In 2003, a big parcel of land on the west rim of the San Fernando Valley — the private Ahmanson Ranch — was reborn as the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve. The new preserve protects prime grassland and valley-oak habitat and houses a locale called Lasky Mesa, which was utilized decades ago as a backdrop for a number of film and television productions.

To visit Lasky Mesa, first navigate to the preserve’s Victory Trailhead (open during daylight hours), which lies at the westernmost end of Victory Boulevard, a major San Fernando Valley thoroughfare.

From the trailhead you descend by foot or on a mountain bike for 0.1 mile to a trail junction. There, you make a sharp left, briefly reversing your path (your return route lies on the right). You then start winding uphill through valley oaks clinging to the grassy slopes.

Before long the climb moderates and spacious Lasky Mesa lies ahead. Meadowlarks and redwing blackbirds sing, accompanied by the droning hum of distant traffic on Highway 101, unseen from this vantage point. At 1.0 mile, stay left where a segment of the Mary Weisbrock Loop Trail intersects on the right.

At 1.3 miles you swing by some old ranch buildings that were used in the movie and television industries. Starting in 1914, motion-picture pioneer Jesse Lasky utilized the surrounding landscape for wide-screen settings Lasky described as “big scenes.” Movies such as Gone with the Wind and The Charge of the Light Brigade were partially filmed here, as was the television series Petticoat Junction.

Bypass the ranch buildings and swing to the right (north), remaining on the Mary Weisbrock Loop Trail. Continue north, ignoring other old ranch roads, signed against entry, which lead into an off-limits habitat-restoration zone to the west. At 1.8 miles, keep straight where the north segment of the loop trail comes in from the right.

Now you begin a delightful descent down off the mesa, past fine specimens of coast live oak, and later through willow trees. Turn right at the next trail junction (2.2 miles) and head east, uphill, on the East Las Virgenes Canyon Trail, which will take you back to the Victory Trailhead.

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.

Lasky Mesa
Trek through the former Ahmanson Ranch near Hollywood, and enjoy “big scenes” that you may remember from old movies.
Distance from downtown San Diego: 148 miles
Hiking length: 3.4 miles
Difficulty: Moderate

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