Archive for the ‘Hiking with dogs’ Category

Another Orange County hike: West Ridge Trail to Top of the World

May 25, 2021

Name: West Ridge Trail to Top of the World

Length: 5 miles out and back

Exposure: Sunny, minimal shade

Scenery: Seasonal wildflowers, panoramic views of the ocean and urban sprawl

Traffic: Expect lots of mountain bikers and people on weekends. Weekdays are generally quiet.

Three time’s the charm. It took three visits and three different starting points to understand the allure of the trails at Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. The first time I hiked the Aliso Summit Trail and parked in a residential neighborhood off Highlands Avenue. It was pleasant and dog-friendly with great ocean vistas, but more of an urban walk than a real hike. The second time I parked at the fee lot off Awma Road and took Aliso Creek trail up to Mathis Canyon. The flat part of the trail was too long, in my opinion, and looking up at the cliffside beige cookie-cutter homes was uninspiring. Also, no dogs are allowed in this part of the park and rangers are strict about enforcing it.

The view from Top of the World.

The third time, we parked at Canyon View Park. Its manicured green lawn and paved walkway quickly gives way to wilderness, or at least the feeling that you’re in the middle of it. I hiked half a mile up the Lynx Trail to West Ridge and followed it to Top of the World for a moderate five-mile roundtrip hike.

If you have a dog, you can take the surface streets from the park to Hollyleaf Road and access West Ridge Trail that way. Leashed dogs are allowed on West Ridge Trail, but not on the steep trails that connect to it or pretty much anywhere else within Aliso and Wood Canyons.

Canyon View Park — this path leads to a network of wilderness trails.

Kenter Fire Road: Better than Runyon

May 7, 2021

Kenter was one of my go-to hikes in 2020. Popular trails like Runyon and Eaton Canyon were overrun with newbies looking to get out of their homes, and I avoided them like the plague (sorry). Kenter, not far off the 405 and Sunset Boulevard, was never crowded, and the wide fire road allowed for easy social distancing. I saw more dogs than people on this hike, and the city-to-ocean views are unforgettable.

Length: 2-4 miles round trip.

Exposure: No shade on the trail.

Scenery: Chaparral hillsides, sweeping views take in the Getty, much of west L.A. and the ocean.

Traffic: Quiet on weekdays.

The good: It’s a good cardio workout in a short amount of time. If you live or work in west L.A., you can be in and out in as little as two hours. And soak up some incredible views at the same time.

The bad: Lots of abandoned dog poop bags sitting on the side of the trail, despite several trash cans near the trailhead. You also never feel fully immersed in nature; views of Brentwood mansions and the distant buzz of leafblowers are part of the experience.

The surprising: A hilltop with a bench and a big shade tree with a rope swing. Worth the short uphill detour.

FYI: This trail is popular with professional dog walkers. I have seen some walking with as many as 10 dogs. Also, there seems to be an unofficial off-leash policy, though most of the dogs I’ve encountered have been well-behaved and stick close to their owners.

Street parking is available, but heed the signs and expect lots of big trucks and construction activity on weekdays. The roads in the area are narrow and winding.

O’Melveny Park: Griffith Park without the tourists

May 3, 2021

I am ashamed to admit that until recently I had never even heard of O’Melveny Park in Granada Hills, let alone hiked its trails. It is L.A.’s second largest park behind Griffith, its flashier, better-known neighbor to the south. There’s no observatory at O’Melveny, but there are groves of lemon trees, fewer crowds and sweeping views that will take your breath away on a clear day.

Name: Top of O’Melveny

Length: 4 miles, moderate with bursts of steep elevation gain

Exposure: Sunny, minimal shade

Scenery: Sweeping views of San Fernando and Simi Valleys and the Santa Susana Mountains.

Traffic: Busy on weekends, though crowds thin out after the first mile. The lot fills up quickly, but there is plenty of free street parking.

Comments: There are very few signs marking the backcountry trails. It’s hard to get lost, but it’s worth studying a map before you go if you have a specific destination like Mission Point in mind. I followed the main path right through a picnic area then turned left when it ended and headed uphill.

Tip: Try to time your hike for a cool, overcast day, especially if you bring dogs; this trail would be tough to stomach in the summer heat.

Surprise discovery: A fragrant grove of citrus (mostly grapefruit) trees on the main path leading to the trails. There is a sad, faded sign at a kiosk advertising a u-pick event from a few years ago, but one gets the sense that those organized events are a thing of the past. Signs around the grove warn visitors not to pick the fruit.

Welcome to my travel blog (redux)

February 26, 2008

When I moved to southern California twenty years ago, I would get giddy with anticipation every time I read the calendar sections of the L.A. Times and L.A. Weekly. There were so many things to do — you could hike up a mountain in the middle of Hollywood, then go and hear Dennis Hopper introduce a screening of “Rebel Without a Cause,” then find yourself eating vegan meatloaf next to Madonna at a place owned by the guy who created Rugrats. I’d  hyperventilate just thinking about it all. But a 10-to-7 job and a newcomer’s fear of 20-lane freeways kept me from doing justice to all there was to offer. Then I got friendly with my Thomas Guide, wrote lots of travel stories for Sunset Magazine and the Washington Post, had a baby, and published two hiking guides to Southern California.

Now that baby is a teenager and prefers mountain biking to hiking. He also has a dog and a brother. The dog joins me for hikes more than the kids do these days, and the pandemic has changed the way we all do pretty much everything. My posts going forward will reflect that, so expect more challenging hikes in more isolated places as I find myself with more time and inclination to avoid crowds and climb mountains.

Thanks, as always, for dropping by…