Peak 3,700ft
Peak 3,636ft P300
Peak 3,791ft P300
Sleepy Valley BM P300
Peak 3,260ft
Peak 3,420ft P300
Peak 3,166ft P300
Peak 3,180ft

Mar 14, 2017
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 GPXs: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Profiles: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7


Patrick had left the evening before, leaving me to my own devices for a second full day in the Soledad Canyon area east of Santa Clarita in Southern California. I had spent the night sleeping along the Santa Clara River, now only a small creek after more than a week of no rain. I had found this quite little spot off Capra Rd where I thought it might be quiet when I first noticed it on Google Maps. What I failed to realize until I got there was the busy railroad tracks that also run through this canyon. I decided to simply deal with the trains that went by in the night, five or six all told, waking up each time before falling back to sleep again fairly quickly. Even with the horn blaring, it was less disturbing than headlights from vehicles which might belong to LEOs looking to find out what I was up to. Even in the fog of sleep I know the trains won't be stopping. I had come to this spot so I could use it to access an old road leading to Peak 3,700ft. It was one of two unnamed summits in this northwest corner of the San Gabriels that I wanted to reach today, made significantly easier by the fire that had swept over the entire region eight months earlier. I would do these two summits as the first and (near) last of the day over a span of 10 1/2 hours that would include a good deal of driving between the THs for the many summits I visited on the day.

Peak 3,700ft

This was the longest hike of the day at 3mi one-way, but not at all difficult. There is an old 4WD truck trail on the north side rising from the Santa Clara River to some mining sites near the summit. A fire road continues along the ridgeline to the summit and further to the summit of the higher Magic Mtn to the south. I was a little concerned that I might have some trouble getting across the river, but as mentioned already, I found it to be little more than a creek after an extended dry spell, and with the aid of a rock in the middle of the channel I was able to get over it quite easily. On the other side I found the old truck trail starting up, a few treads showing recent usage. These led to a long-locked gate and worsening conditions where the tracks quickly ended. It would have been difficult for even a motorcycle to continue up the eroded section of roadway. The poor conditions are mostly confined to the intial steep gradient climbing out of the river drainage; above, the road would actually be more driveable. Regardless, it proved exceedingly easy on foot, in no small part due to the July fire that had swept across the slopes and removed all the brush growing on the roadway. The topo map shows the road continuing on the ridgeline all the way to Magic Mtn, but that isn't really the case. The road appears to end before reaching Peak 3,700ft, forking with several spurs that look consistent with mining operations that used to be conducted in the area. An old fire road does continue from the truck trail and I used this to finish the route to Peak 3,700ft, arriving after an hour and quarter's effort. The peak has little to make it remarkable, but it does lie in the heart of the July 2016 Sand Fire and looks out over a very stark landscape. There appears to be very little regrowth 8 months later, even with all the rain that we've had this year. This is not to say all is lost, quite to the contrary - I have no doubt that the chaparral will recover nicely over the next few years to make this same hike a far more difficult undertaking. I found no register or cairn, not terribly surprising for a rather obscure, unnamed summit. My return was pretty much by the same route, save for a few shortcuts, taking an hour to get back to the van.

Peak 3,636ft

I next headed northeast along SR14 to Escondido Canyon Rd for a short hike to this unnamed summit. My starting point was based on info I got off PB for an approach from the northwest, about a mile roundtrip. While ownership is unclear, there are no fences or No Trespassing signs here to prohibit one. Though not part of the recent fire, the slope here is sufficiently open to make cross-country travel easy. It took about 15min to make the hike to the summit, aided in the last third by a dirt road coming up from the east. There is an upscale estate located in that direction, with a gate at Escondido Canyon Rd to prevent access via that all-road route.

Peak 3,791ft/Sleeping Valley BM/Peak 3,260ft

Next up was a trio of summits immediately north of the freeway from Peak 3,636ft. Landownership here is not clear as well, though it appears the area is openly used by equestrians and motorcyclists, probably local residents. Most of the land surrounding the three peaks is private, but I found an access point on the east side off Valley Sage Rd that utilizes an abandoned home that had been burned out some years earlier. A For Sale sign is found at the roadway, but I didn't find any No Trespassing signs, fences, or gate barring access. I followed a series of roads past the burned home, and up to the lower east summit of Peak 3,791ft, and from there to the higher middle summit. I then followed the undulating ridgeline west for another mile and a half to Sleepy Valley BM, dropping more than 300ft to a saddle about 1/3 of the way to the second peak. The benchmark I found was labeled "Sleepy Valley" rather than the expected "Windy" as one would guess from the topo map. I had originally planned to head back at this point, but noted another minor summit, Peak 3,260ft about a mile to the north on my GPSr. The intervening terrain appeared to be open without blocking private estates, so I decided to head off in that direction. The north side was without a road or trail for the first few hundred feet and mildly brushy, but I soon found a rough track heading down to the shallow canyon between the two summits. A steep track then led up to the top of the last summit. I enjoyed the views found there, overlooking the green Sierra Pelona Valley to the north, framed by the 5,000-foot ridge of Sierra Pelona behind it. On the return I used one of several trails going over the saddle between the first two peaks, then continuing southeast until I came upon Valley Sage Rd. There was a No Trespassing sign here, evidently I'd passed through a section of property whose owners didn't want me there, but not badly enough to put a fence around it. I walked the pavement uneventfully back to the van, arriving around 12:45p.

