It’s been many years since we’ve had to creep along the edges of the streams that criss-cross the SantaYnez trail, and pick our way over the larger stones to avoid getting wet. Despite the recent heavy rains, it’s still not what we remember, but the streams are flush and bubbling, the waterfalls almost roaring, and nearby Temescal over-flowing. This transition from late spring to summer is the perfect time of year to appreciate the combination of late sunny days, flowing streams and wildflowers. Drive Sunset Boulevard, near Pacific Coast Highway, and take Palisades Drive up into the Highlands. If you haven’t been up there, it’s a wide and fast paced road that speeds up to a maze of new homes lacing the hillsides. The very first left turn you can take is a cul de sac. At the bottom of the short hill you’ll see bold gates to private homes on the left, and an understated pedestrian gate to the right. This modest little path is the access to some of the best trails in our local Santa Monicas. Simple wooden steps go down a short walkway; with a huge flood control channel on the left and graffiti covered catch basin on the right that in recent years has been commandeered by local skateboarders. Overlook all of that and walk straight ahead — around one curve and you’ll be in a different world. The path heads nearly straight for about five minutes, past a dramatic rock-cave formation on the right and then bends to the left. We’ve informally referred to the first tiny run-off stream that crosses the path as the “first tributary”. It carries seasonal water down from the hills, across the trail and into the lower main streambed. After a three or four-foot leap over the muddy flow, you continue into the deeper canyon. It becomes increasingly interesting beyond the first tributary. Right now, the streambeds are full, the water is rushing along and neat piles of larger rocks have been strategically placed to help you dance across the streams. In less than 30 minutes, you will have moved from Sunset Boulevard to undeveloped wilderness, without a man-made structure, phone line, or paved anything in sight. The pathway eventually leads to a T shape with a simple signpost directing you to the left to Trippet or to the right to the “Waterfall.” The trail to the waterfall wends its way into deeper canyon, changes terrain more than once and eventually matures into a narrow rocky path with tide pools and the source of the water flow gently rumbling in a small display. The Trippet option takes you steadily uphill, picking up some great views, and merges with the route to Topanga Canyon and on to Trippet Ranch. Explore both directions, as well as a variety of side trails that network around the area. (Don’t do this alone!) If this perfect time of the year and these charming trails don’t sell you on how intriguing our local resources are, then hiking may not be your sport. Alternatively, you can join us on any Monday and Wednesday evening, as we explore 21 different trails, all on the Westside, including open fire roads, hilltop-ridges and rock-hopping streams. Fearless Readers interested in free Monday and Wednesday night hikes should contact Scott Regberg at (310) 475-5735.
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