Ferns along the Garapito Trail, Topanga State Park.
Chaparral has been described as an elfin forest, and there is probably no better trail in the Santa Monica Mountains to see why, than the Garapito Trail. From the fire road near Eagle Rock, the trail seemingly dives into a tunnel of chaparral, and doesn’t emerge until it ends at Temescal Fire Road, some 2.5 miles away.
This day I ran a 12 mile figure-eight course from the end of Reseda to Trippet Ranch via the Hub, and then returned via the Musch, Garapito, and Bent Arrow trails. Fire roads out– trails back. A shorter option goes directly to the Garapito Trail via the Hub, and then returns via the Bent Arrow trail. This is about 7.5 miles. A longer option tacks on an out and back to Parker Mesa at Trippet Ranch.
Whether it’s raining, 100 degrees, or snowing (!) you’re likely to see someone hiking, mountain-biking, or running Rocky Peak road in Rocky Peak Park. Switchbacking up from the 118 freeway, the fire road climbs along the spine of the Santa Susana mountains. It’s proximity to the San Fernando and Simi Valleys, and array of route variations, make it the choice of many for a morning or afternoon workout.
It’s not because it’s easy — the route is steep from the start, gaining 500 ft. in the first three-quarters of a mile, and 1200 ft. in just over 2 miles.
Following are some approximate one-way distances and elevation gains.
Hummingbird Trail: 0.8 miles 500 ft.
High point at turnoff to peak: 2.4 miles 1200 ft.
Johnson Motorway: 3.2 miles 1350 ft.
Chumash Trail: 3.8 miles 1390 ft.
Fossils: 4.8 miles 1800 ft.
Las Llajas Loop turnoff: 5.5 miles 1950 ft.
End of Rocky Peak Rd at Las Llajas Cyn Rd.: 6.3 2070 ft.
Snow highlights skeletal fingers of chaparral burned in the 2003 Simi Fire. From the Chumash Trail in the eastern Simi Valley. More info and a couple of additional photos can be found in my Coyote Oak Journal entry Chaparral Snow.
The final quarter-mile of the infamous Bulldog climb can be seen along the right skyline. I’d just struggled up that a few minutes before. An elevation gain of 1700 ft. in 3.5 miles sounds not-so-hard sitting in front of a computer, but the climb has few breaks and is longer and steeper than those figures convey.
The Bulldog climb is part of the ~14.5 mile Bulldog Loop — an excellent course that is popular among runners and mountain bikers. My Polar HRM says the elevation gain/loss on the loop is about 2700 ft., and a quick calculation using the elevation profile in Sporttracks gives a gain/loss of 2500-2600 ft.
In 2004 Sal Bautista ran the slightly shorter version of the loop done in the Malibu Creek Trail Challenge in under 1.5 hours! Here’s a Google Earth image of a GPS trace of the Bulldog loop.