Peak 3,420ft

I next drove about 5mi east on SR14 to a small collection of hills between Acton and Soledad Canyons just south of the freeway. PB lists three summits in this circular pattern of hillocks, though oddly not the highpoint which does appear on LoJ, unnamed Peak 3,420ft. In the center of the hills is a mobile home community that allows no street parking. So I parked in front of the office near the pool and made a tour of the hills starting from there. Seemed all legal-like since there were no signs restricting these spaces to residents or visitors or such. The place is called Stallion Meadows Homeowners and all the streets have horse-related names, but there are no horses anywhere in the community and they probably have CC&Rs forbidding them. There is a trail system that runs around the periphery of the community and I saw several residents taking advantage of it for the fresh air. Informal side trails branch off at various points to climb to the higher, circular ring of hills surrounding it. I used on of these to climb first to the one on PB called "Sleeping Dog" where a few large rock piles are found (reportedly burial markers for dogs, thus the name), then to the highpoint at Peak 3,420ft, and around to the other two in succession, connected by a good trail from one to the next. I learned later that the oldest PB summit, Peak 3,408ft, was submitted by Laura Newman. She missed out on the other two which were submitted a few years later. Hah!

Peak 3,166ft

Back some miles to the west, just off Sierra Hwy, Peak 3,166ft is another easy summit. A mis-signed (a "Mint Canyon Rd" sign appears to be misplaced) dirt utility road can be found north of the summit that makes the 3/4mi ascent fairly tame. A little cross-country above the transmission tower leads to a use trail along the crest of the ridgeline leading to the highpoint with views overlooking the Agua Dulce community to the south.

Peak 3,180ft

This was the last of five peak in the Magic Mtn Wilderness that I wanted to visit before the chaparral grows back with a vengeance. It is located near the western edge of the Wilderness, a mile and a half from the encroaching development east of Sand Canyon Rd. Access is a little tricky and may not be entirely legal. It seems the Water Dept owns the land between the homes and the adjacent National Forest, restricting access to the forest lands. The Water Dept property appears to be used for flood control, funneling runnoff from the mountains away from the relatively new homes, with signs and fences to restrict public access. I had initially planned to start from the cul-de-sac at the end of Saddleback Rd, but the signs discouraged me. Instead, I used an access road to a water tank off Live Oak Springs Canyon Rd, that featured a No Trespassing sign but no fence to deal with. I walked up the road to the tank, then followed around the fenced water tank on a use trail that soon took me past the forest boundary, noted by a sign. Past this, I had to scramble up steep, untrailed & scorched slopes to reach easier ground 800ft higher. The last half of the hike was a stroll along easier ridgelines to reach the unmarked highpoint. The whole outing took a bit under 2hrs. A week later as I was writing this trip report, I noticed that Rich Wilson had climbed this three days after me and Julie Gregg, whose TRs I been using for many of the peaks in the area, two days after Rich. I'm not sure if that was purely coincidental or if there are folks stalking me. :-)

Uptopia Lookout

This is a mysterious PB-only summit located near the junction of Sand Canyon Rd and Placerita Canyon Rd. It was named by Patrick O'Neill upon his visit three years earlier, for the unusual security surrounding the adjacent Sable Ranch on the west side of the summit. He had imagined it was some sort of commune with strict rules and security but later concluded it was probably the fact that it is often used as a movie set that garners the security detail. The actual summit is just inside the NF boundary above the Live Oak Campground. The campground was closed due to storm damage but that didn't stop me from finding my way to the summit. Others have reported this an awful bushwhack, but its slopes were burned in the 2016 fire and no trouble at all today, save for a small baby rattler I almost stepped on during the ascent. From the summit I could see a construction project at the Sable Ranch, what looked like a huge, 300-foot metalic sea monster or dragon of some sort, only partially completed. Upon my return I was met by a portly, friendly sort of guy who asked if I'd enjoyed my hike. In a polite manner, he wanted me to know that the summit is on private property (in fact, it's not - the Forest Service boundary extends to just west of the summit). I told him I had seen the signs down by the creek, avoided them, and saw no fences or signs up higher. He said he'd let the owners know about that. He then asked if it was ok to take a picture of my license plate to which I had no objection. He further asked if I had my driver's license he could look at to which I replied, "Who are you, exactly?" When he identified himself as Sable Ranch security I declined to produce my driver's license which he seemed ok with. As he got back in his car to leave I took a picture of his vehicle just for laughs. After this fun encounter, I drove over to the closed campground where I took a shower before heading back to town for dinner.


Patrick O'Neill comments on 03/21/17:
Actually, I knew the function of that property before I visited. I named the point thus due to the fact that the Fox Network had a new reality TV show running 24/7 on the property at the time named "Utopia". That point served as the closest forest service land with a prominent view down into the production lot, which at the time was quite a busy and interesting sight. As is par for such shows, it was cancelled shortly after my initial visit, the unofficial name of this small peak serving as one of the few remaining remnants of that short lived television program.
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