Getting away from civilization and into nature can heal the soul, sharpen the senses and revitalize the body.

Written by SYLVIE BELMOND Trails listing compiled by ERIN NEWMAN Map illustrations by WEST MAÄTITA

Whether you live in Calabasas, the Conejo Valley, Camarillo, Moorpark or Simi Valley, you are within reach of a wealth of hiking trails that can bring you closer to the healing powers of the great outdoors.

onTheTrail

Photo by David McMartin – A trail winds through a field of wild mustard leading to Boney Mountain.

 

Trails allow city dwellers to stretch their physical and spiritual limits while exploring new surroundings. The anticipation of discovering what lies beyond the next ridge, zigzagging up and down steep and narrow switchback trails, and leisurely strolling through grasslands dotted with oak groves are all part of the adventure.

Photo by JULIEN BELMOND Sunlight gleaming through a majestic oak tree makes a morning hike magical.

Photo by JULIEN BELMOND
Sunlight gleaming through a majestic oak tree makes a morning hike magical.

The terrain and destinations are as varied as the people who visit the parklands to get away from it all. One trail may wind through a grove of redwoods in Malibu Creek State Park while another takes you to soothing and refreshing waterfalls in Solstice Canyon or Wildwood Park. Still others lead to eye-catching rock formations overlooking Simi Valley, Newbury Park and Malibu. The songs of wild birds and occasional deer and coyote sightings make the outdoor experience even more special.

“What I like about all of the local trails are the spectacular views—the ocean, the mountains, the valleys. The terrain varies. At times you are in lush greenery and other times seemingly desert conditions,” says Andrea Roschke of Oak Park.

Roschke, who hikes every Sunday morning with a group of friends called Uphill Moms, says her three favorite hiking spots are Sandstone Peak at Circle X Ranch, Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks and China Flat, a six-mile loop trail between Oak Park and Simi Valley.

“I enjoy hiking so much because I am getting exercise, having amazing conversations with my good friends and drinking in the sights. It clears my head after working crazy hours all week, and fills my heart and soul. It gives me perspective,” says Roschke, who owns a tax and accounting firm in Calabasas. “It’s definitely a healing experience, and starts my week off right.”

With hundreds of miles of walking, cycling and equestrian paths, the Santa Monica Mountains and Ventura County backcountry are a magnet for nature lovers.

The trails offer many kinds of recreational opportunities. People can do intense hikes or mountain biking for exercise or go on an inexpensive family outing to get away from technology.

Hiking is a great way to get a workout and, because the scenery can be so captivating, you may not even feel you’re working hard. The local trails provide fabulous picnic spots and are a good way to get away from it all on a romantic date.
About 33 million visitors come to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area each year.

“The most common thing people say about hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains is how special it is to be able to fully immerse yourself in the outdoors while living near the second-largest metropolitan area in the nation,” says Kate Kuykendall, spokesperson for the recreation area, which is part of the National Park System.

Hikers walk with their dogs (on leash) on a trail near the Satwiwa Culture  Center in Newbury Park on a sunny spring day.

Hikers walk with their dogs (on leash) on a trail near the Satwiwa Culture Center in Newbury Park on a sunny spring day.

Roschke, who hikes every Sunday morning with a group of friends called Uphill Moms, says her three favorite hiking spots are Sandstone Peak at Circle X Ranch, Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks and China Flat, a six-mile loop trail between Oak Park and Simi Valley. “I enjoy hiking so much because I am getting exercise, having amazing conversations with my good friends and drinking in the sights. It clears my head after working crazy hours all week, and fills my heart and soul. It gives me perspective,” says Roschke, who owns a tax and accounting firm in Calabasas. “It’s definitely a healing experience, and starts my week off right.”

With hundreds of miles of walking, cycling and equestrian paths, the Santa Monica Mountains and Ventura County backcountry are a magnet for nature lovers.

A deer runs  freely through the Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve, also known as Ahmanson Ranch.

Photo by MICHAEL COONS A deer runs freely through the Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve, also known as Ahmanson Ranch.

The trails offer many kinds of recreational opportunities. People can do intense hikes or mountain biking
for exercise or go on an inexpensive family outing to get away from technology.

Hiking is a great way to get a workout and, because the scenery can be so captivating, you may not even feel you’re working hard. The local trails provide fabulous picnic spots and are a good way to get away from it all on a romantic date.
About 33 million visitors come to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area each year.

“The most common thing people say about hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains is how special it is to be able to fully immerse yourself in the outdoors while living near the second-largest metropolitan area in the nation,” says Kate Kuykendall, spokesperson for the recreation area, which is part of the National Park System.

