Parker Mesa
Peak 1,614ft P300
Peak 1,629ft
Castellammare Mesa
San Vicente Mountain
Peak 1,986ft P300
Briarcrest Peak P300
Briar Summit P300
CCC Ridge
Peak 4,751ft
Peak 4,724ft P300

Apr 3, 2018
Parker Mesa
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 5 GPXs: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Profiles: 1 2


Topanga State Park

Having spent the night in the vicinity of Malibu SP in the Santa Monica Mtns, I was up early and driving Las Virgenes Rd (aka Malibu Canyon Rd) south, hoping to avoid the morning rush hour. I was partially successful, but still found lots of folks driving this beautiful canyon road at speeds indicative of impatience, honed from years of driving this same stretch of asphalt with any appreciation of the surrounding scenery lost through years of familiarity. I pulled over a few times to let people pass and get on with the important work of holding up their pillar of the US economy. The fruits of this work are evident everywhere - lavish homes with amazing views are built up on the mountainsides, along the beaches and up in the exclusive canyons between Malibu and Santa Monica. One hopes their owners have the time to enjoy them.

I ended up at the Los Liones Canyon TH at the south end of Topanga State Park, near Will Rogers State Beach, west of Pacific Palisades. I was here to hike a couple of unnamed summits within the park, repeating a loop hike of Mike Sullivan's, gleaned from the PB website. There is ample parking (on a Tuesday morning, anyway) on the east side of Los Liones Dr across from the mormon church. I followed the loop in a counter-clockwise fashion, but in hindsight it would probably have been better in the other direction. The Los Liones Canyon Trail I went up is maintained and well-graded, whereas the descent from Parker Mesa Overlook was informal, unmaintained and eroding - better for going up than down. The lower part of the Los Liones Canyon Trail is surprisingly lush with heavy vegetation, grasses and a great variety of trees including many non-native species that have found their way into the various canyon forks. As one climbs higher, views begin to open towards the south to Castellammare Mesa and the Pacific Ocean, a nice viewbench located about half an hour's time up the trail. An hour and quarter's time saw me to the main junction between the two ridges of the loop I would travel. An outhouse, trash and recycling bins are conveniently located here, though I noted a high amount of discarded toilet paper along my ascent route - when you gotta go, you gotta go - of course it's a personal choice to leave the paper in the trail for the rest of us to enjoy...

Just above the junction to the north is Peak 1,614ft, my first stop. An old firebreak provides a useful trail to gain access to the top without the need for bushwhacking. Views from the top are somewhat limited due to surrounding brush and the summit's flattish topography. I continued west off the old firebreak to return to the main trail, then continued north for another half hour to the higher Peak 1,629ft which I found to be a better summit with more open views. There is a final steep climb up an eroding use trail that makes it fairly easy to reach the top, again no bushwhacking involved. Here one can look west into Topanga Canyon, a main artery between the San Fernando Valley and the Pacific Coast. The main trail, really a wide dirt road, continues north for many miles up to Mulholland Drive and the crest of the Santa Monica Mtns, but it was at Peak 1,614ft that I turned to head back towards the coast. I went past the junction a second time, and then south to Parker Mesa Overlook (also called Parker Mesa Summit) where there are more viewbenches and really nice views overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was not hard to find the unsigned, informal trail descending from Parker Mesa Overlook back down to the Los Liones TH. I returned before 10:30a, the whole outing taking less than 3.5hrs.

After returning to the van, I paid a visit to the Castellammare Mesa and Parker Mesa highpoints. The former is located between two homes under the uneasy view of an open window on one house. The latter is found in another dense neighborhood, the highpoint having been bulldozed when the development was built. Mostly just drivebys, these two.

San Vicente Mtn / Peak 1,986ft

Some nightmarish driving through Santa Monica and on the 405 freeway got me to Mulholland Drive on the crest of the range. The western end of the pavement ends at the Upper Canyonback Trailhead where there is a gate to the dirt/gravel continuation of the road heading west. The gate is unlocked during the daytime up to San Vicente Mountain Park where there is a second gate, permanently locked, to the road continuing west along the crest. I drove the van up to this second gate and parked where a few other vehicles were found. San Vicente used to be the site of a Nike radar installation, now converted to a public park devoted to the Cold War site that once stood guard over the LA Basin, ready to repel attacks by Soviet bombers back in the 1950s and early 60s. The development of ICBMs rendered the entire Nike defense system obsolete, but it took several more decades before the site was decommissioned. I was here to hike to the summit of San Vicente, rather easy, and unnamed Peak 1,986ft about a mile to the south. There is a large observation platform that one can climb to up a set of steel stairs at San Vicente, taking in swell views of the The Big Wild, also called the Westridge-Canyonback Wilderness Park. It's not officially designated as Wilderness, but it gets treated as such (except that bikes are allowed), forming the largest parcel of land in the Santa Monica Mtns without pavement. San Vicente's highpoint, not counting the observation platform, is located just to the north behind a fenced area with a small telecom installation - nothing special to be found here. I then hiked the dirt road south to Peak 1,986ft, using the old firebreak above the road to reach the summit. Views west are into Sullivan Canyon, the center of the Big Wild. One can see large sycamores down in the canyon and I imagine the dirt road found there would make for another nice hike in favorable weather conditions. It was 12:30p by the time I returned to the van, having spent an hour on the 2mi+ hike with only modest gain.

