The Puente Hills divide the Los Angeles Basin into a northern one-third and a southern two-thirds. North is the San Gabriel Valley, an alluvium-filled basin. South of the hills is a coastal plain, a flatland that tilts gently toward the Pacific.
Puente Hills Skyline Trail, under the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles County Parks Department, is a 28-mile riding and hiking trail that rambles through the canyons and over the mustard-covered crests.
This day hike offers abbreviated and lengthy samples of the Skyline Trail. All trail options offer fine clear-day views of the metropolis from scenic overlooks.
Bring plenty of water; none is available along the described sections of Skyline Trail.
Directions to trailhead: Exit the Pomona Freeway on 7th Avenue and drive four blocks south to its end at Orange Grove Avenue. Park near the traffic barrier. (To reach Otterbein County Park, end point for one of this day hike's options, exit the Pomona Freeway on Azusa Avenue. Proceed south and turn left on Colima Road, then right into the park.)
The hike: Walk up 7th Avenue, which is a bulldozed dirt road beyond the traffic barrier. Pass some private horse corrals and ascend briefly on a paved road to a San Gabriel Water Co. facility. Here a dirt trail picks up and you begin ascending a mile through a small forest of thistle and mustard. You reach a long plateau and are treated to views of the San Gabriel Valley. Atop the plateau, you intersect the Puente Hills Skyline Trail.
Option: To Overlook. Bear right on the Puente Hills Skyline Trail, following a fence along the plateau's perimeter. The land belongs to Rose Hills Memorial Park, but the county has easements for its trail system. The cemetery is just a stone's throw away on the other side of the hill.
After hiking the length of the mustard-smothered plateau, you'll reach an unmarked junction. Bear left here and ascend the hill. Up top, there are some picnic tables. From the overlook, where a NIKE missile facility once stood, you can see Whittier to the south, San Gabriel Valley to the north. It's an urban view: Sometimes you can even see dump trucks chugging up to Puente Hills Landfill. On clear winter days, you'll spot the Pacific and Catalina Islandon one side and snowcapped Mount Baldy and the San Gabriel Mountains on the other.
Return the same way or continue on to Rio Hondo College.
Option: To Rio Hondo College. From the overlook, the trail stays briefly with a crumbling road, passes another picnic area, then veers off from the road at an unsigned junction. You look down at the gardens of Rose Hill Memorial Park. Noisome civilization grows more evident as you descend toward Workman Mill Road. The trail leads to North Drive at Rio Hondo College.
Return the same way and stop there, or continue on to Otterbein Park.
Option: To Otterbein Park. Bear southeast on the Skyline Trail. A thicket of prickly pear cactus lines the trail. A right turn at an unmarked junction keeps you on the trail, which descends through sage and monkeyflowers into Turnbull Canyon. After a short ascent the trail reaches and crosses Turnbull Canyon Road. More climbing brings you to an overlook for fine views of downtown Los Angeles, the west side of the city, and the Pacific.
The trail angles toward the suburb of Hacienda Heights, and passes right behind some homes whose pools look inviting on a hot day, before dropping down to Colima Road. Follow the pedestrian/equestrian underpass underneath Colima and ascend past soon-to-be-developed "Equestrian Estates." The trail then descends to Hacienda Boulevard, where the hiker makes use of another pedestrian/equestrian underpass.
For the next half mile the Skyline Trail turns southeast and follows a culvert alongside Hacienda Boulevard. This trail ends at Leucadia Road, where the hiker joins a fire road and begins ascending above La Habra Heights. Stay right on the fire road at a junction and pass a locked gate. The trail ascends through a eucalyptus grove and passes another one of the many microwave towers in the Puente Hills. The trail descends a last mile to the wide lawns and picnic areas of Otterbein Park.
Puente Hills Skyline Trail
Seventh Avenue to Overlook: 5 miles round trip; 800-foot elevation gain. Seventh Avenue to Rio Hondo College: 5 miles one way; 800-foot elevation gain. Seventh Avenue to Otterbein Park: 12 miles one way; 1 , 000-foot elevation gain.