By Caleb Lunetta
Signal Staff Writer
The Santa Clarita Valley is a known trails and hiking mecca, according to local experts.
With over 11,000 acres of open spaces and more than 100 miles of trails, ranging from extreme elevation climbs to gentle slopes and open meadows, in terms of hiking, the SCV has plenty to offer.
And according to the experts, whether you wanted to shed the “Quarantine 15” — a few pounds put on from the confinement — or you’d just like to get outside as we head into the summer months, now’s the time to get into the activity.
What Santa Clarita Has to Offer
“There’s a lot of types of different terrain that people can get out into, and we’ve been very, very busy for a short time because the (Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority) closed Towsley and people had to find somewhere else to hike,” said Jeff Morrison, the open space and trails administrator for the city of Santa Clarita. “They found a lot of our other open spaces and that has continued.”
Morrison that there are entrances sprinkled throughout the outer rim of the entire Santa Clarita Valley
“We have areas that are very short, and flat, with beautiful views like the Creek Trail at Elsmere Canyon, in the shade and it’s along the creek — very flat and very easy,” said Morrison. “And then you have, like, The Beast that goes up out of Whitney, the Santa Clara divide, which is really difficult.”
“But there’s a lot of short hikes, there’s a lot of long hikes and a little bit of everything out there for people,” he added.
As for families, Morrison said the trails and putting kids out there can help, especially in their early years.
“It’s great to get them started young, because they can go out and explore,” said Morrison. “There’s a lot of bugs and some small creatures out there for them to look at. We have a lot of people that are used to putting their babies on their backs and they go hiking.”
There’s more than hiking that can be done on trails as well, according to Ken Raleigh, chairman of the SCV Trail Users, adding that the paths are open to mountain bikers, hikers, equestrians and trail runners alike.
“Santa Clarita has become, I don’t to call it quite a Mecca for mountain biking, there are a lot of opportunities for riding, as well as hiking.”
Raleigh said one only needs to look around online to find options, from hills and mountains, to public lands and private lands, to federal and city property.
“There’s just trails all over the place, you know, with hundreds of users every day,” said Raleigh. “It’s a big place.”
In order to stay safe on the trails, the experts made a few suggestions.
“As for getting started, you want to have good solid shoes, hiking shoes, whether they’re tennis shoes or hiking boots,” said Morrison. “And you want to have a hat, and use a lot of sun block because it gets hot out here.”
A handful of the local experts interviewed by The Signal emphasized the water portion to the safety requirements.
“That’s one of the biggest hazards, that if you don’t have water on you,” said Morrison. “As it gets hotter, people take their dogs out and just about every year we lose a dog to heat exhaustion, because the owners don’t bring water for the dog.”
Not only did she emphasize the importance of bringing water, but local trails expert and leader of one of Santa Clarita’s largest hiking clubs, Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel, executive director and president of the Community Hiking Club, also discussed the importance of knowing what to avoid on the trails, especially those things that are living.
From rattlesnakes to tarantula hawks to red velvet ants, it’s important to know what to look for and know to avoid it.
“I have found when people see a rattlesnake, somebody may start throwing rocks or something at it,” said Erskine-Hellrigel. “That’s the wrong thing to do because you agitate the snake. The snake really doesn’t want anything to do with you, and if you give it a wide berth, you’re probably really safe if they’re in the middle of the trail.”
Erskine-Hellrigel also shared the importance of staying on the trail, and resisting the temptation to forge your own path through the bushes and grass.
“If you go off trail, you’re more likely to pick up a lot more stuff,” said Erskine-Hellrigel. “Including snakes hidden in the brush.
And one final safety tip according to the experts: Buddy up.
“it’s always good to do it with a friend or go to the popular spots where, you know, where if you do get hurt, you know you’re not going to be alone,” said Raleigh.
How to Buddy Up & Learn More
According to the experts, there are a number of opportunities both online and in-person to find people that enjoy the same outdoor activities that you do.
Online there are Facebook groups SCV Mountain Bike Group and for hiking there is the Community Hiking Club.
To learn more about the trails open to the public, visit hikesantaclarita.com/.
“The first thing to do is get out there,” said Erskine-Hellrigel. “Grab a friend and get out there and if you don’t know any trails, join a group, and do a few hikes with them. Then you’ll know the hikes.”