Known for its presence in many feature films and tv shows including Star Trek and The Power Rangers, Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park is an iconic southern California landmark located in the high desert near Agua Dulce Springs. The park has a few different trails you can explore that are all easy to moderate, but for those who want to spend a few hours to capture some great photo spots, the Pacific Loop Trail is the way to go. It's a perfect trail for all hiking levels and fun for groups!
Length: 5.9 mile Pacific Crest Trail Loop with tunnel extension | Level: Easy-Moderate | Duration: 2-3 hours Elevation: 325 | Dogs: Yes on leash Parking fee: FREE | Permits: No | Open sunrise to sunset
The best time of year to do this hike is in the winter California months, November- April. After that, unless you do a sunset hike, it's just too hot as there are little to no shaded areas. This famous shot above can be taken right from the parking lot, but if you decide to continue on the trail, allow a few hours as there are multiple views where you'll want to stop and take photos which I'll point out below!
After turning into the park, stop in the visitor center if you'd like detailed trail maps and other information about the park's history. You can either stay parked there, or drive in a little bit and park toward the left of the main road right in front of the angled rocks. Look for the sign that says Pacific Crest Trail, and begin your journey east/southbound around past the rocks.
Not too far after you work your way down around the rocks, you'll come to an open clearing area where there are picnic tables. Stop and take a quick break here, or make your way to the right heading west to stay on the trail. It gets a little bit confusing here, but you'll eventually see another Pacific Crest Trail sign. To stay on the loop, continue to your right and walk along a low elevated 4x4 vehicle ridge type trail.
Continuing along the ridge, the area here becomes open and flat giving you a full view of your progress. Eventually, the trail slopes down a bit (upper left photo) and you hit another T-junction with another trail sign. Take a right here to continue along the loop trail. If you are feeling up for an extension, take a left for an .85 mile trail that leads to a tunnel that goes right underneath RT 14. The trail down to the tunnel is quite pretty as it's lined with a few cottonwood trees, and the walls of the canyon hang over the trail in strange shapes offering some fun photo spots!
The park boundary is the tunnel, so when you reach it you're done with the extension --though the Pacific Crest Trail does go all the way to Mexico! Unless you're headed on a long trek, this is where you'll turn around and go back up through the canyon to the T-Junction to get back on the loop trail and finish the second half of your hike.
As you make your way up out of the canyon extension, you'll begin a slow ascent that takes you to these really beautiful viewpoint areas where you can see the entire park. There are a couple of paths that connect here - the Horse Trail, and the Foot Trail and both eventually take you to back to the main rocks and visitor center area. Follow the signs for the Foot Trail as this is where you'll get some interesting sandstone rock formations, and panoramic views!
After soaking in all the view shots, the Foot Trail will work its way around and bring you back to the parking lot. But you definitely won't want to leave the park without exploring the main rock landmarks up close. This trail saves the best for last, and as you can see below you can climb right up to the top and have some fun!
There are plenty of people up there to take your photo on this spot, and it's another one that seems a bit scarier than it is- but if you have shoes with good traction, climb up to where you feel comfortable! Most of the crowds linger around the bottom of the main formations and do the smaller trails near there. There is no official trail to the top, but you will notice a few well marked places where it's fairly easy climb right up into the main angles of the rocks so spend some time here and enjoy!
Even if you don't get to the top of the famous rocks, there are plenty of lower ledges and turnoffs to get a fun group shot, or to just sit and enjoy the surroundings!
For more detailed information on this park and all the trails that can be found there, visit Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park
Click here for a specific turn-by-turn writeup with map.
Trailhead address: 10700 West Escondido Canyon Road, Agua Dulce, CA 91350
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