Bonnie Clarfield, a supervisory ranger with the National Park Service, says open spaces are a sanctuary for the weary.

“If you’re stressed out, it’s almost like getting rebooted when you’re out there.”

Backbone Trail and malibu Creek

Photo by DAVID McMARTIN and Photo by JULIEN BELMOND

Clarfield, an avid birder and hiker, urges trail users to stay on marked paths and keep dogs on a leash to protect sensitive habitat and wildlife.

“We have an incredible ecosystem, and we’re in a very special zone with diverse plants and animals,” says the park ranger, who has been working to protect park visitors and natural resources for 25 years. One of her favorite hiking spots is the Mishe Mokwa loop trail at Circle X Ranch. The five-mile trail meanders through chaparral and riparian habitat as well as rocky areas, and hikers can climb to the top of Sandstone Peak, the highest mountain between Malibu and the Conejo Valley.

“The flavor of the trails, especially the popular ones, is different on weekdays than on weekends and holidays,”Clarfield says. Places like Malibu Creek State Park and Solstice Canyon are relatively quiet during the week.

The region also has fun, little-known trails, like a half-mile forested path in Peter Strauss Ranch near Kanan Road and a two-mile loop at Arroyo Sequit off of Mulholland Highway above Leo Carrillo State Park.

Geoff Kish of Moorpark says one of his favorite spots is Mugu Peak because the five-mile trek offers a panoramic view of the ocean and a grassland valley with “amazing” changes of topography.

“That’s the place more than anywhere else that made me feel this is truly a beautiful natural area,”

says Kish, a deputy director of the Santa Monica Mountains Fund, which supports resource protection and educational programs within the recreation area.

“Something about the scenery, native vegetation and wildlife—whether seen or unseen—simply makes one feel good, both physically and psychologically,”

says Ann Tucker of Moorpark, who with Paul Smith leads hikes for the Moorpark Active Adult Center and the Conejo Recreation and Park District outdoor unit.

“Our intent is to encourage walking, hiking and appreciation of our outdoor resources,” Tucker says. In Moorpark, the Serenata and Monte Vista trails offer easy access for casual hikers who want to enjoy “a touch of nature in an urban surround.”
For more daring hikers, Happy Camp Canyon Regional Park, with 12 miles of trails in a 3,000-acre open grassland and forested wilderness, offers a total escape, according to Tucker.

Photo by JULIEN BELMOND Unobstructed ocean views await the ambitious hiker who follows this trail off Pacific Coast Highway, just west of Sycamore Cove State Beach.

Photo by JULIEN BELMOND
Unobstructed ocean views await the ambitious hiker who follows this trail off Pacific Coast Highway, just west of Sycamore Cove State Beach.

Among her other favorite locations are Cheeseboro/Palo ComadoCanyon, Ahmanson Ranch, Oak Canyon Park, Wildwood Park, the Chumash Trail and Corriganville Park, the latter a two-mile out-and-back trail good for all skill levels.

Boney Mountain, Sycamore Canyon, Potrero Ridge and Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa open space in Newbury Park also have trails that provide many great opportunities for a quick neighborhood hike.
Further east, mountains separating east and west Calabasas have a large network of switchback paths within walking distance of thousands of homes.
The 4.5-mile round trip Cold Creek trail off Mulholland Highway, which ascends 750 feet to the summit of Calabasas Peak, has sweeping views. Adventurous hikers will enjoy the 65-mile Backbone Trail that spans peaks and valleys in the heart of the Santa Monica Mountains.
Generally, dogs are allowed on leashes throughout the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and in city and county open spaces, but not in state parks.
Whether you are looking for a serious workout or a casual stroll through nature, there are dozens of ways to lose yourself, or find yourself, on the trails near home.

For those who want more

We can only list a few of the dozens of great hikes in our region. For more details on these and other hikes, check out these sites:
www.localhikes.com
www.nps.gov/samo
www.scout.me
 www.cosf.org
www.venturacountytrails.org
Malibuhiking.com
www.calihike.blogspot.com

To make contact with other hikers in your area, check out the meetup groups in your area at www.meetup.com.

Agoura Hills:  www.meetup.com/The-Weekday-Trailblazers/
Calabasas:  www.meetup.com/calabasasdayhikers/
Newbury Park:  www.meetup.com/Hike-to-Health/
Simi Valley:  www.meetup.com/Simi-Trail-Blazers
Thousand Oaks:  www.meetup.com/TOaks-Hikers/

Photo by RICHARD GILLARD Newbury Park resident Kanan Ivarsson, 7, enjoys the warm weather by leading his family on a hike from the Satwiwa Cultural Center in Newbury Park on Sunday, February 26.