Peak 1,570ft

I returned to the pavement of Mulholland Dr and headed east through the upscale neighborhoods of Beverly Glen in the eastern part of the range separating the San Fernando Valley from the LA Basin. I was after a couple of minor peaks, the first of these Peak 1,570ft. The summit area is entirely in private hands, though not inaccessible. There is a KCRW-FM antenna near the highpoint, other smaller telecom installations, and what looks like could be a hilltop mansion but is really some sort of run-down utility building that sees little use. Others have reported approaching from Briarcrest Rd to the south where there are several gates that may or may not be open. I chose to approach from the northeast off Skyline Dr which was surprisingly easy. The neighborhood is ungated and parking on the street is legal and ample. There are no fences or signs to keep one from simply climbing up the undeveloped hillside to the summit area. Some concrete drainage ditches are helpful at the top where it is steepest. Once at the top of the slope I walked around the north side of large building and then the outside of the fence around the FM antenna to reach the highpoint found at the west end of the summit area. There's not much to see here and the views were hazy, but there seemed little chance of being discovered on most of the route (there are a few homes within easy view while climbing the hillside, but what residents hang out in the yards of these high-end homes? I returned the same way and quietly left the neighborhood.

Briar Summit

Further east along Mulholland Dr (which seems to be loaded with open-air tour vans looking at homes of the rich & famous) can be found Briar Summit and the Open Space Park in which it lies. The land is owned by the LA DWP which maintains several large water tanks near the summit, but the area is open to the public on foot, except for the highest parts which are behind several fence lines. I parked to the southwest off Briar Summit Dr, just outside the locked gate. Signs here are friendly and inviting for public use. I walked the road up towards the summit, surprised to find the first two gates I encountered open and a third around the very top with a gaping hole. This allows easy access to the highpoint found at the end of a set of old stairs going to an obsolete installation with unobstructed views in all directions. A surprisingly nice find in a heavily developed area.

CCC Ridge

I spent about half an hour driving through more heavy traffic into Glendale where I decided to stop at a Starbucks for several hours to while away some time, avoiding the warmer hours of the day. As I was leaving, I noticed a poke bowl place next door and got an order to go which I iced in the cooler for my dinner later in the evening. I then headed up the Angeles Crest Hwy (SR2) to do a few easy peaks in the late afternoon.

This is a short, easy hike off SR2 in the San Gabriel Mtns around 3,000-foot elevation. I parked at the gated dirt road that runs down the ridgeline to a set of transmission towers less than a mile from the pavement. The highpoint is rather silly, created when the road was cut through the ridge. A bit of easy cross-country from the south leads to the non-descript highpoint with few redeeming qualities. After returning to the road, I continued south to check out the beehives found in a clearing. As luck would have it, the guy and his wife who've managed these bees for 40yrs came driving up. I tried to strike up a conversation about his bees but he was a bit abrupt and didn't seem to care much for me being around his bees. It didn't help that I had partially blocked his access to the gate (my apology seemed to be only grudgingly accepted).

Peak 4,751ft

With the peak found just west of Ladybug Canyon, I parked at a large clearing off SR2, about 1.5mi before Red Box Gap. The direct route up the east side, my first choice, was too brushy so I looked elsewhere. Good thing I did, because I found a decent use trail going up the SE Ridge, steep but easy as pie. There is a USDA benchmark at the summit and swell views of Mt. Lawlor to the east, Mt. Wilson to the southeast and Strawberry Peak to the north.

Peak 4,711ft (failed)

I next attempted to reach Peak 4,711ft on the south side of the highway, about a mile SW of Peak 4,751ft. This began well, starting on the Ladybug Rd/Trail which intersected the Gabrieleno Trail in about half a mile. Not knowing exactly where this was going, I started following it uphill. By the treads on the trail, it appears to be a popular downhill bike ride. The trail soon began climbing up and east, away from my peak and after consulting the GPSr, I gave up the enterprise - I was in no mood for a heavy bushwack late in the day and especially with so many active ticks. I'll wait for someone else to figure this one out first. I made a small loop of the route and then went back to the van.

Peak 4,724ft

Located a little more than two miles due east of Red Box Gap on the south side of the highway, Peak 4,724ft forms a small island overlooking the San Gabriel River to the south. I parked on the north side of the highway across from the connecting ridgeline to the peak. An old road goes up a short distance through the trees, then a use trail through buckthorn and manzanita can be followed along the ridgeline nearly to the summit. Just before reaching the West Ridge, some trees have fallen on the trail making a bit of a mess requiring some bushwhacking. The trail does not continue up the West Ridge, but the brush there isn't bad and no real bushwhacking is required to make it to the summit. It was after 6:30p by the time I reached the top, but I still managed to get back by sunset at 7p.

I found a very large turnout on the south side of the highway another mile up the road, overlooking Trail Fork. It was far enough from the road as to be almost unnoticeable and I enjoyed spending the night here. Despite the proximity to the LA Basin, the only lights I could see were a few up on Mt. Wilson, otherwise just miles and miles of the San Gabriel Mtns by moonlight. I showered and enjoyed my poke bowl while watching a few episodes of Game of Thrones. A good day...


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