13 January 2013

Temescal Canyon

Topanga State Park


Locate the trail head.

The Santa Monica Mountains are dotted with little tiny parks that tend to feed into the trail systems of the Santa Monica National Recreation Area and Topanga State Park. The HIKEtheGEEK crew decided to take a loop trail out of Temescal Gateway Park which promises ocean views and a little waterfall and to make it an animal themed thing. I quite like the Rustic Canyon hike that starts just a little way down the road, separated only by Rivas Canyon Park from this one, so decided to join up. There is a $7 fee for the lot at the trail, but there is a lot of parking on Temescal and Sunset as well as a number of entry points from other, smaller streets in the area. Running stop signs in the area comes with a $50 ticket from photo enforcement, which seems to be a common problem because someone took the time to mention it to me as I took a paper map from a kiosk. We gathered and started up along the paths next to the roadway, then turned left at the first junction to climb up onto the ridges and Topanga first.

the neighbors and Santa Catalina
A few of the houses down below the ridge and Catalina Island in the distance.


The trail was packed with people. There must be hundreds that stream along it each weekend. We climbed to views of the ocean. Catalina was easy to see. A little more climbing and the further out bulk of San Nicolas could be found on the horizon. We got a little overview of the housing next to Topanga State Park, too. After a little bit of views, we came upon the tunnel of chaparral, which has been left a bit lower than usual for extremely well maintained trails. The tunnel goes on for quite a while before opening up again to some more views.

tunnel of chaparral
Walking through the chaparral tunnel and a few hikers coming our way.

a look down the canyon
Once up hike enough, we can look down the canyon to the city beyond.

Baldy covered in white and LA city center
Baldy seems to have a bit of snow on it, not unexpected at this time of year. The main LA city center is an island of skyscrapers, also as usual.

bridge along narrow and weak saddle on the Backbone Trail just north of Will Rogers State Historic Park
There is a bit of a crowd out on the Backbone Trail as found just north of Will Rogers State Historic Park as well.

We enjoyed a stretch of trail with no people coming at us for nearly a quarter of a mile. We got to the junction for the trail going down to the waterfall and JZ took a left instead of a right. I fully supported her decision and started after her even as a few tried to point us down the other direction. We were going to Skull Rock! Whatever that is. JZ wouldn't be turned, so the others came along instead. It wasn't a lot more up before we found it.

an outcrop of sandstone
An outcrop of rock ahead. The bit on the left does resemble a skull looking out to the ocean.

I handed off my camera in a moment of insanity (because this can only lead to having photos of myself) to see if we could pose up on the skull, or at least on the rock near to and behind the skull. We found that getting to the top of the skull would require more than a quick scramble and headed out on the rock instead.

female geeks making their way up the trail
Stalling a moment along the short trek from good skull rock photography spot to the bit of dirt down around the rock.

female geeks up by the skull
Posing by the eye socket. The rock turned out to have a bit of a gap at the back as well as the drop on the front, so a few didn't feel the need to stand on it. The truth is, zebras are not good rock climbers.

We selected a different path down from the rock and back to the trail, then followed our route back to the junction. We followed the trail down into the canyon. Our barefoot hiker exclaimed that while the trail along the ridge had been wonderful, this section was a bit painful. The rocks are old river stones embedded in loose dirt. This might sound like a smooth arrangement of hard and soft areas that just don't conform to the shape of a foot, but it seems the rocks are very brittle and many of them had crumbled into a sharp gravel of all different sizes that eventually inspired the addition of shoes. Up on the far side of the canyon, I noticed what looks like a trail cut, but can't find anything mapped. The satellite does show some well used trail that follows a loop up on the ridges and then down Rivas Canyon at the end. When we got to the creek, we didn't find all that much water.

Temescal Canyon waterfall
The waterfall up Temescal Canyon with only a slight dribble of water. It seems these mountains are also thirsty.

With lamentations about the ability to play Pooh sticks, we crossed over the bridge and meandered down the canyon. The first part was still a little steep downhill, but it quickly mellowed out to a very gentle slope. The old river bed piled high all around us. The bottom was overgrown with raspberries. Occasional trails cut through the thorny mess down to water holes for early summer use.

rounded river rocks in old mud all the way up
An exposed ridge shows that the round river rocks in old mud were piled up quite high before the canyon cut its way through them.

zebras lead the way!
Our zebra leading the way for a small selection of the day's crowd that we shared the trail with. This section seems to have not so much raspberry in it.

As we hit the bottom of the canyon, we hit a piece of civilization. There are educational programs and other community outreach that go on down here. A picnic area was set up on a hill on one side utilizing picnic tables suitable for level ground. Up in the trees, we found a ropes course and the zebra who did not want to walk out on a wide balance beam of a rock was sad that she couldn't go up to the much higher and narrower wires and beams here.

ropes course in the trees
No amount of prancing will get a zebra up into that ropes course.

We found all sorts of buildings and parks vehicles on our way through the canyon. We found a wide field with a wooden flood control wall that tends to build up fill behind it making wide flat areas. This one is carefully maintained with grass for more picnicking. It looks like at this point we were supposed to cross the field to find the last section of trail, but we made our way down the road instead before being able to join the dirt paths by the side to finish the hike.




©2013 Valerie Norton
Posted 14 Jan 2013

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