Powder Canyon’s Schabarum Trail Loop: Hiking in a Suburban Habitat Preserve

Hike-At-A-Glance


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.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

The parking area at Gray Squirrel Trailhead, such as it is…

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.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

The Gray Squirrel Trailhead.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

Heading into the oak canopy.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

Nicely shaded trail headed to Powder Canyon.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

Gray Squirrel Trail junction with Powder Canyon Trail.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

Shaded section of Powder Canyon Trail.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

Higher up Powder Canyon, as it gets more exposed.

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.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

At the junction of Purple Sage Trail and Powder Canyon.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

The open and exposed Purple Sage Trail to the top.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

Looking back down Purple Sage Trail from near the top.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

Trail sign along the way, showing this is part of the Anza National Historic Trail as well as the Schabarum Trail.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

Holly, enjoying a rare shady spot along the way.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

Headed towards the “summit”, lined with radio towers.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

The main Buena Vista Trail is on the left, but we strongly suggest taking the less traveled right on the right to a nice scenic lookout.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

A look southeast to Santiago Peak in Orange County.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

Mount Baldy and the San Gabriel Range to the north.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

Not a particularly clear day, but that is Catalina in the background.

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.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

Buena Vista Trail.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

Shaded spot along Buena Vista Trail.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

A look down from Buena Vista Trail to the Schabarum Trail below.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

Heading down Buena Vista Trail towards 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.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

A look back up the unshaded part of Schabarum Trail on the way down.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

The trail starts to get more shaded.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

The nice lower section of the Schabarum Trail.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

Holly, anxiously waiting for us to get to the bottom.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

Near the bottom of the trail. Another nice lookout from lower elevation. You’ll turn right here, but doesn’t hurt to check out the view first.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

Shaded section of lower Schabarum Trail.

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).

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

The trail to the left heads into the park and the picnic areas. We’re heading straight today, but started on the left when we hiked this recently from Schabarum Park.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

Holly, ensuring the approaching hikers aren’t a threat…

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

Heading along a nice stretch on the edge of the park.

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.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

The stables on the southeast end of the park.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

The trailhead for Powder Canyon at the stables.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

Going up Powder Canyon Trail from the stables.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

Approaching the junction with Purple Sage Trail.

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.

Powder Canyon-Schabarum Loop

Heading back down Powder Canyon towards the Gray Squirrel Trailhead.

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:


View Powder Canyon – Schabarum Trail Loop 1-1-12 in a larger map

Powder_Canyon_Schabarum_Loop_Elevation_Profile

Elevation profile for Powder Canyon–Schabarum Trail Loop, hiked from Gray Squirrel Trailhead.

Comments

  1. Josh says

    Great write up! I love how green everything is in these pictures. Thanks for the recommendation of Schabarum for the meet up. Def was a great little urban hike

  2. rosemead_sidewalk says

    Yes, this is definitely a centrally-located hike (for those living in the San Gabriel Valley or northern OC. Nice springtime flowers, albeit mostly non-native. The hill you’re looking down on the picture labeled “A look down the Buena Vista Trail” (which partially overlaps the area shown in the picture labeled “A look back up the unshaded part of Schabarum Trail. . .” is where I spent about an hour last spring, on about a fifty yard segment of trail, shooting pictures of wild radish.

      • rosemead_sidewalk says

        Yeah, the Puente Hills get lots of wild radish (the purple/red flowers), wild mustard (the yellow ones) and various thistle (the tall ones with the spiny ball of purple at the top). All non-native, but still very pretty. There are also some lupine there (native plant), but they’re completely outnumbered by the three major invasives.

  3. says

    Excellent write-up! As always you provide excellent details to your readers! Seriously, I had a wonderful day and it was a wonderful meetup! You two are awesome!

  4. Mary says

    Good description of trail. Also good to note that dogs must be kept on leash. My dog was recently attacked by a “friendly” dog.

  5. Jimbo says

    I’ve been looking for information like this, and you exceeded all my wishes! Thank you for such a wonderful website complete with photos and descriptions!

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