to have any kind of extended conversation on the trail.  I decided, because the weather seemed more pleasant than forecast, to head over to cave I knew off of Hummingbird Trail.

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63   After reaching the top of Rocky Peak, I never bothered to re-open my umbrella.  At that point it seemed like more trouble then it was worth.  But about a half mile into Hummingbird Trail I began to feel shaky – too hot and a bit queasy.  I put the umbrella back on.

62   For years now I have passed this giant smiley face stomped into the grass above the 118 Fwy.  I always wanted to pull over and get a photo but there didn’t seem to be a safe place. Today, I finally got that photo, from high above on Hummingbird Trail.

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66   At last I reached the cave.  It took longer to get there than I thought it would, over a mile.  I was not feeling great at this point.  I sat down and rested.  This has to be the best cave around.  It’s shady but not dark, it has a natural bench at the back, and it’s very clean – no spiders, no garbage, no one has used it for a toilet.  Once inside there is plenty of headroom.  I went into emergency cool down mode.  I poured cool water over my head, drank ice cold coconut water, and ate my lunch.  Still, it was only about 11:30 a.m. and I knew the day was only going to get hotter.  I also had to travel mostly uphill back to Rocky Peak Trail.

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The walls are decorated with these fantastic, eroded honeycomb shapes.  How beautiful.

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On the return trip I immediately put my umbrella back in use.   With the Sun shining directly overhead I was able to keep my umbrella almost straight up and down by using a carabiner to clip it to my pack’s sternum strap.  Being in the shade sans my hat, I cannot overstate how dramatic the difference felt.  By the time I got back to Rocky Peak Trail I felt much better, despite the rising temperatures.  In hot weather like this, using an umbrella could literally save your life.  It works best when needed most, during the hottest time of day.  I ended my hike as a big believer.  Do your own research: EuroSchirm Swing Handsfree Umbrella

71   This was a fun but tough day.  I was glad to get back to Simi Valley after more than a year away.

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