Vasquez Rocks

I’ve been wanting to go here for a very long time, but until recently had no idea that they were within easy driving distance of Los Angeles. I have a very long abiding love of dramatic desert rock formations (I think formed during my archaeology years) and after seeing photos of the Vasquez Rocks I knew that I needed to go. So, I loaded the boyfriend (my wonderful and patient hiking companion) and my daypack into the car for the 45 minute drive up to Agua Dulce.

Admittedly, before doing a bit of pre-trip research, I had no idea that the Pacific Crest Trail ran through Vasquez Rocks. As a lover of everything map related, and everything related to outdoorsy California (especially the PCT), this was an awesome surprise. So, we decided to do a gorgeous jaunt down the PCT to where it goes under Highway 14 via a long cement tunnel (see photos!).

We decided to do a short jaunt on the PCT, partially because I get really excited about the fact that I’m on a trail that technically goes to Mexico, but also partially because it offers some amazingly dramatic views of Vasquez Rocks and the San Gabriels to the south. Unfortunately, the visitor center is closed on Mondays, which was really too bad, because not only was it suspiciously built in the shape of a strange spaceship, but it looked to have a lot of really interesting resources inside. If you’re interested in this, it’s worth noting that Monday mightnot be the best day to drop by!

After driving around in a semi-lost state for a few minutes, we decided to park at the middle lot between the large lot right next to the rocks, and the visitor center up the hill (as per Socal Hiker’s recommendation) .Helpful hint on this: Once you enter the park and follow the sign that points to the left towards “trails” you’ll pass a parking lot on your left with a notice board. You can obviously go down the hill and park in the huge lot there, but I found that it’s harder to find the PCT from there, and you actually get to see some really cool rock formations if you take the PCT from up the hill (see photo at the bottom), which also doubles as a “geology trail”.

So, assuming you’ve parked in the lot on your lefthand side, you can catch the PCT from right there, which is marked with a very noticeable “Pacific Crest Trail” sign.

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PCT Sign

PCT Sign

It’s pretty easy at this point to follow the signs. For the most part the trail is marks until you get to the tunnel under Highway 14, other than when it sort of crosses an open parking lot type area with a large unusually green tree (for this area) that is labeled “pepper tree” via a wooden sign. If you follow the arrows on the small PCT posts (see below) you basically walk straight across this area, passing the pepper tree on your left, to where the trail picks up again with another PCT sign post.

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View from the PCT, looking southwest.

Along the way you’ll walk over a low ridge, with views of Vasquez Rocks on your right and the San Gabriel Mountains on your left.  

Eventually, you’ll head downhill and around a hillside to travel through Escondido Canyon, where you’ll pass under towering sandstone walls to read the tunnel under Highway 14. This is only semi-creepy, but altogether it seems pretty safe!

After getting to the tunnel we simply backtracked and took the PCT towards Vasquez Rocks, taking a more direct route back towards the large parking lot at the base of the rocks. We wandered around and climbed up on several rocks taking in the spectacular view.

We eventually made our way back up the hill to the car by following a random trail the ran in parallel to the road. This brings up an important point: I don’t think it’s very easy to get lost here (I’m SURE it’s possible), but there are many offshoot trails that seem to go in various directions without any indication of where (or why) that might be. I generally carry my phone GPS for day hikes (using an app called “Topo Maps” with the correct topo map predownloaded) just in case I get confused. Be aware that there are patchworks of trails throughout this area, and try your best to maintain your bearings (Or, carry a phone, gps, or compass). I didn’t need any of these today!

All in all, a wonderful day and a highly recommended place to check out for any LA (or non-LA) outdoor enthusiast.

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