Powder Canyon-Schabarum Trail Loop
Date Hiked: January 1, 2012
Best Season: Autumn Spring Winter
Check Trail Conditions: Puente Hills Landfill Native Habitat Preservation Authority (949) 492-4872
- Distance: 4.5 miles round-trip
- Elevation Gain: 763 feet
- Route Type: Lollipop as hiked, loop if done from Schabarum Park
- Trail Type: Dirt
- Difficulty: Moderate
Nobody likes a dump, but the establishment of the Puente Hills Landfill Native Habitat Preservation Authority, as a result of mitigation for the Puente Hills Landfill, has led to a remarkable stretch of wildlands being preserved on the LA/OC border from the 605 Freeway almost all the way to the 57 Freeway. We have previously written about our hikes in the Hellman Wilderness Park and Powder Canyon Loop, and have hiked in the Hacienda Hills area (our favorite stretch, actually, and post is coming soon) as well. These are not true wilderness hikes, but it is amazing what a nice, natural experience you can get hiking on these trails right in the middle of crowded Southern California.
It is especially nice when you don’t have a lot of time to drive, or you have something to do later in the day, so need a shorter option, as all of these hikes are half day at most. The first time we hiked a portion of Powder Canyon, we parked at the Black Walnut Trailhead on Fullerton Road, and did the Black Walnut/Powder Canyon Loop. We liked it so much, that the next time we wanted to get out but didn’t have a lot of time, we parked at the Gray Squirrel Trailhead (no fee), just southwest of Black Walnut, also on Fullerton Road, to try a different loop within the park. This “lollipop” loop would have us re-trace our favorite part of the Powder Canyon Trail, reach a peak with a near 360 degree view of LA and Orange County, and then brush up against Schabarum Regional park at the halfway mark before returning on Powder Canyon again.
The pretty part of this hike starts almost immediately. Gray Squirrel Trail almost immediately descends into an oak canopy, which continues as you merge onto Powder Canyon Trail. Head north on Powder Canyon (it will probably feel like you’re heading west), hiking mostly in the shade until you begin climbing towards the Purple Sage Trail.
The last stretch of this piece of Powder Canyon, and then the uphill portion of Purple Sage Trail (after you turn left at the intersection) are both very exposed, making it a very hot and dry climb if you do this on a warm day or in the afternoon. This relatively steep, exposed stretch lasts just under a mile, before bringing you to an overlook that brings you beautiful views of the San Gabriel Mountains (most prominently Mount Baldy) to the north and Orange County and Catalina Island (on a reasonably clear day) to the south. For the best view, either hike on up to the radio towers at the top, or at least to the overlook, right adjacent to where the Buena Vista Trail crosses the Purple Sage Trail.
We took the Buena Vista Trail “short cut” over to Schabarum Trail, but if you want to add another mile or so to your distance, you can continue straight on Purple Sage Trail to Schabarum, and go on the back side of the radio towers. As we did it, the Buena Vista Trail passes by a few large shady trees (much needed the day we did it!) before starting back downhill through several tall transmission towers before joining up with the Schabarum Trail.
Once you join the Schabarum Trail, head straight/right in a generally northward direction (though it starts briefly south, as you can see at the map here). The downhill is a bit steeper than the uphill was, but nothing too challenging. The top half of the descent is also quite exposed, which is something to consider if you decide to do the loop the other way (as we recently did with a group of other outdoors bloggers). The lower half is actually quite nice.
After about a mile, you will run into Schabarum Park. Schabarum Regional Park consists of 640 acres of trails, picnic areas, playgrounds and an equestrian center. For yesterday’s SoCal Hiking TweetUp, we met at one of the picnic areas near the Powder Canyon Trailhead within the park, and it proved to be a very nice place for a hike and bbq, and a good starting point to hike one or both of the Powder Canyon loops, if you don’t mind paying the $6 parking fee on weekends (free mid-week).
The trail wanders along the edge of the park for about a half mile until you come to the stables, where it heads south back into the quasi-wilderness. The next 3/4 mile starts to head relatively gently uphill, along a fairly well shaded trail back up to the junction with Purple Sage Trail, where you re-connect with the portion of Powder Canyon Trail you have already hiked.
From here, going this direction, it is a mostly gently descending trail for just over a half mile back to the Gray Squirrel Trail junction, and a short hop back up to the parking area from there.
As we hiked it, this is a 4.5 mile hike, but if you park at Schabarum Regional Park and just do the loop, it is only 3.2 miles. If you want to add on mileage, you can make it a figure 8 type hike, as some of our hiking friends did today, tying together the Schabarum-Purple Sage-Powder loop (described in this write-up) with the Black Walnut-Powder Canyon loop (described here) to make it a roughly 7 mile hike.
There is really only one stretch of this portion of the Puente Hills Preserve we haven’t tried yet, and that would be to tie the Anza-Schabarum trail to the Black Walnut Trail into another 4.5-5 mile loop. As close at it is, I’m sure we will get there soon!
We had a great time yesterday meeting some long-time and new hiking Twitter friends at the 2nd annual #SoCalHikingTweetup! And we look forward to hiking with this bunch again:
- Pete (aka “East West Hike“) @ADKinLA
- Traci (aka “Walk Simply“) @WalkSimply
- Jeff (aka “The SoCal Hiker“) @thesocalhiker, and his wife Joan
- Josh (aka “California Through My Lens“) @JCMcNair, and his wife Amy
- David (aka “Red Tail Trails” ), @SwiftCinema
- Zac (aka “Op Adventure Team“), @ZacApplegate.
View Powder Canyon – Schabarum Trail Loop 1-1-12 in a larger map