Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Hike 2012.045 -- Canyon and Ridge Loop, and Skull Rock, Temescal Gateway Park and Topanga State Park
Temescal Gateway Park is managed by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. It's located at the top of Temescal Canyon Drive, just north of Sunset Blvd. This means, in theory, at least, it's a bus-accessible hike. MTA's routes #2 and 302 run down Sunset, though 302 would be a limited stop route, and I don't know how close to Temescal Canyon that one stops. But if it were not too far, you could get from the corner of Sunset and Beverly to Sunset and Temescal Canyon in 35 minutes, or from Sunset and Fairfax to Sunset and Temescal Canyon in about 50 minutes during the day. Figure in connection times, however, and getting here from anywhere other than Sunset Blvd becomes a 60-120 minute endurance contest.
If coming from the San Fernando Valley, Warner Center, or points north, you may choose to take the Ventura Freeway (U.S. 101) to Topanga Canyon Blvd, take that over the the hill (about 12.5 miles), to the Pacific Coast Highway (CA-1). Turn left at the light and continue "south" about three miles, to Temescal Canyon Drive. Turn left there and continue straight into Temescal Gateway Park.
There are a couple of "retreat" meeting/event areas, as well as apparent-residences in this park, in addition to a small store that sells cold drinks and snacks. Parking for park visitors is limited to the area south of the store, although the pavement continues some distance beyond. There are a number of picnic benches and drinking fountains, as well as flush toilets adjacent to the store.
When you're ready to start your hike, head north from the end of the park visitor lot. After about fifty yards, the road splits (it's actually a loop). If you're heading towards either Temescal Canyon or Temescal Ridge (Viewpoint) trails, bear left at the split.
If you were to continue on the paved road, instead, you'd eventually walk pass a number of structures and manicured lawns before eventually heading into the wilder area. This alternate route would eventually merge with the official Temescal Canyon Trail, perhaps 1/4 mile from the start.
The sign at the formal trailhead says it's 1.0 miles to Temescal Waterfall, and 1.4 miles to Temescal Ridge Trail.
If coming from the Canyon trail, there's a wooden bridge at the creek crossing, just after you'd see the falls. That's just helpful to know if the waterfall is mostly dry, as it is apt to be in mid-July of a very dry year. You'll at least know that you've arrived at the waterfall. ;D
After the waterfall, the trail bears to the left and climbs out of the canyon, meeting the Ridge Trail after 4/10ths of a mile of switchbacks. The view up and down Temescal Canyon improves as you climb.
As for me, I studied my map at the junction and knew I wanted to add some mileage, so I headed to Skull Rock on purpose.
As the name implies, much of this trail (both north and south of the junction) is on the ridge. That means a better breeze here than down in the canyon.
At the skull, there are clear views in all directions. There are also lots of homes within the view shed. This is not the most isolated part of the Santa Monica Mountains.
Up close, the skull is scalloped, with several caves and holes to look into.
The most skull-like appearance is from right in front of it, from the south. There's a small protrusion that looks a little like a hooked nose. That's it, at the top of this post.
Before I began the final descent towards the parking lot, there was a bit of a clearing where many people chose to rest, or await their trailing hiking companions. A single swallowtail butterfly glided and fluttered around, and I took many pictures of the insect each time it landed.
Then it was down a rather steep incline (not dangerously steep, mind you--just steep enough that I was happy to be heading down it rather than up.
After eating and drinking my fill, I washed up and got ready for my second hike of the day, which would be to Will Rogers State Historic Park and back. That'll be my next post, I think.