When you take to the trails this summer

A hiker walks her dogs on trails near Central Park in Saugus. Dan Watson/The Signal

With summer officially underway, hundreds of Santa Clarita Valley families are flocking to the lakes, parks and miles of trails that zig and zag throughout the surrounding areas.

With more than 100 miles of trails and paseos in the SCV alone, offering bikers, horse riders and runners the chance to enjoy picturesque mountain views and other natural wonders, there are countless choices for routes you and your family can enjoy.

Families looking for an adventurous hike surrounded by trees and hills may want to head out to a space like Towsley Canyon, while those who want to shop, access parks or take a light bike ride can take advantage of the nearly 20 miles of paseos that offer access to almost every area of the city.

The super bloom earlier this year painted the SCV hillsides and attracted thousands of visitors to local spots like Placerita Canyon, Weldon Canyon and Whitney Canyon Park, which still display some of the wonderful wildflowers and their impressive blossoms each spring.

Santa Clarita Community Hiking Club President Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel noted back in March that not all wildflowers will bloom at the same time.

“Just because you’ve been out once to look at the flowers doesn’t mean you’ve seen everything,” she said, mentioning that some flowers will die and others bloom throughout the summer months.

The main bloom is expected to last through mid-summer, according to the hiking club president, who also said, “The real diehards can go through November.”

Local residents interested in finding more trails this summer can head to alltrails.com or hikesantaclarita.com for a complete list of paths available to horses, joggers and hikers.

Mike and Emily Verdi of Valencia walk their Dachshund, Ribbons at Towsley Canyon in Newhall.083016 Dan Watson

Trail Safety and Etiquette

Hiking experts and city officials agreed that all trail users should be alert and aware when using the recreational paths, but there are also other safety protocols to follow in order to keep everyone safe.

On Tuesday, Dr. Evette Ramsay, a dermatologist with Kaiser Permanente Southern California,  discussed the rising summer temperatures and their effect on the skin — which is why it’s important to use sunscreen when outside this summer — but heat can also affect the number of wildlife sightings.

“With the summer months rapidly approaching, the potential for snake and human interactions will more than likely increase this year,” Gary Kassan previously said, adding, “the more you know about snakes, the less you will fear them, and the better you will understand just how to protect yourself, your family and your pets from snake interactions.”

Snakes can be found anywhere in the City of Santa Clarita and throughout the surrounding mountains, Kassan said, mentioning it’s not uncommon to find the cold-blooded vertebrates sunning themselves on concrete, asphalt or rocks to warm their bodies as they digest a recent meal.

Santa Clarita has three commonly seen snakes in residents’ yards and the area’s hiking trails: the gopher snake, king snake and the feared Southern Pacific rattlesnake, according to Kassan.

King snakes are less common, but are easy to identify because of the brown and black rings that circle around their yellowish-white bodies. King snakes are immune to rattlesnake bites and have been known to kill and eat them.

Like king snakes, gopher snakes are common in the area and often commonly mistaken for a rattlesnake by local residents.gsnakes can be very similar to rattlesnakes but he uses a general rule of thumb.

“If the head is bigger than the neck of the snake, it is most likely a rattlesnake. Nonvenomous snakes’ heads are more streamlined, similar to your fingers, while rattlesnakes’ heads are more triangular,” he said. Rattlesnakes can usually strike to a distance of about half of their body length, so if one finds themselves within striking distance, freeze, remain calm and very slowly back away.

Kassan added that snakes do not chase people, though they may become aggressive when defending themselves against what they perceive to be a threat.

“In most cases, snakes are just as afraid of you as you are of them,” Kassan said. “They want to avoid confrontation as much as you do,” so when hiking in the mountains, stay on the trails and avoid hiking through tall grass.

Bike riders on the San Francisquito Creek Trail near Valencia Heritage Park in Santa Clarita. Dan Watson/ The Signal

It may also be helpful to have a bell on your bike or dog, city officials said, because they can help mountain bikers avoid collisions, keep horses from being spooked and give snakes and other critters advance notice of your presence so they aren’t startled.

“It’s a simple thing, but makes for much safer trail experience,” the city’s website states.

“When using these trails, we all need to take precautions to assure we enjoy them safely,” said Deputy Kevin Duxbury of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station. “Whenever possible, go with a friend or family member, (but) if you do choose to go alone, assure someone knows when and where you will be, as well as what trails you plan on taking.”

Duxbury also recommended a list of items one should always take even if they’re going for a short hike or ride:

  • sufficient cool, fresh water and snacks
  • a basic first aid kit and emergency blanket
  • a flashlight, even if you’re going during daylight hours
  • trail maps
  • a fully charged cell phone and extra battery
  • identification and emergency contact information
  • emergency medical tag or bracelet if you have any unusual medical needs
  • any medications you may need, even if you’ve already taken them for the day.

“Additionally, when leaving your vehicle unattended, do not leave any high valued items, wallets, or purses in your vehicle where they are easy to see,” the deputy said. “If you cannot take the items with you, secure them in your trunk and out of view. When you do this, be sure to check the area for anyone who may be watching where you put these items.”

It’s also wise to ensure all vehicle windows are rolled up and the doors are locked, “and finally, take your keys with you.” Duxbury said. “Hiding your car keys on top of a tire under the fender really isn’t a good idea, and the bad guys know to look there.”

All Santa Clarita Valley and Los Angeles County trails are open from sunrise to sunset. Visitors are encouraged to visit trails.lacounty.gov/ or hikesantaclarita.com/ for more information.

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