Posted by: GeekHiker | July 23, 2008

HIKE: Ben Overturff Ruins (Via Road)

In the heyday of the Twenties and Thirties, the mountains above Los Angeles were littered with resorts and private getaways. The natural combination of destructive forces in Southern California, earthquakes, fires and floods, eventually ended the life of most all of them, leaving little but ruins in their wake.

Ben Overturff came into the mountains in the early part of the century, building a popular lodge where Twin Springs Canyon enters Sawpit Canyon in a location near Deer Park. He ultimately abandoned the lodge in 1945 due to his declining health. The Forest Service dynamited the lodge in the 1970 to end unauthorized use, but a few remains can still be found in the forest.

Starting from the Entrance Station parking lot, proceed north up the road. Turn right at the first junction, crossing a bridge onto Sawpit Fire Road. The road will ascend steeply at first, then more gradually along the south canyon wall. Be sure to watch out for cars from the Boy Scout inholdings coming down the road.

You will soon reach the top of Sawpit Dam, now decommissioned. An information sign here describes the history of the dam; other signs can be found along the trail and road.

Ben Overturff 01
Sawpit Dam

After one and a quarter miles, you’ll reach the junction with the Ben Overturff trail. Taking a left turn here will take you down into the canyon to a beautiful riparian area. Past this point I didn’t explore on this trip, having been advised at the entrance station that the trail hadn’t been cut back for the season, so the rest of this description will follow the road, now dirt, to the final destination.

Ben Overturff 06
Along the dirt section of the road

Continue up the road, past the police firing range (the trail may be closed when the range is in use). The road swings in and out of small side canyons, notably Vassar Canyon, which may have a trickle of water, for another two and a half miles, uphill all the way.

Ben Overturff 03
Looking down Sawpit Canyon

After about two miles, you’ll reach the Twin Springs Trailhead, where a short spur will take you to Twin Springs and a junction with the Ben Overturff Trail. The springs, with cool clear water and old piping still visible, is a perfect stopover point on the hike.

Ben Overturff 02
Twin Springs

Finally, 3.5 miles from your starting point, you’ll reach the Deer Park trailhead, marked with a sign and with a restroom available. A short hike north on the trail from this point will take you to the ruins of the resort, now little more than some crumbling walls, old rusty pipes, and old fences.

Ben Overturff 05
Remnants of a wall of the old lodge

Ben Overturff 04
Old riveted pipe at the ruins

Pause and wonder at what the area may have been like in its heyday before returning by the same route.

Ben Overturff 07
Butterfly near the ruins

Total Distance: 7.0 Miles

Elevation Gain/Loss: 2,000’/2,000′


Directions: From Interstate 210, exit at Myrtle Ave and turn left (north). Drive 1.7 miles and turn right at E. Hillcrest Blvd. After .2 miles, turn left onto N. Canyon Blvd and drive 1.2 miles north to the park entrance (be sure to bear right at the intersection with E. Scenic Drive). The park is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed Tuesdays) and parking is $5.



  1. Okay, here’s the deal. You come teach my summer class and I’ll get out there and go on this hike.

  2. Seriously.

    I’m with Dingo.

    You can handle 7-8 second and third grade boys for 2.5 hours, right? 🙂

  3. Where the heck is this? I swear I think you ride the Wonkavator to these hiking destinations because I’ve lived here all my life and haven’t heard of most of them! Love the butterfly shot – beautiful!

  4. While I love to be out in nature, coming upon ruins during a hike always gets me excited. Not sure why that is.

    Sounds like a great hike and this pictures are great, as usual.

  5. Fabulous. Love the Sawpit canyon pic, the splash of color in there is awesome.

  6. The rivet photo is my fav. You may have to think about working for Frommers For Hikers now.

  7. Those pictures are lovely. I’d need a lot of sunscreen!

  8. These posts make me want to move and it’s really lovely here!

    Mel: Nice Wonkavator reference!

  9. Dingo – Uh, huh…

    East Coast Teacher – Depends, am I allowed to be armed?

    Mel Heth – LOL The butterfly shot is one of those rare “yeah, I got one!” pictures.

    Homer-Dog – The thrill of discovery, perhaps?

    BackpackerMomma – Thanks!

    TheCoconutDiaries – I liked that one too, though it’s a little soft in the foreground. Is there such a thing?

    Wendy – Oh believe me, I did…

    Just A Girl – That’s what I say about pictures from your area!

  10. […] information: trip reports and reviews here; […]

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