Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hiking Vasquez Rocks

Vasquez Rocks, located in the high desert near Agua Dulce Springs, features 913 acres of spectacular rock formations, Tataviam Indian sites, and a seasonal stream. We recently had the chance to visit this fun hiking area and were not disappointed. Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park is a popular hiking, picnicking, and equestrian area and has been used in many hit movies, television shows and commercials. In fact when we were leaving, several paramount studio trucks started showing up in the parking area. For more pictures of Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park make sure to check out our Facebook Page.

Directions to Trailhead: To get to the trailhead, to hike at the Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park, from Orange County and the greater Los Angeles area, head towards Santa Clarita via either the 405 north, the 5 north, or the 210 west. Take the 5 freeway to the Antelope Valley Freeway, CA-14 and head east toward Palmdale. You are going to exit the Antelope Valley Freeway at Agua Dulce Canyon Road and head north, following the signs for Vasquez Rocks. After a hard right hand turn, Agua Dulce Canyon Road turns into Escondido Canyon Road. The entrance to Vasquez Rocks Natural Area will be on the south side of the road. There are signs directing you to the park. There is no cost for parking and no passes are required for the day-use area of Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park. Once inside the park, you are on a maintained dirt road. Take the dirt road all the way to the farthest parking spot, you will pass several other trailhead options.  For customized driving directions to Vasquez Rocks, click Here. The Vasquez Rocks Park address is: 10700 West Escondido Canyon RoadAgua Dulce, CA 91350 and the telephone is (661) 268-0840. Park Hours: Sunrise to Sunset; May 1st - September 15th: 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and September 16th - March 9th: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Note, this park is strict in closing the main entrance gate at closing time.

Description of Hike: Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park offers great hiking trails that journey and wind their way through jagged rocks folded and twisted into amazing formations by the San Andreas Fault. There are several main trails through the park which are marked and there are many un-marked trails and/or informal hiking trails at Vasquez Rocks. This is definitely a park that could use a little TLC regarding trail maintenance. Despite the possible difficulty with informal trails, we have highlighted two loops at Vasquez Rocks. The Blue Loop as shown below is a shorter hike with a roundtrip distance of 1.1 miles and an elevation gain of approximately 150 feet. There is a basic trail map available at the trailhead, but you will notice it is lacking in information. Head north/west on the geology trail which will connect with the Horse/Foot Trail. Follow the Horse/Foot Trail trail up a small hill. Once you reach the crest you will want to make a left and head up to the top of the hill where you will have a great views of the geological formations. Continue down on that trail and return via informal and/or unmarked trails.  The Yellow Loop is a little better marked and has an approximate elevation gain of 320 feet with a rountrip distance of 2.9 miles. For this loop, stay on the Horse/Foot Trail and then take the Horse Trail when that trail splits off. The Horse Trail will connect with the Road Trail where you will make a left. The Road Trail will become the Pacific Crest Trail and will take you back to the parking area. Note the trails here are somewhat confusing due to the high number of informal trails which intersect with the actual trails, so always be aware of your surroundings and your location to the parking area.

Further Thoughts: We really enjoyed this hike at Vasquez Rocks as it has amazing geological features. These rock formations are similar to those found at our Devils Punchbowl Hike. This hike is absolutely spectacular if done on a clear day as you can really take in the beauty of the surrounding open space. The funny thing about Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park is easily seen by many motorists everyday that drive on the Antelope Valley Freeway (CA 14).

This area has a long unique history. In 1873 and 1874 Tiburcio Vásquez, one of California's most notorious bandits, used these rocks to elude capture by law enforcement. His name has since been associated with this geologic feature and hence the name Vasquez Rocks. The prominent rock formation has been nicknamed "Kirk's Rock" due to being featured in several Star Trek episodes, each time representing a different planet.  The use of the rock as a place to struggle with an enemy was echoed in the film "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey" twice, once replaying the Gorn Star Trek episode on the TV, and again when title characters are murdered by their doubles at the same location.

The Vasquez Rocks were also used prominently throughout all three seasons of the science-fiction television series Roswell as something of an important location for the main characters and their story. The area is also featured as the location of the Command Center for Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. In a Season 5 episode of Friends - "The One with Joey's Big Break" - Joey lands the lead role in a movie being filmed at the Vasquez Rocks (though the peaks are not seen on camera). Also featured in the movie Paul, and in the 2009 "South by Southwest" episode of NCIS. There have been many commercials and other television shows that have filed here.  In fact when we were leaving several paramount studio trucks started showing up in the parking area.

Bottom-line is this is a fun hiking location with a lot of history. Vasquez Rocks was added to the National Register of Historic Places (site #72000228) in 1972 due to its significance as a prehistoric site for the Shoshone and Tataviam peoples. Ashley and I both highly recommend a hike here, even though there are many unmarked informal trails. It gives you plenty of opportunities to explore the surrounding area.

Rating: Blue Loop: Elevation Gain: 150 ft. (Easy), Distance: 1.1 Miles Roundtrip (Easy). Yellow Loop: Elevation Gain: 320 ft. (Easy), Distance: 2.9 Miles Roundtrip (Easy).

Time to Complete Hike: Blue Loop: 0.5 - 1 hour. Yellow Loop: 1 - 2 hours.


View Vasquez Rocks in a larger map

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