Posted by: GeekHiker | March 4, 2007

HIKE: Cheeseboro/Palo Comado Canyons

It’s about time I posted a hike, isn’t it?

Cheesboro/Palo Comado is a hike that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but never seemed to end up doing.  After spending the day yesterday at work, I knew that I had to get outdoors today.  Luckily, the weather stayed warm and I was able to get out of bed early enough to beat the traffic on the 101 and (hopefully) beat the high winds that were supposed to start later in the day.

Exiting the freeway at Cheseboro Rd., I turned right towards the park and showed my superior navigation skills by… driving right past the entrance.  Heh.  Heading back to the intersection, I retraced my steps and found the entrance, with it’s missing sign.  I parked, strapped on the hiking boots, grabbed the pack and poles, and headed up the Modelo Trail which climbs a canyon up to a ridge.

On reaching the top of the ridge you have a great view into bothy Cheeseboro and Palo Comado canyons.  I met a friendly mountain biker and we examined the map I’d picked up at the entrance station.  We discussed my proposed loop and headed off in our separate directions.  The rest of the hike is on fire roads which means two things: lots of mountain bikers (not always good) and no bushwhacking, so no ticks (always good).  Fortunately, the bikers I meet in park are all very courteous.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt to be the type of hiker that steps off the trail to let them by; we all gotta share, ya know.

Heading over a windy, up-and-down ridge, the trail connects with the Palo Comado Connector which in turn leads to the Palo Comado Canyon Trail.  Passing along the backside of several ranches, the trail is a flat oak and savanna woodland.  It’s also the perfect place to observe hawks hunting amongst the trees.  I had to stop several times to view the red tails and one beautiful coopers hawk cruise over the trail and swing between the oaks.  A good place to come back with a picnic lunch and pair of binoculars.

Swinging north, the trail starts climbing out of the canyon, a steady climb, but not too steep.  The mountain bikes pretty much turn around at this point, so the trail was pretty much empty by this point.  Spring wildflowers have just started to bloom along the canyon walls, despite the meager rain southern California has received this year.  The trail is dry and exposed: there’s no shelter from the wind or the sun.  After a mile and half of climbing you reach the intersection with the Sheep Corral Trail.  Ascending a short distance on this trail rewards you with views back down Palo Comado Canyon and eastward to Shepherds’ Flat, the San Fernando Valley and, on a particularly clear day, snow topping peaks in the Angeles National Forest.

Descending eastward into Shepards’ Flat the trail by an old sheep coral (little more than a square pen of rusting barbed wire) and a pair of beautiful oak trees that dominate the flat.  It’s the perfect area to stop for lunch so, well, I did.  Turning south on the Cheeseboro Canyon Trail, you quickly leave the chaparral of the ridge area and head into riparian vegitation, with willows and sycamores shading the trail.  Mountain bikers once again become more prevalent as you enter a wide area in the canyon.  After a little more than a mile, you pass by (and smell) the sulphur odor of Sulpher Springs.

Leaving Sulphur Springs behind and heading into the lower part of the canyon, the trail is intermittently shaded by groves of oak trees.  It’s easy to see the fire damage from the Topanga fire here, with a mixture of live, healthy trees and dead or partially damaged ones.  Most of the chaparral has grown back, however, and as one nears the trailhead, you can see NPS working with patches of ground on the adjoining hills to restore native vegetation to the area.  Eventually, the trail crosses a flat section of open grassland, highlighted by the burnt husks of several unfortunate oak trees, and finally back to the parking lot.

Total distance: ~10 miles

Park: Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area; Cheeseboro/Palo Comado Canyons

Website: ;

Directions: From the 101 (Ventura) freeway, exit at Chesebro Rd., turn right and then right again about 200 yards after exiting onto Chesebro Rd.  After .7 miles, turn right into the park entrance (which hopefully will have a sign soon!) and drive to the parking lot at the end.  Maps of the park should be available at the entrance.



  1. […] is pretty darn reasonable)) or the end of Las Virgenes Blvd. You can also hike in from neighboring Cheeseboro/Palo Comado Canyons. I chose to start from the Las Virgenes Blvd. entrance, mostly due to its ease of access from the […]

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