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LA & SoCal Hiking  🔥 Hotspots 💎 Hidden Gems

The Griffith Park Zoo, also known as the “Old L.A. Zoo,” opened in 1912 and was on the verge of shutting down for a majority of its life. Its fate was sealed in 1966 when the Los Angeles Zoo opened about 1 mile up Crystal Springs Road. As a result, thousands of animals were transferred to the new location, the site of the old zoo was left abandoned, and you can now hike the Old Zoo Trail through animal cages and even picnic inside empty exhibits (~1 mile round-trip). Further up the shaded path is an abandoned building and more animal habitats to be explored. 📍 There’s free parking near the trailhead, and the location tag will guide the way through Griffith Park. ⚠ I don't condone trespassing or criminal activity. Be aware, hiking on certain sections of the abandoned site is considered trespassing; nevertheless you’ll often find many visitors exploring the restricted areas.

Ortega Falls is a 25ft seasonal waterfall in the Santa Ana Mountains within the Cleveland National Forest, about 15 minutes from Lake Elsinore. In addition to the main falls, the hike also contains a series of cascades located further downstream. 📍 Take Ortega Highway (Route 74) to a dirt pullout on the west side of the road, 1.5 miles north of Ortega Oaks Candy Store and Goods, and the tagged location will bring you to the candy store. It's free to park at the trailhead, and there are several trails to choose from that lead to the creek below. I took the trail on the far left of the lot, followed the steep and narrow path downhill, and then went upstream (north). I don’t recommend coming here when it’s raining because the steep trails turn into slippery mudslides. There are a few strenuous bouldering spots along the way, and watch out for poison oak. Overall, it wasn't too bad of a 1/4-mile scramble. Once you’ve explored the area and reach Ortega Falls, you can to take the shortest trail back to the parking lot by hiking straight up the hillside. The vicinity around the falls is seeing an increasing amount of graffiti because of its easy accessibility, so please respect and help protect the trails if you ever visit. ✌

I explored two unique attractions in the Santa Monica Mountains within Malibu Creek State Park (~4 miles round-trip). The "Lava Rock Pools" are popular for cliff diving because of the high-rising volcanic rock protruding from the water, but doing so is against state law. Injuries that occur at the volcanic swimming hole are due in part to murky water and partially submerged, hidden rocks. From the parking lot, start on the Crags Rd trail (west of Waycross Dr) and switch over to High Rd on your right. At the end of High Rd, continue straight along Rock Pool Trail until you reach the pools. (2) Century Lake Dam was constructed around 1903, creating the seven-acre lake that would later be named by 20th Century Fox Studios after purchasing the land. From the High Rd trail, make a right on Crags Rd and start the uphilll trek to Century Lake. If you want to explore the dam, climb through a gap on the barbed wire fence and take the steal bridge past restriction signs that read, “structure unsafe – keep off.” 📍 Malibu Creek State Park is located ~30 miles from Downtown L.A., south of Highway 101 on Las Virgenes Rd. Park at the bottom lot using Park Entrance Rd and the location tag will lead the way ($3 per hour or $12 for a day pass, per vehicle). ⚠ A recent test found the pool and dam area teeming with “fecal indicator bacteria,” and as a result the water has been determined a possible public health risk. I don’t condone trespassing or criminal activity, and there is a minimum $200 citation for cliff jumping and/or gaining access to restricted areas.

Bonita Falls Trail is a 1.8 mile out and back hike located in the San Gabriel Mountains, within the San Bernardino National Forest. This magnificent waterfall is over 100ft tall, which is enormous by SoCal standards. A majority of the trek requires strong ankles, a lot of rock hopping, and maybe a river crossing or two depending on your route. Park along Lytle Creek Rd, and then use Green Mountain Rd to avoid crossing Lytle Creek by foot. Once you’ve crossed the river, follow South Fork Lytle Creek upstream (east) into the canyon and make your way towards the south canyon wall. Unfortunately, a trail of graffiti follows the canyonside all the way to the falls. After hiking ~1/2 mile, there’s a trail sign defaced with spray paint that will be on your left; this marks the beginning of the dirt trail that ascends into the forest towards Bonita Falls. Remember to stop at the Front Country Ranger Station if you need a daily parking pass ($5) or a map of the area. 📍 Luckily, the location tag shows the exact spot of the waterfall, so you wont get lost if you bring your phone! Every time I visit this waterfall I notice an increasing amount of graffiti and trash, so please help keep the trail clean if you ever visit. ✌

The treacherous route leading to Upper Eaton Canyon Falls is sheer rock face with a 250ft drop on either side. Since 2011, L.A. County Search and Rescue Teams have saved more than 60 injured and stranded hikers due to the dangerous climb, and five have fallen to their deaths. Cliff jumping at the upper falls was an additional risk; another steep and unsafe dirt path leads to the top of the second waterfall, and the smooth granite waterslide makes it appealing to daredevils. As you trek deeper into the canyon the trail becomes less hazardous and there are several smaller falls to be discovered. The U.S. Forest Service closed access beyond the first waterfall in August 2014, and Sheriff’s Department deputies and Forest Service officers began issuing citations accordingly. Please do not underestimate the difficulty of this hike. I’d recommend signing up with a SoCal canyoneering guide if you wish to explore the upper canyon. Canyoneers who use ropes, helmets and other safety equipment are still allowed to hike the area; as of January 2015 a permit is required for Upper Eaton Canyon and must be applied for 4 days prior to your planned descent of the canyon. 📍 The trail leading to the canyon’s lower falls is extremely popular and directions can be found on my last post. ⚠ I don’t condone trespassing or criminal activity, and violators could face a fine “up to $5,000 and/or face 6 months imprisonment.”

