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Leapfrog suburban growth has surrounded the once-remote Simi Hills of western Ventura County, but not before the National Park Service and local agencies succeeded in setting aside more than 5000 acres of contiguous public open space there. The following rambling route of ten miles will take you on foot -- or mountain bike (for expert riders only) -- through the newest parkland additions, collectively known as the Palo Comado Canyon Site.

Exit Highway 101 at Kanan Road in Agoura Hills and drive north 2.2 miles to Sunnycrest Drive. Turn right and continue 0.8 mile to a trail entrance on the right signed "Public Recreation Trail." At this point, the street's name changes to Doubletree Road. Abundant curbside parking is available.

On foot or bike, travel east through grassland for 0.5 mile over a rise and downhill into broad Palo Comado Canyon. Turn left on the dirt road going left, up the canyon, and enjoy a pleasant stroll amid stately sycamores and gnarled live oaks. Deer, bobcats, coyotes, rabbits, owls, and various birds of prey haunt this serene space.

At around 1.5 miles, the dirt road begins a vigorous and sometimes crooked ascent. Looking behind you, you gaze upon a lovely tapestry of canyon-bottom woods and slopes adorned with dense patches of chaparral and sandstone outcrops. After assuming a more gentle gradient at 2.6 miles, you pass over a summit at 3.3 miles and proceed another 0.2 mile downhill to the edge of oak-dotted China Flat. On your left lies an old stock pond forming a small reflecting pool when it brims with water during and after the rainy season.

Continue west through China Flat, staying left at the next junction. Beyond the oaks to your left (south), the China Flat Trail climbs a ridge and goes down the far side. This is your way back to suburbia, but for now don't miss the side trip to Simi Peak, which is 1.0 mile away by trail. Keep going west by veering right on a pathway going up a gradual incline. This pathway eventually curls up Simi Peak's north slope, becoming very steep and rocky in the last 200 yards. South and west from the jagged summit, your gaze takes in the broad sweep of the Santa Monica Mountains and scattered patches of cityscape embedded in the rolling landscape below.

After visiting the peak, return to China Flat and turn right on the China Flat Trail. You duck under a canopy of oaks, climb for a few minutes, pass over a saddle, and finally descend 1.5 miles on a disused and sometimes eroded dirt road to the edge of a housing development. You emerge either at King James Court or just around the corner on Lindero Canyon Road. Cross Lindero Canyon Road and proceed on one or another pathway heading southeast down along the oak-lined Medea Creek drainage. Soon you find yourself on Oak Canyon Park's nature trail, where you can either follow a bike path on the left or stick to a wide dirt path along trickling Medea Creek itself. You emerge near the park's entrance.

Now only 1.3 miles remain -- entirely on sidewalks. Use Hollytree Drive and Doubletree Road to get back to your starting point by the shortest route.

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