People all over the world know Vasquez Rocks because it’s been a featured location for decades in movies such as “Planet of the Apes” and “Blazing Saddles” and TV shows like “Westworld” and “Star Trek.”
But I’m always surprised by how few Los Angeles residents have seen the strange lunar landscape in person. This moderately demanding walk near Aqua Dulce Canyon Road and the Antelope Valley Freeway northeast of Santa Clarita makes a great introduction to the hideout of legendary California outlaw Tiburcio Vásquez and even includes a stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail.
1. Begin this walk at the Interpretive Center, off the main parking lot, by the entrance to Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park. Leave the parking lot the way you came in, turn left and follow a brown rail fence to find the beginning of the Nature-Heritage Trail.
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2. Notice as you go the signs naming the native plants and indicating various indigenous dwellings and pictographs. Stay straight on the the trail as it crosses the Horse Trail.
3. With the sharp rock outcroppings rising to your left, pass a yellow gate and walk across a wide dirt parking lot.
4. Pass another yellow gate and walk straight ahead, aiming for a tall pepper tree.
5. Bear left, just in front of the pepper tree, and pick up a marked section of the Pacific Crest Trail, the walking single track that spans the West Coast from Mexico to Canada.
6. Stay on the Pacific Coast Trail as it hugs close to the rocks and begins to climb. Notice signs for native plants like bladderpod, matchweed, buckwheat and Our Lord’s Candle.
7. As the trail narrows among some boulders, you will see signs saying you’re on the Geology Trail. When this hits the dirt road, turn right and return to the parking lot.
Distance: 2 miles
Difficulty: 3 on a scale of 1 to 5
Duration: 1 hour
Details: Bicycles and dogs on leash welcome. Free parking. Currently open daily 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Park closes at 5 p.m. starting Nov. 5, for the winter months.
Fleming is the author of “Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles” and “Secret Walks: A Walking Guide to the Hidden Trails of Los Angeles.” Each month, he leads a free walk at one of his favorite spots in Southern California. Find out more at his Facebook page, Secret Stairs. He can also be reached at email@example.com.
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