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Wilderness Areas & Open Spaces in Santa Clarita

While the proper definition of most of the locations below would fall under "parks, open spaces, or forest" we are using the term "wilderness" to describe these remote areas. Federal legislation is actually required to designate an area as "wilderness." (Credit Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel)

Visit our Calendar of Events for ranger-led hikes and other events in our wilderness areas and parks.

In just a few moments, you can leave the stress of the urban lifestyle and be deep within what feels to be "the wilderness." (Technically considered "Open Spaces.") Please keep in mind that although the city may be a five-minute drive by car, the areas are home to our regional wildlife and should be treated with respect. Mountain lions, bear, rattlesnakes and other creatures may roam these areas freely. Bring plenty of water and use prudence when venturing out on your own.

Bird, wildflower, moonlight and morning hikes are offered through the Santa Monica Mountain Recreation and Conservation Authority at East, Rice and Towsley Canyons as well as The Placerita Nature Center. Additionally, The Placerita Nature Center offers family adventures including campfire programs, animal presentations, and an opportunity to volunteer at this beautiful natural area. And, the Angeles National Forest is right outside our back door, accessed off Bouquet Canyon Road in Saugus.

Please verify through the websites provided that the areas you plan to visit are open. Frequent wildfires may close sections of the forest.

Visit the Wildlife and Creepy Crawlies pages for an understanding of California's wildlife before heading out into the wilderness area.


Angeles National Forest
The first thing newbies to Southern California need to know is the term "forest" doesn't necessarily mean thick groves of large trees. The terrain of the forest closest to Santa Clarita is a mixture of desert plants and large trees, and varies as you progress through the area.

Note: The Saugus Ranger Station was destroyed on October 21, 2007 in the Buckweed Fire.

Fishing licenses to be used in other areas of the forest may be purchased here.

If you head up I-5 to Pyramid Lake you can go fishing, cruise around on your own kayak, boat or jet ski (no rentals available), or camp overnight. Admission is charged, so you do not need an Adventure Pass. Bear, mountain lion and rattlesnakes populate the area. The Vista de Lago Visitor's Center has reopened! Admission is free. Exit the "Vista del Lago" off-ramp from I-5 in either the north or southbound lanes.

Campfires are limited to the rings and pits provided, and are subject to moisture conditions. And here's a tip: if you bring in your own butane stove, you'll need to pick up a free permit at the ranger station. This provides them an opportunity to educate you from becoming the center of a wildfire.

Before heading into the San Gabriel Mountains, check out the Santa Clarita Valley Search and Rescue Team website. If you go to the Links page, there's no end to the info you can find out about trails, current conditions and interesting areas to explore.

Los Padres National Forest
About an hour and twenty minutes from Santa Clarita, there is an abundance of activity here. The charm of the area is that 'forest' can actually mean pine trees. Camping, hiking, fishing, four-wheeling, star gazing and even hunting are right here.


Pacific Crest Trail
The PCT can be accessed on the north end of the Santa Clarita Valley in Agua Dulce. Another helpful website is The Southern California Segment of the PCT.

Thanks to Agua Dulce resident and PCT expert, Donna Saufley, we have these detailed instructions for you to access the PCT.

A trailhead parking area was recently constructed by the California Trail Users Coalition ("CTUC") where the trail crosses Soledad Canyon Road--near the Robin's Nest RV/Recreation park. It then travels northward until it goes under Hwy 14 through a tunnel, and comes out in Vasquez Rocks County Park. It runs through the park, and while there is no trailhead per se, the trail can be accessed in the park.

It exits Vasquez Rocks and makes a left on Escondido Canyon Road (on the road), and then makes a right at the stop sign onto Agua Dulce Canyon Road. It stays on the road for approximately 2.25 miles, where it crosses Sierra Highway, and makes a left onto Mint Canyon Road. It follows Mint Canyon for only a very short distance, and then makes a right onto Petersen Road. Within about 50 yards, there is a dirt road leading up to the right, as you're facing north. The PCT proceeds up this dirt road, where it forks underneath the power lines (take the road that goes down from there, not up). The foot trail resumes about ¼ mile up. There are markers indicating where the trail makes the turn onto the dirt road, and where the foot trail begins again.

From there the trail meanders through Mint Canyon, climbs the Sierra Pelona ridge, and drops down onto Bouquet Canyon, where it crosses and continues to San Francisquito Canyon Road.


Beale's Cut
This rich part of Santa Clarita's history could be easily overlooked, as it is hidden in the hillside off of Sierra Hwy. Completed in 1864 by E.F. Beale, Surveyor-General of California and Nevada, the cut through the mountains made a trecherous trip far less dangerous at this stretch for stages, cowpokes, herds, freight trains and settlers. Completed by hand with Chinese labor, it became known as "Beale's Cut" and has been used in numerous Western films. See Hollywood's Backlot - SCV.


