Enjoying the Santa Monica Mountains: Where Do Those Trails Go?

by Charlotte Parry

Cheeseboro Palo ComadoIf you hike or bike in the mountains, you most likely have a favorite trail. But what I like so much about the Santa Monica Mountains and the public land around the Conejo Valley is the connectivity among the various areas.

One of my favorite local hikes is up to Simi Peak (2,405 ft) with its 360 degree views over the Conejo Valley towards the Santa Monica Mountains and back over the Simi Hills. You can reach this stunning viewpoint from several trailheads both within and outside the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. It all depends on how fit you are feeling and how much time you’ve got.

Start at the trail head on Lindero Canyon Road near King James Court. From there you will have a steep climb (over 1,000 ft elevation gain) to the ridge-line until you hit China Flat. At 2,140 ft, this scenic 800 acre meadow was formerly part of entertainer Bob Hope’s land. Covered in oak trees it is a comparatively shady spot providing some welcome shelter if you’re hiking in the summer. From there, follow the trail round to the left for 0.8 miles and head up to Simi Peak.

Alternatively, enjoy the beautiful rolling hills of Palo Comado Canyon. Owned by the National Park Service, this canyon is part of the Cheeseboro / Palo Comado area. Park off Sunnycrest Drive (off Kanan Rd in Oak Park) and hike north on the Palo Comado Canyon Trail. This 1,200 ft climb will lead you to China Flat and on to Simi Peak.

The Cheeseboro / Palo Comado area is famous for having the highest concentration of birds of prey nesting in the U.S. outside Alaska and for its Valley Oaks, the largest native oak trees in the U.S. If you are in a linguistic frame of mind, you might wonder what Palo Comado means. It is generally thought that Comado is from the Spanish “quemado,” meaning burnt, and “palo,” meaning stick, somewhat appropriate for the high fire risk in this area.

Alternatively, a strenuous 8.5 mile round trip will take you from Lang Ranch Parkway in Thousand Oaks, along Albertson Motorway to China Flat and then the ascent to Simi Peak. You will need to feel fairly energetic for this as your legs experience a total elevation gain / loss of 1700 feet!

These are all moderate hikes lasting three to four hours, so don’t forget to bring at least two quarts of water and use lots of sunscreen as the weather warms up.

For more detailed information about these hikes check the links below and have fun exploring.





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