East Canyon Trail: Hiking in a War Zone

Always on the hunt for a new Los Angeles hike, discovered this one in LA Magazine’s Top 10 Hikes article from 2009. East Canyon Trail of the Santa Clarita Woodlands is a scenic moderate one and half hour climb with flowers abloom, Douglas Fir forests, mistletoe trees and gunshots sounding off in the distance.

Pros: Diverse scenery of plains, forests and oak trees, a hearty workout, and very unpopulated, unlike so many hikes in Los Angles. Keep your eyes peeled, Bambi and her mother like to spring across the trail. They are city deer no doubt as they simply stared with mild interest instead of bolting like a rural deer does. It’s also a romantic hike as the trail is dotted with mistletoe trees to stop and take a smooch break under.

Cons: It goes to nowhere special. Good views but no waterfall or relic to discover. The incessant gunshots from the Oak Tree Gun Club nearby are unsettling as well. Instead of disconnecting from civilization, the constant pop-pop-pop noise is an unpleasant reminder of humanity’s ignoble side as it feels like you’re in the middle of war zone.

East Canyon Trail location: Do not follow the Los Angeles Mag directions as it has you coming from the north on I-5? Assuming most are coming from Los Angeles, exit the Calgrove exit of the 5 and take a left, continue onto Old Road. Don’t park in the first parking lot that looks like a trail entrance. Continue on until you see the signs on the left for East Canyon Trail. Park roadside for free.

This is what you’ll find if you keep on the fire road till it ends in a gated private property. There is the Mission trail to the left, but can’t tell you where it leads.

Tips: Although tempting to veer off the tranquil trails from the main fire road trail as pictured below, don’t! I led my boyfriend and his niece on one that ended up in harrowing terrain, scrapes and getting lost. Thankfully, they forgave me for the misadventure with a hearty lunch at the In-and-Out located 2 miles north from the hike off the I-5 Newhall exit.

For more hikes in Los Angeles, Modern Hiker is a great, up-to-date resource.