Photo by RICHARD GILLARD
Newbury Park resident Kanan Ivarsson, 7, enjoys the warm weather by leading his family on a hike from the Satwiwa Cultural Center in Newbury Park on Sunday, February 26.

NP TO map

 1 Lake Eleanor Open Space, Westlake Village

2.5 miles, easy

This trail is relatively flat and somewhat rocky, but worth traversing for the lovely views of Lake Eleanor and Lake Sherwood plus wildflowers in the spring.

Trailhead: At the end of Highgate Road off Triunfo Canyon Road.

 2 Lang Ranch and Woodridge Open Space System, Thousand Oaks

10 miles of trails, easy to strenuous

Well-maintained trails and panoramic views are yours in northeast T.O.’s open space. Those up for a big hike can connect to Simi Valley and Agoura Hills from this system.

Trailhead: The east end of Lang Ranch Parkway.

 3  Los Robles Trail and Open Space System, Conejo Valley

25 miles of trails, easy to strenuous

This ridgeline trail system spanning from Newbury Park to Westlake Village has many ascents and descents for a good workout.

Trailhead: Many access points, but a popular one is at the south end of Moorpark Road in Thousand Oaks.


 4  Potrero Ridge Open Space, Newbury Park

200 acres of open space, easy to moderate

Several short, hilly trails with multiple access points provide quick hikes near the Las Brisas area of Newbury Park.

Trailhead: There are many starting points. One with paved parking is on the west side of Wendy Drive between Peppermint and Felton streets.

 5  Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa

trail system, Newbury Park 13 miles of various trails and loops, easy to strenuous

Rolling hills, a Native American culture center, plus views of (or a hike to) Boney Mountain on a trail to the ocean provide something for everyone.

Trailhead: Wendy Drive at Potrero Road.

 6  Wildwood Regional Park, Thousand Oaks

14 trails covering 17 miles, easy to strenuous

Miles of open space with rolling meadows, volcanic outcroppings and two waterfalls offer hiking adventures for all levels.

Trailhead: At the west end of Avenida de Los Arboles off of Lynn Road.

 

Agoura - map

 

 1 Cheeseboro Canyon/Palo Comado Trails, Agoura Hills

14 miles, easy to strenuous

Follow an old ranch road along a streambed and through oak groves. From there, trails of all levels branch off. A great area to watch for owls, hawks and other raptors.

Trailhead: Chesebro and Palo Comado Canyon roads.

 2 China Flat/Simi Peak, Oak Park

6 miles, moderate to strenuous

A steep ascent eventually takes you to China Flat, a lovely area with sprawling meadows dotted with oak tree groves and then to Simi Peak, the highest point in the Simi Hills.

Trailhead: Go north on Lindero Canyon Road and park at the China Flat trailhead sign on the left between King James Court and Wembly Avenue.

 3  Cold Creek Trail, Calabasas

4.5 miles, moderate

Also known as the Secret Trail, this hike offers panoramic views and up-close looks at sandstone slabs, boulders and caves.

Trailhead: 24270 Mulholland Highway.

 4  Malibu Creek State Park, Calabasas

15 miles of trails, easy to moderate

This 7,000-acre state park is most famous as the home of the outdoor set of television’s “M*A* S*H,” but this gem has more to offer with scenery befitting its nickname, “The Yosemite of Southern California.” The redwood grove is a special treat.

Trailhead: 1925 Las Virgenes Road

5Oak Canyon Park, Oak Park

 1.6 miles, easy

Newbie hikers and young families will feel secure in this nature preserve. The trail loops through oak forests and over Medea Creek and a pond features a manmade waterfall.

Trailhead: 5600 Hollytree Drive.

6Paramount Ranch, Agoura Hills 1.5 miles, easy

This filming ranch, where many movies and TV series have been shot, is open to visitors and makes a great family outing with a maze of trails that branch out from the Western town.

Trailhead: 2903 Cornell Road.

7Peter Strauss Ranch, Agoura Hills

1 mile, easy to moderate

This scenic ranch includes the original ranch house and remnants of a pool and dance floor, plus plenty of trees and a lovely lawn for a relaxing picnic-style mini-hike.

Trailhead: 30000 Mulholland Highway at Troutdale Drive.

8Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve, Calabasas

11.2 miles of trails, easy with some moderate climbs

More commonly known as Ahmanson Ranch, this area was saved from development in 2003. Now the rolling hills dotted with oak trees provide an easy and scenic hiking area.

