Peak 1,981ft P300
Sand Rock Peak

Wed, Mar 15, 2017
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I had debated whether to head home the night before or wait until today and was glad I chose to postpone the drive. It gave me a chance to do a couple of interesting summits on the west side of Santa Clarita and Interstate 5 in the hills around Pico Canyon. I spent the night camped along Pico Canyon beyond the last suburban development and found it fairly quiet. Only a few cars came through during the night and none stopped to bother me.

Peak 1,981ft

This summit is the highpoint of the ridge separating Pico Canyon to the south from the Stevenson Ranch development to the north. There are some old fences along Pico Canyon Rd, but I found no signs indicating No Trespassing. Though the whole hike was less than a mile in length, reaching the summit is hardly trivial. The slopes are steep and sometimes loose, but a beautiful green during my March visit. I went up one route and down another, the descent route proving a good deal easier. On the ascent I reached the crest of the ridge to the west and then followed the ridge from there. The last hundred feet of gain is along a dangerously crumbly sandstone knife-edge which I cannot recommend. I dropped off the south side of this edge where I could and climbed easier slopes on the west side. Someone has secured a very thin line as an aid to come up the knife-edge, but it would hardly be sufficient in the case of a serious slip. From the summit one can look south over the Santa Susana Mtns and pick out Sand Rock Peak, a very distinctive feature in that direction. East and west you can view along the ridgeline while to the north are the neatly aligned cookie-cutter homes for which Santa Clarita is known. I took some time on the way down to marvel at the variety of flowers found on the grassy slopes I descended.

Sand Rock Peak

The summit is located in Mentryville Park at the end of Pico Canyon Rd. There is an entry fee to use the parking lot, though signs don't indicate this until you've driven the half mile into the park. There is parking just outside the park, enough for 6-8 vehicles and is a popular option (I saw no one actually park inside the park, but four other vehicles used the outside parking). Mentryville is the site of California's first successful commercial oil well in 1876. The park features restored buildings from the era including a barn and main house and seems to be well-kept. One can follow the dirt road up Pico Canyon for about a mile and a half to visit the old well sites, or to take in trails that continue for some miles across a collection of city and county parks in the area. My route to Sand Rock Peak would not go that far, instead taking the first bridge across the creek to a picnic area and the start of the Minne Lotta Trail. The trail is not long, only about half a mile in length, but runs along a picturesque side creek with lots of shade that would be most welcome in the warmer summer months. It leads to a picnic bench overlook about half a mile short of the summit. A use trail continues a short distance past the view spot, ending after a steep drop to the creek. There is some poison oak here along the creek and in the vicinity to watch out for, but not overwhelming. Where the trail ends I jumped across the creek to start up the very steep slope on the other side, all cross-country now. Though there is much brush, it is not hard to weave through it, sticking to animal tracks and avoiding any real bushwhacking. I eventually reached an old barbed-wire fenceline at a ridge, then turned right to follow the ridge up over one small bump to reach Sand Rock Peak. The easiest route drops off the ridge before reaching the summit, favoring the west side and Southwest Ridge. Despite its minimal prominence, the peak has a few summit rocks and nice views overlooking the Santa Susana Mtns and the Santa Clarita area. All in all, a well-worthwhile visit. I was done with the two peak just after 9a, having spent about 2hrs on the efforts and it was now time to drive back to San Jose...

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