Temescal Canyon and Will Rogers State Historic Park in Pacific Palisades are just two of the many units of parkland and open space that make up the sprawling Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The Rivas Canyon Trail, of relatively recent origin, now connects these two park units. This hand-tooled route at times resembles a rabbit run in the brush, so you can be assured of close encounters with the native vegetation. These encounters could include poison oak, but that can be avoided if you are aware of the plant’s identity.
You begin at Temescal Gateway Park, immediately north of Sunset Boulevard on the extension of Temescal Canyon Road. Try to find a space to park in the northernmost parking lot, and head on foot toward some institutional buildings that make up the former Presbyterian Conference Grounds. To the right, look for a small sign indicating the Rivas Canyon Trail, and start following the obscure path indicated.
You make your way circuitously up the east wall of Temescal Canyon, gaining a ridgeline after about 0.5 mile. You then go up along the ridgeline itself, pass over a crest, and descend sharply and crookedly to the shady bottom of Rivas Canyon. A delightfully gradual downhill promenade ensues, taking you through riparian and oak woodland vegetation. Several private residences lie within the canyon; take care to stay in the canyon bottom and not take a wrong turn into anyone’s backyard.
By about 1.8 mile into the hike, you’re approaching the dead end of a residential street. To the left, find and follow the path that enters the grounds of Will Rogers State Historic Park. Proceed east into the main park area, which includes parking spaces, a polo field, and the historic ranch home of famed radio personality and pop-philosopher Will Rogers.
If you have arranged for someone to fetch you there, your hike is over. Otherwise, you have two options. You can return the way you came, or you can follow busy Sunset Boulevard back to Temescal Gateway Park — a possibly faster but not inspiring walk.
This article contains information about a publicly owned recreation or wilderness area. Trails and pathways are not necessarily marked. Conditions can change rapidly. Hikers should be properly equipped and have safety and navigational skills. The Reader and Jerry Schad assume no responsibility for any adverse experience.
The Rivas Canyon Trail gives a rabbit’s eye view of Pacific Palisades chaparral and riparian vegetation.
Distance from downtown San Diego: 135 miles
Hiking length: 2.0 miles (one way)