Trailhead: North end of Las Virgenes Road. 

 

map - MP Simi Valley

 

 1 Big Sky Trail, Simi Valley

4.5 mile loop, easy to moderate

This convenient hike in the Santa Susana mountain foothills intertwines with a housing development and parallels a streambed. Great for kids or those who want to stay near civilization.

Trailhead: North of the 118 on Erringer Road. Look for a small parking lot on your right across from the fire station.

 2 Canyon View Trail, Simi Valley

2.3 miles, easy to moderate

Once home to Chumash Indians and later ranchers, this area offers rolling grasslands and abundant wildlife and is a gateway to connecting trails in Thousand Oaks.

Trailhead: On Long Canyon Road a few hundred feet east of Wood Ranch Parkway.

 3 Chumash Trail, Simi Valley

2.5 miles, moderate

A perfect trail for a morning jaunt into the hills. It also connects to more strenuous and lengthy trails if you want to take it up a notch.

Trailhead: At the end of Flanagan Drive off the Yosemite Avenue freeway exit.

 4 Corriganville Park, Simi Valley

4 miles, easy

One of Simi’s gems, Corriganville features old movie sets nestled in oak groves and rock cliffs. A great hike for kids.

Trailhead: Turn east on Smith Road from Kuehner Drive.

 5 Happy Camp Canyon Regional Park, Moorpark

12 miles of trails, easy to moderate

Open riparian oak woodland vegetation provides a lovely outdoor experience that can include wildflowers and wildlife.

Trailhead: Take Moorpark Avenue to Broadway Avenue.

 6 Monte Vista Nature Park, Moorpark

5 acres of open space, easy

Perfect for those who want a little more than an urban walk, this area provides easy trails in a parklike setting.

Trailhead: Spring Road near Tierra Rejada Road.

 7 Mt. McCoy Trail, Simi Valley

2.2 miles, moderate

Known for the cross at the top of the peak, which can be seen throughout Simi. Once at the summit, hikers are also rewarded with 360-degree views.

Trailhead: Washburn Street at Los Amigos Avenue in western Simi.

 8 Rocky Peak Trail, Simi Valley

10 miles, moderate to strenuous

Views of two valleys plus fascinating rock formations including a sandstone wind-made cave.

Trailhead: Exit at Rocky Peak from the 118 Freeway and park just north of the bridge.

 

LaJolla Wildflowers

 

Solstice Canyon Loop, Malibu

3 miles, easy

A family-friendly canyon walk by a creek under a variety of trees leads to fascinating ruins of a house.

Trailhead: Corral Canyon and Solstice Canyon Roads.

Mishe Mokwa Trail to Sandstone Peak, Malibu

6 miles, strenuous

If you’re looking for a great workout that pays off with views of the ocean, this Circle X Ranch Trail will fit the bill.

Trailhead: 12896 Yerba Buena Road.

Arroyo Sequit, Malibu

2 miles, easy

This lovely, peaceful loop is less populated than others in the Santa Monica Mountains, so hikers may enjoy the meadows, birds and seasonal waterfall without the crowds.

Trailhead: 34138 Mulholland Highway.

Mugu Peak, Malibu

5 miles, strenuous

You’ll have to work hard for these views. At the top you’ll have the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean before you; in the other direction, the incomparable Boney Mountain, one of the highest in the range.

Trailhead: Begin at the Ray Miller trailhead, two miles past Sycamore Campground on PCH.

Young brothers partner up while hiking on a warm spring day along a fire road in Ahmanson Ranch in Calabasas.

Young brothers partner up while hiking on a warm spring day along a fire road in Ahmanson Ranch in Calabasas.

 

Before you hit the trails

Photo by IRIS SMOOT

Staying safe while hiking is just a matter of doing some research and planning before setting out. Here are a few things to keep in mind: • Carry a map. Not all trailheads provide them, but park websites often have maps that can be printed and brought on the hike. •  Watch out for ticks, which can carry disease. • Rattlesnakes are native to the area. Pay attention to where you’re walking and give snakes a wide berth. • Avoid poison oak by staying on trails. • Bring enough water to stay hydrated. • Basic safety supplies to carry include a fully charged cellphone, a light jacket, a whistle and a signal mirror. •  Long pants and long-sleeved shirts provide protection from sun, poison oak and insect bites. Light colored clothing can make it easy to spot ticks. • Don’t hike alone; there’s safety in numbers. If you do go alone, let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to be back.