Geology and Nature - Hiking near Los Angeles, California

by Melissa Yap - 3 years, 2 months ago

Beyond the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and Disneyland, Los Angeles also offers hikes that gets you closer to the geology of the area, namely the many fault systems that run underneath the glamorous city. On our last trip to Los Angeles, we explored a couple of hikes not too far from the city.

Vasquez Rocks Natural Area is a 900 acre county park located about an hour outside of the city.  Here rocks are tilted to 50 degree angles, forced into position by the magnificent forces of earthquake movement over the last 20 million years. Unfortunately, Hollywoood was waiting for us at this park - we walked into a filming of a movie during our visit.  The park was large enough that we were able to veer away from the filming and still enjoy the rest of the park in relative quiet.  We enjoyed an almost 4 mile hike here, meeting only a couple of hikers after we left the main area.   If the rocks look familiar to you, it is probably because it has been used as a set for many movies and TV shows over the last century.  Planet of the Apes, the Flintstones and episodes of Star Trek and CSI have been filmed at these famous rocks.

Another geological wonderland we explored during this trip is Devil’s Punchbowl.  Located about 1.5 hours from Los Angeles (under an hour from Vasquez Rocks), it is another park filled with slanted rocks, but instead of sharp edged rocks such as at Vasquez Rocks, it is almost scalloped in shaped.  The rocks here seem to be tilted at an almost 90 degree angle, also pushed into position by earthquake activity.  It was our second hike of the day, so we opted for the shorter 1 mile hike, though there are longer hikes available.  The one-mile hike took us down to the base of the rocks, down where a creek flowed at the base of the rocks.  Our little ones enjoyed discovering the different cacti that lined the trail.

If you’re up for a drive from Los Angeles, about 3 hours south east, you will find California’s largest state park – Anza-Borrego State Park.  Here we hiked the Palm Canyon Trail.  About 3 miles roundtrip, this hike took us into a desert filled with different types of cacti, passing a water-filled creek and into a palm tree oasis.  I read that palm tree oases like these grow along fault lines.  It was amazing to see the scenery change, going from dry-rocky-desert to tropical-looking-oasis all in the span of 1.5 miles.   It made us really appreciate the importance of water in our ecosystem.

We had a wonderful time exploring the hikes in Southern California with our kids and learning about the geology and nature of the area.

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