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The 635-acre Sage Ranch lies west of the San Fernando Valley in the scrub-covered Simi Hills. The ranch owes its name not to the predominant sage vegetation growing there, but rather to the former owner of the ranch, one Orrin Sage, Senior. Mr. Sage grazed cattle here for a time and planted orange and avocado orchards on a portion of the property in 1981. Purchased by the state in 1990, this pocket-sized patch of publicly owned open space has become a model park for passive recreation such as hiking, birdwatching, and nature study.

Tilted sandstone outcrops and boulders punctuate the landscape here -- the result of slow uplift of Cretaceous marine sedimentary rock along thrust faults. The rock originated from layers of sandy muck deposited near the ocean shore some 70 million years ago. Framed by these sometimes dramatic rock outcrops, the hiker's view on a clear day extends broadly toward Simi Valley and the Santa Susana Mountains in the north, San Fernando Valley in the east, and the Santa Monica Mountains in the south. The closer-at-hand view to the south and west includes some worn-out-looking former Rocketdyne (now Boeing) test facilities and buildings.

The park's single entrance and spacious parking lot is accessible by way of Woosley Canyon Road from the San Fernando Valley, or (much more awkwardly) by way of the excessively narrow and squiggly Black Canyon Road from Simi Valley. The two-mile loop trail (with minor spurs) going around the property follows graded and ungraded roads, passing near dramatic rock formations known as Turtle Rock and Sandstone Ridge, and skirting a maintained grove of orange trees.

You can see Sage Ranch at its very best from now through early May, when wildflower fragrances, mixed with the scent of orange blossoms, suffuse the air.

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