Running Between Raindrops: Chumash Trailhead to Rocky Peak

Rain in the San Fernando Valley from Rocky Peak. March 12, 2021.
Rain in the San Fernando Valley from Rocky Peak

Was that thunder? I warily eyed the dark clouds over the mountains and pondered the situation.

I was about halfway to the top of the Chumash Trail and was planning to run along the crest to Rocky Peak. The run had started in short sleeves and sunshine, but it was pretty obvious that wasn’t going to last.

Chumash Trail about a mile from the trailhead
Chumash Trail about a mile from the trailhead

A cold upper-level low had brought badly needed rain to the area for the past two days. The low was moving off to the east, but there was still a chance of afternoon showers and maybe even a thunderstorm.

It was the “thunderstorm” part that I needed to pay attention to. I had enough gear to deal with a downpour and cooling temps, but electrical storms are no fun at all.

I decided to continue to the top of the Chumash Trail and reassess. As I worked up the trail, I pictured the counterclockwise circulation around the low, and how convective cells develop over the mountains and then dissipate as they drift south. The concern was that the cells don’t always dissipate.

Rocky Peak Road near Rocky Peak
Rocky Peak Road near Rocky Peak

It looked like things weren’t getting any better at the top of the Chumash Trail, but it wasn’t worse either. I hadn’t heard any thunder for a while, and most of the activity seemed to be a few miles to the west and east. Having been starved of stormy weather for much of the rain season, I turned right on Rocky Peak Road and headed south toward Rocky Peak.

The run from the Chumash Trailhead to Rocky Peak is a challenging mix of technical single-track trail and hilly fire road. There are wide-ranging views of Simi Valley & Simi Hills, the San Fernando Valley, Santa Monica Mountains, Ventura County mountains, and San Gabriel Mountains. On a clear day, the view can extend to the Channel Islands, Saddleback, and San Jacinto Peak.

NOAA radar mosaic Rocky Peak March 12, 2021.
NOAA radar mosaic at the time I was on Rocky Peak

The actual turnaround point for a run to “Rocky Peak” varies. Some like to turnaround at the high point of Rocky Peak Road that is near Rocky Peak. Most of the time, I turnaround at a viewpoint that is at the end of a spur trail that branches off from the high point of Rocky Peak Road. From time to time, it’s fun to hike over to Rocky Peak and scramble to the top. That’s a bit more involved and requires some route-finding.

I felt the first raindrops as I reached the high point on Rocky Peak Road and turned onto the spur trail that leads to the overlook. There was some increased development to the east, but it looked like there would be enough time to get over to Rocky Peak, take a couple of pics, and then head back.

Oat Mountain, shrouded by rain
Oat Mountain, shrouded by rain

I felt a little exposed on top of Rocky Peak. I hadn’t heard any thunder for the past hour, but a cell to the east was spouting heavy rain over the San Fernando Valley, which meant there was probably enough development to produce lightning. I took the title photo and a couple of others and hurriedly descended from the peak.

Back on Rock Peak Road, the sprinkles increased, and the showers became more steady as I ran north toward the Chumash Trail. Under the dark clouds, a raven perched on a large pinnacle cawed incessantly, either enjoying the rain or complaining about it. In the distance, a siren wailed down in the valley. It was cold, and I was very glad to have an extra shirt, sleeves, gloves and a light rain shell.

Mix of sun and rain on the Chumash Trail
Mix of sun and rain on the Chumash Trail.

As I began the descent of the Chumash Trail, the sun briefly broke through the clouds, reflecting brightly on the wet sandstone rocks. I breathed deeply, relishing the smell of the cleansed air and wet chaparral, and continued down the trail.

Here’s an interactive 3D terrain view of my GPS track. Over the run, the temperature sensor on my pack recorded a drop of about 30 degrees — from around 70°F at the start of the run to about 40°F when the showers began! Here’s what a NOAA Radar Mosaic looked like at the start of the run and when I was on Rocky Peak.

Related: Chumash Trail, Rocky Peak, Thunderstorm

Chumash Trail Clouds and Sun

Cumulus clouds from the Chumash Trail

Instability associated with an upper low resulted in some pop-up showers and thunderstorms today.

As I ran up the Chumash Trail on the east side of the Simi Valley I kept a close eye on a cell that developed near Ladyface in the Agoura Hills. That cell didn’t track as much to the east as I thought it might, but other cells were developing to the east and south of Rocky Peak and Santa Susana Pass area and at one point I heard the rumble of thunder.

As it worked out, I only had a few sprinkles on the run, but drove home in the rain!

Category Is: Things Found on the Chumash Trail

Things Found on the Chumash Trail

What the… Until I saw the water bottle and that the person was talking on a cell phone, I wasn’t sure what I was seeing.

Then there was the rattlesnake — well actually, the two rattlesnakes! Here’s an HD video snapshot of one of them. This is an average size Southern Pacific rattlesnake. Because of our cool Spring weather they’ve been slow to appear, but are now out and about.

Some related posts: Big Southern Pacific Rattlesnake at Ahmanson Ranch, It was So Muddy That…, Overcoming Obstacles on the Trail

Chumash Trail Green

Chumash Trail in Simi Valley

It’s now been 17 days since there’s been measurable rain at Downtown Los Angeles (USC). A trace of rain was recorded on a couple of days, but for the time being a big blocking ridge has shut the door on Pacific precipitation.

So far this January, only 0.58 of rain has been recorded, which is a little less than one-third of normal for the month. However, because of our frequent December storms the water year total at Los Angeles is currently about double the normal amount — and why open space areas of Southern California have turned so lush and green.

Chumash Wilderness Trail Run

Lynn Longan running up the switchbacks near the Condor Observation Site on Mt. Pinos.

 The out and back trail run from the Chula Vista parking lot on Mt. Pinos to the top of Mt. Abel is one of the best “short” mountain runs in Southern California. Most of the run is on the Vincent Tumamait Trail —  a technical single track trail in the Chumash Wilderness in Los Padres National Forest.

Llama on the trail/road up to the Condor Observation Site and summit of Mt. Pinos.Ranging in elevation from about 7700′ to 8800′, the run packs a lot into its 15 mile length, combining great scenery with demanding uphills and superb downhills through old growth pine and fir forest. The summit area of Mt. Pinos is open and alpine with views that can range from the ocean to the Sierra.
Yellow monkeyflower and western blue flag (iris) at Sheep Camp.About 4 miles from the parking lot is the North Fork Trail junction. A short side trip on this trail leads to the seeps, spring and wildflowers at Sheep Camp. The Vincent Tumamait Trail ends at Cerro Noroeste (Mt. Abel) road, but it is not difficult to work up through the pines about 1/3 of a mile to the campground on Mt. Abel’s summit.

Usually about 20-30 degrees cooler than lowland hot spots such as the San Fernando Valley, the run is a great way to beat the heat on a hot summer day. See the post Vincent Tumamait Trail for more info and additional trail running options.

The title photo is of Lynn Longan, running up the switchbacks near the Condor Observation Site on Mt. Pinos.