San Emigdio Canyon (dayhike)

Trip Date: 4/16/2017

Location: Wind Wolves Preserve

Permit/Pass: None

Trail maps: Wildlands Cons. Map

Directions: From Interstate 5 in the south San Joaquin Valley just north of the split with CA Highway 99, take the Maricopa Hwy. exit (CA 166) and head west for about ten miles to the signed left turn into Wind Wolves Preserve. Follow the road directly south for three miles where, after a slight turn to the left you find yourself at the entrance to the Preserve. Turn right, head and pass the kiosk, then follow the signs for the San Emigdio Canyon trailhead parking area. The trailhead itself is past the gate at the south end of the parking lot and a few yards up the road.

Synopsis: If it's a bit hot on the San Joaquin Valley floor and you're near the Grapevine area looking for an excellent hike, head west to the Wind Wolves Preserve, a 90,000 acre parcel managed by the Wildlands Conservancy. Here you head up into the foothills for some cooler air and a very pretty hike through San Emigdio Canyon - one that boasts some lovely old California scenery to go along with the historic old road that connected early Los Angeles with San Francisco.

Trail sequence: Canyon View - San Emigdio Canyon Trail / Raven's Landing spur / San Emigdio Canyon / Reflection Pond Trail / El Camino Viejo Trail

Type: Loop

Distance: 7.9 miles

Elevation: Min. - 1573', Max. - 2347'


Rating: Moderate (factors: heat, length)

Notes: The canyon through which this hike travels is narrow enough that several use trails cross from one side to the other. This, along with a couple of established connectors along the way, offers opportunity to turn around and take a shorter hike than the nearly eight mile track here. But the most beautiful part of the trek is to be found in the flat, open and unspoiled upper canyon area. It's worth the effort.

It's also worth noting that the return part of this hike travels part of the historic inland route between the pueblo of Los Angeles and the Bay area.

Track: San Emigdio Canyon - Wind Wolves Preserve: AllTrails, GaiaGPS

Turn by Turn:

  -- Walk past the gate and straight up the paved path to the signed trailhead for the Canyon View trail. (This is essentially the San Emigdio Canyon trail but it seems in this lower area it, along with the Raven's Landing spur, is referred to as the Canyon View trail. I discovered this after being directed off-course by some markers onto the short Raven's Landing side trip. It was not an unpleasant digression, but it did lengthen the hike.)

  -- Head south along the gently ascending trail as it parallels the creek on your right (west). After a dip into and climb out of a side ravine you reach a marker that directs you to the left (east) if you wish to continue on Canyon View trail. This also takes the hiker up to Raven's Landing. Be aware that if you don't want to take this side trip, ignore the marker and turn right to continue on the San Emigdio Canyon trail.

  -- Follow the trail as it heads south again and drops into and through the creek bed. At about two and a half miles into the hike you approach a forested location (Willows Picnic Area) that includes a group campground and picnic spots. There are some crisscrossing trails here, and you want to stay left at the first junction but then take the options that lead south and up again. After leaving this area the trail, after veering a bit to the right, then jogs to the southeast and very gradually ascends again into the head of the canyon.

  -- About a mile beyond the Willows you come to a dead-end at the Reflection Pond Trail. If you have time and want to extend the hike, you can take a left and climb up to the reflection pond. To follow this track, turn right (west) to cross over to the El Camino Viejo trail.

  -- Turn right (north) on El Camino Viejo trail and begin the trip back to the trailhead. You stay on this wide dirt road the entire way, passing again the Willows Picnic Area and finally dropping down to a large gazebo with picnic tables and past some restrooms before closing the loop at the Canyon View trailhead. From here turn left (north) and walk back past the gate to your car.

Video: Youtube