Eaton Canyon trail and waterfall sits within a 190-acre zoological, botanical, and geological nature preserve at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains. 📍 For free parking, the tagged location will bring you to the Eaton Canyon Nature Center; my first Eaton Canyon post shows the falls during the drought, and its geotag is the exact site of the waterfall. The nature center was rebuilt in 1998 after the Altadena fire of October 27, 1993 burned the original building to the ground. 📌 You can also park further north on N. Altadena Drive if you want to take the less hiked route through the wash zone, or to access the gated Pinecrest entrance near the bridge (turn right on Crescent, then right again on Pinecrest). Using the bridge route will take ~1 mile off of the trek, and I'd recommend going bright and early to avoid the midday crowds.

💙 Happy New Year everyone! L.A. and SoCal have seen a large amount of rainfall recently, so I've decided to hike local waterfall trails; for the first Waterfall Wednesday of 2017 I visited Heart Rock Falls in Crestline, San Bernardino. The trailhead starts in a small dirt parking lot at the end of a narrow road off the CA-138, just past Camp Seely. 📍 After you’ve parked, use the dirt trail and follow Seeley Creek less than a mile downstream (north) to the falls, and the tagged location will help lead the way. This hike is great for beginners because the trail has little incline and it’s almost completely shaded. Heading down to the waterfall was the hardest part of the trail, and it may require a little bit of rock scrambling.

Merry Christmas everyone! 🎄 This 200ft tunnel can be found under Big Tujunga Canyon Rd in the Angeles National Forest. The trailhead starts where Doske Rd and Stoneyvale Rd meet, and the overgrown trail follows Big Tujunga Creek (west) into the canyon. 📍 It's a short 1/4-mile from the trailhead and the tagged location will bring you to Stoneyvale Rd for parking. Keep an eye out for the tunnel on your right, and then climb the steep hillside. Once inside, you'll find remnants of a minecart railway leading through the tunnel toward Ybarra Canyon.

🌊 The Cabrillo Sea Cave in San Diego was created by rapid sandstone erosion, and bluff collapse is a constant threat in and around the cave. The sea cave has been closed since the 80's due to these dangerous conditions, and it's federally protected to help wildlife; The Marine Mammal Protection Act claims the cave and surrounding area as a sanctuary for baby seals. The Point Loma Naval Base, an active Coast Guard facility, and National Park Service Officers monitor the park routinely. 📍 The sea cave is at the north end of the tide pools, west of the Cabrillo National Monument. Use the second tide pool parking lot on Cabrillo Rd, then head to the coast (entrance fees are $10 per vehicle and $5 for walk-ins). Be sure to pick up a Cabrillo National Monument map when entering the park, it offers additional info along with parking directions. ⚠ Be aware, you’ll have to pass through a seaweed filled cove to get to the cave, which can be extremely hazardous to swim through during high tide. I don't condone trespassing or criminal activity, and "violators are subject to fines and sentencing." @magic_me4 warns the minimum fine for trespassing here is $400.

Black Star Canyon is an important archaeological site of the Shoshone American Indian tribe within the Santa Ana Mountains. In 1831, in the Black Star Canyon area known as Hidden Ranch, American trappers opened fire from the ridge above the tribe's camp slaughtering the natives. There's no solid evidence the Black Star Canyon Indian Massacre ever occurred, mostly hearsay. That doesn't stop ghost hunters, paranormal investigators, and supernatural believers from hiking the trail at night in an attempt to contact members of tribe. There have also been several crimes committed in the canyon including a murder in 1899 and the horrific rape of two teenage girls in 2001. All of this has led to urban legends of satanic rituals, ghosts, witchcraft, and even cult gatherings in Black Star Canyon. The 6.8-mile out and back trek features a cave waterfall! The drought had taken its toll on the falls when I took this photo, but due to the recent rains it’s flowing beautifully. The hike starts on a long paved road, which turns to dirt as you pass through private property on either side of the trail. About 2.5 miles in you'll exit the main trail off to your right (east), descend into the riverbed, and head upstream (north). The remainder of the trail will involve climbing, rock hopping, and dodging overgrown vegetation. 📍 Free, abundant parking at the end of Black Star Canyon Rd, and the location tag will bring you there. Have a happy Halloween! 👻

🎃 Happy October everyone! If you've ever driven through the city of Norco, then you've probably seen the large Pumpkin Rock that overlooks the city. 📍 The shortest route to the rock is 1/4 mile and starts on Crestview Drive just before Trakehner Place, and the location tag can be used for dirctions. The top of the rock is visible from the road and for a majority of the horse trail, which continues along the ridgeline if you’re looking to add extra miles to your hike. The rock was a lot bigger than I was expecting (~15 feet), and locals have repainted it just in time for Halloween. Be aware, there is currently broken glass around Pumpkin Rock and some of the surrounding rocks have been defaced with spray paint. 🌟 The haunted Norco Powerhouse is 5 minutes down the road, so why not visit them both! Directions can be found on my powerhouse post, and be ready on Oct. 29th for another spooky, Halloween themed hike!

Griffith Observatory is the most popular observatory in the world with over a million visitors a year. It is located on the southern slope of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park, just above the Los Feliz neighborhood. When it opened in 1935, it was one of the first institutions in the U.S. dedicated to public science and possessed the country’s third planetarium. Visitors can use telescopes, explore different exhibits, watch live entertainment in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, and enjoy breathtaking views of LA and the iconic Hollywood Sign. 📍 Admission, parking, and WiFi services are free at the observatory; hours of operations and upcoming activities can be found on their website. 🌟 Some of my favorite hikes within Griffith Park are the Hollywood Sign, the Wisdom Tree, Bronson Caves, the Old LA Zoo, and Bee Rock! All hiking trails are open the same hours as Griffith Park, Sunrise to Sunset.

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