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Hiking: Simi Valley

Finding the Rocky Edge of Civilization

April 19, 1998|JOHN McKINNEY

Just north of the busy Simi Valley Freeway lies a quiet concentration of canyon lands and dramatic sandstone formations--a little bit of Southwest Utah located on the Los Angeles-Ventura county line. For the hiker, the attractions include a trickling creek, a climb over an area landmark, Rocky Peak; and splendid views of the Simi and San Fernando valleys.

A sizable spread of Simi Hills has been spared from development and placed under the care of the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District. The district, in cooperation with volunteer organizations (in particular, the Rancho Simi Trail Blazers) has created a web of hiking trails that explore the hills.

Wildlife abounds. Turkey vultures and red-tailed hawks ride the thermals above 2,714-foot Rocky Peak and sky-scraping sister summits. Bobcats, deer, raccoons and opossums roam a wildlife corridor that connects the Simi Hills and the Santa Susana Mountains.

Hummingbird Trail, completed in 1996, is the latest addition to a popular footpath network that includes Rocky Peak Trail to the east and Chumash Trail to the west.

The attractions of Hummingbird Trail are many, but its use by hikers should come with a warning. Speeding mountain bikers can be hazardous to a hiker's health. The steep, narrow path with its blind corners should be declared off-limits to mountain bikers before someone gets hurt. Directions to trail head: From the Simi Valley Freeway (California 118) in Simi Valley, exit on Kuehner Drive and head north. Dependable parking is available in the flat turnouts just north of the freeway. If you continue north on Kuehner one-third mile, you'll find a few roadside parking spaces right by the signed trail head.

If you park down by the freeway, add about half a mile to the round trip distance of this hike.

The hike: From a park bulletin board, Hummingbird Trail briefly heads north alongside the road before U-turning and descending south toward Hummingbird Creek. Numbered posts along the trail testify to an abandoned nature trail.

The trail passes an old stone wall, dips to the creek bottom and traverses a small oak woodland. In the shadow of the Simi Valley Freeway, cross the creek and tackle some switchbacks. The trail climbs a no-nonsense mile to sandstone rock formations and caves. Recent rains have resulted in a lot of water percolating through the narrow slot canyons.

After meandering among the rocks, the trail makes another earnest ascent to a saddle within sight of Rocky Peak Road. An isolated rock outcroppings affords views of the Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Valley.

At the intersection with Rocky Peak Trail is a bench to take a breather. Those hikers bound for Rocky Peak will turn left on the dirt road and begin the ascent. Reward for reaching the peak is a commanding vista of the San Fernando Valley, Simi Valley, high peaks of Los Padres National Forest, Anacapa Island and the Santa Barbara Channel.

*

McKinney's book "Day Hiker's Guide to Southern California" is available through The Times for $16.45 (including tax, shipping and handling); (800) 246-4042.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Hummingbird Trail

Where: Simi Hills

Distance: To Rocky Peak Trail Junction is 4.6 miles round trip with 1,000-foot elevation gain; to Rocky Peak is 8 miles round trip with 1,500-foot elevation gain.

Terrain: Chapparal-cloaked slopes, sandstone peaks.

Highlights: Intriguing rock formations, valley views.

Degree of difficulty: Moderate.

For more information: Rancho Simi Regional Park District, tel. (805) 584-4400.

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