Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hike 46: Sycamore Canyon and Hellman Park

Hiked April 14. I am continuing my hiking of the trails of the Puente Hills. I guess this is sort of like a few months ago, when I was walking all the segments of the Altadena Crest Trail I could find.

Today, I started my hike from the Sycamore Canyon trailhead. The entry to this area is about 150 yards south of Rose Hill's Gate 17. There are no signs pointing to the trail parking area, but if you're looking to your right and slowing down as you approach this area (from the south), you'll see what has become the familiar sign indicating a Puente Hills Landfill Native Habitat Authority area, pointing you to a small parking lot.

I just parked on Workman Mill Road.

There's a large map display at the trailhead, with a small pocket for trail maps that may or may not be stocked when you come by. It's just like the sign I saw at the Seventh Avenue and Lower Turnbull Canyon trailheads. The map has mileages between trail junctions. Because many of the junctions on the ground are unsigned, the mileage and directions are very helpful to know.

The dirt trail soon crosses one paved road, then heads up another one, trending eastward, up Sycamore Canyon. At the lower reaches, there are homes high up either rim of the canyon. Lots of cactus. Some pepper trees. However, you soon leave the road noises behind you; only the sound of singing birds and amphibians, and the trickling of what is probably a season stream accompany you further up the trail.

At 1.3 miles, a sign indicates Dark Canyon trail is straight ahead, while Sycamore Canyon (switchback) trail is to your right.

I went straight. There was no running water up this way, but the native oak trees became denser.

About 2/10ths of a mile up this trail, I saw a faint trace that would have headed to the left, and would have run into Rose Hills. However, the main trail continued forward. It was very overgrown in places, but not too difficult to follow.

About 4/10ths of a mile later, I came across a sign marking the park boundary. I don't know who owns the land ahead. It was not posted, but I figured this was the end of the trail, so I turned around and went back to the Sycamore Canyon Switchback trail.

This one was very steep in places as it headed due south. Thistle grew close on both sides and I scratched my arms and legs (not severely) along the way up. In .6 of a mile, it dead-ends into the Rattlesnake Ridge trail. There is no signage at this junction, and the entry from Sycamore Switchback Trail to Rattlesnake Ridge is far from obvious. I found a rock to mark the junction, then headed west (to the right).

A large water tank with a blue bird wearing a "Whittier" sash was in front of me.

This seemed to be the end of the trail. However, the map indicated it should have run .8 mile west of the Sycamore Switchback junction, and the water tower was only a 1/10th of a mile or so from there. Despite the "Private: No Exit Beyond This Point" sign, my map indicated the trail continued, so I also kept going.

In working my way around the fenced water tank area, I saw a bathtub with a pipe dripping water into the tub. This was clearly for horses, because the Rattlesnake Ridge trail (unlike the Sycamore Canyon trail) is a "multi-user trail," open to bikes and horses.

A well-defined trail continued further west, down the hill. Since that matched what my map showed, I kept going.

A small snake sunned itself at the edge of the trail. I snapped some pictures. The snake seemed to barely notice me.

At the end of the trail, a smaller, art deco-style water tank stood at the end of a road. The road indicated no parking near the trailhead, so I don't know how far down you'd have to park for access to the Rattlesnake Ridge trail.

Turned around and headed east one mile, back up the hill, past the bluebird watertank, past my original trail, and on to another unmarked trail that branched off to the right. My map indicated this was Hellman Park Trail, another hiker-only trail.

In just under a mile, you hit a covered, fenced, reservoir. Just before reaching the reservoir, there were several areas with thick bush sunflower blooms still going on.

The trail works its way around the right of the reservoir and empties into a small parking lot (room for about eight cars). There's another one of their map-containing signs at this parking lot.

After a bit of rest and time to consume a Cliff bar and a bit of Gatorade, I headed up the Peppergrass Trail. It's supposed to be 1.1 to 1.2 miles up this trail before you hit the Rattlesnake Ridge trail, again. This trail is also steep in places, but not as overgrown as either the Sycamore Switchback or the Hellman Park trails.

As I neared Rattlesnake Ridge, I could see several places in the Puente Hills that I've visited before. Turnbull Canyon Road, off to my right. I could also see the powerlines that I followed on my last hike in the Puente Hills.

To the north, I could see a line of eucalyptus trees that marked the landfill boundary. To my right, I could see the large, Chinese-styled pavilion in Rose Hills that I could see from the opposite side when I went to the Nike station.

Lots of rodents visible on this hike--ground squirrels and cottontail rabbits. Lots of lizards, too. And lots of birds--swallows, crows, hawks and turkey vultures, at least.

All told, 9.5 miles of walking. Relatively flat compared to most of the mountain hiking I've been doing, but steep in spots.

Probably just one or two more hikes I can do in the Puente Hills before I'll have to retrace my footsteps there. Still, these trails have given me a full week of alternatives, and have helped bridge the gap until I can start hiking the taller peaks around Mt. Baldy.


  1. Awesome picture of the rattlesnake...

  2. Thanks for the i.d. confirmation! I wasn't sure if it was a rattlesnake or not. Its tail was in the weeds. But its head did seem to have that triangular shape to it.

    I should have had better shots, but, unfortunately, the lcd display on the back of the camera is too dim to be reliable for high-accuracy pointing. Shoulda just taken a wider shot, then cropped it!