These days, hiking enthusiasts in the L.A. area have access to more information than ever about where to find trails. Classic guidebooks such as the “Afoot and Afield” series and “Trails of the Angeles” are regularly updated to include new trips while mobile phone applications such as Map My Hike allow hikers to share data about trails with other users. Mapping websites such as Google Maps and Open Street Map show not only major and residential streets but also walking paths and hiking trails. Still, despite this bounty of hiking information resources, there are a few trails that remain by and large unknown. Some can be found in destinations that are popular for other reasons, such as the Castaic Lake Recreation Area, while others, such as the Western Plateau trails, have been only recently built by hard working volunteers and have not yet had a chance to establish themselves in the awareness of the hiking community. Hikers who feel as if they’ve seen it all and want to try new places, or who are looking for outdoor areas off the beaten path, will find plenty of ideas for destinations in this list.
Azusa River Wilderness Park
This short but enjoyable hike follows the original, abandoned San Gabriel Canyon Road, replaced by Highway 39. Though the sights and sounds of that road are never far away, this hike allows visitors to get a close-up view of the San Gabriel River.
Castaic Lake Trails
While it is well known as a boating destination, Castaic Lake also offers a variety of nice hiking trails. This challenging loop on the western side of the lake offers some great views of the northern San Gabriel Mountains and the Santa Clarita Valley.
This is a suburban hike that takes place largely on city streets and fire roads, but the payoff is a little-known, apparently unnamed (but easy to follow) single-track trail in the Angeles National Forest foothills, a stone’s throw from the San Fernando Valley. Even the fire roads required to reach it offer excellent views, at least on clear days.
Liberty Canyon to Morrison Ranch
While Cheseboro Canyon is a popular destination for west San Fernando Valley hikers, not many know about the “back door” entrance to the park. Starting at a trail head just off the 101 Freeway, this hike explores canyons, hillsides and meadows before reaching the historic Morrison Ranch, an abandoned farm that makes for an enjoyable day hike destination. Hikers can either polish off the 3.6 mile round trip described above or continue into Cheseboro Canyon and its extensive network of trails.
Luelf Pond Preserve
Pronounced “Loolf”, this tiny park on the outskirts of Ramona may be a bit of a drive for a 1.2-mile hike, but for those in the area, the preserve offers a perfect little getaway. A peaceful stroll under majestic oaks leads to a short climb to a ridge with some great views of inland San Diego County.
Mt. Emma/Old Mt. Emma
The Emmas have a small but loyal following among Angeles National Forest hikers, but have received relatively little recognition in print form, perhaps due to the damage sustained in the Station Fire. A steep and loose but easy to follow trail leads to Mt. Emma, where hikers can continue along a sharply rising and falling ridge to Old Mt. Emma and take in some views of the Antelope Valley and the northern San Gabriel slope.
Popular among Moreno Valley hikers but surprisingly little known throughout the rest of the Inland Empire, this short but steep hike offers views of San Gorgonio, San Jacinto, Old Saddleback and more.
Shelton Trail/Plunge Creek Loop
Another good I.E. hike is this scenic and challenging trip, consisting of single-track trails and city bridle paths. Though it dovetails against a residential area it also has a pleasantly rugged feel, thanks to steep ascents and descents and wide-ranging views of both the mountains and the inland valley.
Upper Zuma Ridge Motorway
Zuma Ridge Motorway crosses the heart of the western Santa Monicas. The northern end of this road can be done as a moderate day hike to Buzzard’s Roost, the highest point on the route, offering ocean and mountain views.
Some of the newest trails in the Thousand Oaks area can be explored on this loop. A highlight is Elliott Mountain, a spot which provides an excellent view of the Conejo Valley and the Ventura coastal plain. Named for local hiking enthusiast Burt Elliott, the peak and the newly made trail to reach it are testaments to the dedication that many feel when it comes to designating, valuing and preserving outdoor open spaces.