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A geologic story of deposition

Red Rock Canyon, reminiscent of the cinematic Wild West, lies hidden within the Santa Monica Mountains

Scenic Red Rock Canyon hides amid the scruffy slopes of the Santa Monica Mountains, not far from the San Fernando Valley communities of Woodland Hills and Calabasas. Slabs of cavernous sandstone and cobbly conglomerate tilted sharply upward in the canyon tell a geologic story of deposition by gentle currents and massive floods, later faulting and folding of the resulting sedimentary rock layers, and ongoing weathering and erosion. The beige and purplish red colors of the rock strata contrast nicely with the greens and grays of oaks, sycamores, and chaparral -- altogether making the canyon reminiscent of the cinematic Wild West. Herein I'll describe an approach to Red Rock Canyon from its top (west) side, ideal for a weekend stroll or mountain-bike ride of four miles, round trip. In addition, hikers (no dogs or bikes allowed) may want to try a side trip up the slope north of the canyon using the narrow Red Rock Canyon Trail.

From Woodland Hills or Calabasas, take Mulholland Highway southwest approximately five miles to Stunt Road on the left. Drive one mile on Stunt Road Park to a large turnout at mile marker 1.0. After parking there, cross the pavement and pick up the fire road that cuts across a hillside to the north. When you reach a junction in a saddle at 0.7 mile, you're at the head (top end) of Red Rock Canyon. Turn right on the crooked road descending into the canyon, enjoying the scenery, which becomes more interesting as the canyon becomes narrower and deeper.

At 1.5 mile, on the left, the one-mile-long Red Rock Canyon Trail crosses the canyon's seasonal stream, heads abruptly upward along a ridge, and climbs circuitously to the north rim of the canyon. The side trip is worth it if the weather's clear and cool, otherwise probably not. After another 0.5 mile on the canyon road, you come to a picnic site on the grounds of an old Boy Scout camp, and water for drinking. Keep going on the road just a bit farther and you'll discover a spectacular little gorge.

The gorge and picnic site are accessible from the east by car, which pretty much negates the fun of traveling to them on your own power. If you wish to get to the canyon this way, however, take Old Topanga Road four miles south from Mulholland Highway, or two miles northwest from Topanga Canyon Boulevard, to Red Rock Road. Turn west and drive 0.8 mile to the gorge and a vehicle gate just beyond it.

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Scenic Red Rock Canyon hides amid the scruffy slopes of the Santa Monica Mountains, not far from the San Fernando Valley communities of Woodland Hills and Calabasas. Slabs of cavernous sandstone and cobbly conglomerate tilted sharply upward in the canyon tell a geologic story of deposition by gentle currents and massive floods, later faulting and folding of the resulting sedimentary rock layers, and ongoing weathering and erosion. The beige and purplish red colors of the rock strata contrast nicely with the greens and grays of oaks, sycamores, and chaparral -- altogether making the canyon reminiscent of the cinematic Wild West. Herein I'll describe an approach to Red Rock Canyon from its top (west) side, ideal for a weekend stroll or mountain-bike ride of four miles, round trip. In addition, hikers (no dogs or bikes allowed) may want to try a side trip up the slope north of the canyon using the narrow Red Rock Canyon Trail.

From Woodland Hills or Calabasas, take Mulholland Highway southwest approximately five miles to Stunt Road on the left. Drive one mile on Stunt Road Park to a large turnout at mile marker 1.0. After parking there, cross the pavement and pick up the fire road that cuts across a hillside to the north. When you reach a junction in a saddle at 0.7 mile, you're at the head (top end) of Red Rock Canyon. Turn right on the crooked road descending into the canyon, enjoying the scenery, which becomes more interesting as the canyon becomes narrower and deeper.

At 1.5 mile, on the left, the one-mile-long Red Rock Canyon Trail crosses the canyon's seasonal stream, heads abruptly upward along a ridge, and climbs circuitously to the north rim of the canyon. The side trip is worth it if the weather's clear and cool, otherwise probably not. After another 0.5 mile on the canyon road, you come to a picnic site on the grounds of an old Boy Scout camp, and water for drinking. Keep going on the road just a bit farther and you'll discover a spectacular little gorge.

The gorge and picnic site are accessible from the east by car, which pretty much negates the fun of traveling to them on your own power. If you wish to get to the canyon this way, however, take Old Topanga Road four miles south from Mulholland Highway, or two miles northwest from Topanga Canyon Boulevard, to Red Rock Road. Turn west and drive 0.8 mile to the gorge and a vehicle gate just beyond it.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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