Mentryville/Pico Canyon
27201 Pico Canyon Road, Newhall
Directions: From the Golden State Freeway (I-5) in Valencia, exit on Lyons Road/ Pico Canyon Road. Head west on Pico Canyon Road. Near its end, bear left at a Y and continue to the end of the road. A large parking lot is opposite historic Mentryville.

Ed Davis Park in Towsley Canyon
24255 The Old Road, Newhall
From the Golden State (I-5) freeway in Santa Clarita, exit Calgrove Blvd. Turn west as Calgrove becomes the Old Road and head south 0.6 mile. The park is on the west side of the Old Road (before East & Rice Canyon). Parking is 0.5 mile from the park entrance. Parking in the bottom lot is free.

East & Rice Canyon
24255 The Old Road, Newhall
Directions to the trailhead: From the Golden State (I-5) freeway in Santa Clarita, exit Calgrove Blvd. Turn west as Calgrove becomes the Old Road and head south 0.9 mile to parking on the west side of the road. There is a parking fee in East Canyon's lot, or parking is free on the Old Road.

Michael D. Antonovich Open Space
23801 The Old Road, Newhall
Follow the directions to East & Rice Canyon. Enter the Antonovich Open Space through East Canyon.

The Newhall Pass
22945 Coltrane Avenue, Newhall
Directions: From I-5, take Calgrove west to The Old Road. Head south several miles to Weldon Canyon Road. Turn right over I-5 to Coltrane Avenue. Turn right. The gate is along Coltrane Avenue about 100 yards west of the Weldon Canyon Road bridge. Trailhead will be on the left.

Whitney Canyon Park
20303 Newhall Avenue, Santa Clarita
Golden State Fwy (Route 5) to CA-14 North to CA-126 exit. Turn right at Newhall Avenue. There is a fee for parking at the park, or park in the Park & Ride for free.


Devil's Punchbowl
28000 Devils Punchbowl Road, Pearblossom
Yes, this park is in Pearblossom, about an hour-and-twenty-minute drive from the Santa Clarita Valley, but it is well worth the mention. Once you get there, put your wallet away and enjoy free moonlight hikes, star gazing, and hikes along the San Andreas Fault. Archeological features include 8,000 foot peaks, a nature center at 4,740 feet, 300-foot deep canyon, and natural bridges. Look closely at the photo with the evergreen tree in the foreground; those are evergreen trees at the bottom of the bowl! (Flush toilets not available at Park. See St. Andrew's Abbey, below.)

St. Andrew's Abbey
Just up the road from the Devils Punchbowl is the peaceful and reflective Abbey. If you've called ahead, you are invited to join the monastic community for lunch (nominal fee). From sunrise to sunset, you are welcome to stop in and walk the peaceful grounds. Clean restroom facilities are available for your use.

Placerita Canyon Nature Center
19152 Placerita Canyon Rd, Newhall
Nature Center museum and educational displays, organized youth group camping, barbeques, live animals exhibits, shaded picnic tables, community room, equestrian and hiking trails, ranger/docent-led hikes. Monthly programs include moonlit hikes and campfires--complete with stories.

Vasquez Rocks Natural Area
10700 Escondido Canyon Rd, Agua Dulce
Spectacular rock formations and ranger led hikes on the weekends, barbeques, live animals exhibits, equestrian and hiking trails, ranger/docent-led hikes. Programs below are held in the cooler months; dates are for 2006. Call ahead to confirm. Meet at the park office. All programs are free, but note that inclement weather will cancel these programs.

Various programs are offered at the park, which may be viewed on our Calendar of Events . For "Star Parties" visit the Local Group's website.

Equestrian-friendly trails located throughout Santa Clarita Valley, some of which are owned by the City of Santa Clarita. Trails are open sunrise to sunset.

Central Park
New to hiking or just prefer to have "facilities" and people close by? This may be the place for you to get started within the City. There's a 3-mile trail within the park and connects Newhall Ranch Road to Central Park.

Elsmere Canyon
Remsen Street at Sierra Hwy
1200 acres adjacent to the Angeles National Forest, Whitney Canyon, and Placerita Canyon, the land was purchased in 2010 by the City of Santa Clarita. Once slated to be the world's largest landfill, it provides a beautiful recreation area and wildlife refuge for mule deer, coyote, badger, skunk, bobcat and gray fox.

Golden Valley Ranch
900 acres of woodland, a steep ascent, and several exceptional viewing areas

Haskell Canyon
526 acre canyon that was destined to be developed into 500 home sites, the City of Santa Clarita stepped in and purchased the land for public enjoyment.

Quigley Canyon
160 acres of canyon space nestled inside an equestrian friendly neighborhood.

For information on the parks of Santa Clarita Valley, follow the link above.

Updated January 25, 2017
Endorsed by
County of Los Angeles SCV Chamber of Commerce California Travel and Tourism Commission
In association with
SCV Tourism Bureau
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