Joined: 12 Jun 2011
|Posted: Sun Feb 15, 2015 4:34 pm Post subject: Towsley Peak and Razorback Ridge to Pico Canyon Outlook
|I had heard that there was a planned trail from Pico Canyon to Towsley Canyon near Santa Clarita but it had never been fully created. A couple of years ago I had hiked to the top of Pico Canyon and had noticed a nice use trail following the ridge towards Towsley that looked in great shape.
The primary issue was I wanted to start from Towsley as it would be a shorter easier hike to the transition point from this direction. The few write-ups I found on-line were primarily done by geocachers including Matt M.describing a steep brushfest of epic proportions (5.5 hours one-way) that seemed unpleasant. This did not jibe with my recollection of the ridge where while steep seemed maintained in a reasonable manner.
The first thing I did was disregard the traditional geocache route directly up the south ridge. I was interesting in the easiest route and was more interested in what looked like the logical way up based on the geography of the area. This section has tremendous fault uplift action which creates steep slopes and narrow ridges.
I started up Towsley Canyon and went through the narrows. The first major canyon that opens up to the west is the route you want to take. It is an obvious jumping off point as the trail begins to leave the canyon and you can see a use trail that continues to follow the creek. Follow this use trail for about 30 yards until you see the first opportunity to cross the creek and start up the north side of this canyon. The route goes up an old road that is barely recognizable with slides and deep erosion gullies cutting through it but easily followable. Much detritus from the oil activity will be around you as you hike.
The canyon will split into a north and south branch as you come to a fence and drop directly into the drainage. Follow the drainage up 150 yards or so and notice that the trail now starts to circle around the head of the north fork, do not continue up the drainage. Follow this use trail as you climb up a steep embankment and start to enter the south fork. Just as you round the ridge between the two drainages, you'll notice a steep 20 foot up-climb onto the ridge separating the two drainages. This is your route to the main ridge and Towsley Peak. This ridge climbs steeply but reasonable until you get to a nice flat section just below Towsley Peak. You can notice a faint trail that goes to the right that appears to circle Towsley to the north, the main route goes to the south. This has many steep sections as it contours to the south ridge and the use trail that the geocachers take.
You will hit the south ridge just below Towsley Peak. A quick steep climb up a bump gets you to the Towsley Peak BM with a sign-in can and a creepy scarecrow like effigy. This entire route is CLEAR with minimal bushwhacking, there is clear evidence of individuals chopping and lopping this route through some thick brush.
From here you're on a very pleasant sometimes narrow ridge that takes you over some bumps but is never too sustained as far as climbing as you make your way in a generally westerly direction towards Pico Canyon. This section is infested with geocaches and if you're interested I'm sure you'll find them. I found one with an old soaked Reader's Digest, go figure. This route while narrow is not particularly difficult with only one minor section over some rock required. I recognized the point where the overlook of Pico Canyon would be as I had noted a ridge heading towards Oat Mountain last time I was up there. Some of the sections of the ridge as I neared Pico broadened and I was able to move quite quickly. The final section to Pico required a moderate drop and a final climb and I was back on the picnic table at the end of the fireroad. A quick look at my watch told me that it had taken me 1:45 minutes, come on now!
At the top there was a small weather station that the rangers had towed up there. Also at the top is a sign for one of the wells that had been up there which apparently was why the fire road had been originally made up to this point.
The day was getting warmer so it was time to reverse direction and do the same route on the way back. The hike back on the ridge had a bit more uphill then the way out but again the climbs were really short. The whole ridge route also feels pretty short maybe a mile to a mile and a half between the peak and the outlook. The views were nice and the hills are completely fooled thinking that it is spring with lots of green and poppies and bluebells blooming everywhere. I followed the same route back and found the steep section down-climbs only minor nuisances. Within an hour I was back on the main trail where I met an elderly couple who I hiked the remainder of the way back with on the main trail chatting about prior hikes done and a smattering of politics. The whole hike took about 3:40, not sure about elevation but it felt pretty moderate. Great winter hike and the route all the way is quite clear better then a use trail but not quite a proper trail, my favorite type of hiking.