“It’s just nothing but rock, and there’s nothing to keep you from falling off the side.That’s why they call it the Devil’s Slide.”
- Patricia Havens, a founding member of the Simi Valley Historical Society
It is hard not to fall in love with the mountains and hills that surround Simi Valley, California.
When I moved to the community five years ago, I found more than just gorgeous well maintained places to hike and enjoy our awesome weather but this land has a few dazzling tales that bring history to life.
The mountains are calling us from this sleepy suburban bedroom commuter town, to uncover the humble beginnings of Hollywood film making tucked away but never forgotten.
What I didn’t realize is that all along the Santa Susana Pass on the East side of town are old movie ranches that provided the backdrop for all of those great old western movies of the 1920′s through the 1950′s. Thousands of movies have been filmed in these amazing old movie ranches one just next to the next- Corriganville, Bell Moving Picture, Iverson, Spahn.The ranches have since been divided and sold privately but a large portion was retained by the Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park for public use.
Today we are hiking on a portion of what once was the infamous, Spahn Ranch.
Yes, it is trippy that Charles Manson’s “family” once lived on this serene oasis teetering on the boarder of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties but one weirdo and a bunch of neer-do-wells, have nothing on the REALLY rich history of this land.
The Stagecoach Trail is the home of Devil’s Slide, a beautifully preserved portion of living history hidden in our hills.
This is not a hike for the weak nor those unsteady on their feet.
The trail is rocky with much loose dirt and stones.
It is also rather steep.
Going down, watch your footing and listen for the bells of mountain bikers that frequent this path (much to my utter amazement) and step to the side so they can pass. Going up will make you feel the burn and I’m in moderately decent shape. Kenzie cried like she was on one of those Fit Club shows.
As you stand on this rocky path carved into the mountain and look out over Chatsworth and the San Fernando Valley, you can’t help but be in awe that special places are tucked away in our own communities.
This trail has a terrifying story.
We can hardly imagine stagecoaches passing along this route.
It was hard to imagine hiking back up, let alone doing it with a few thousand pounds of supplies, people and horse flesh to deal with.
There are still wagon ruts etched into the sandstone rocks.
Holes drilled and chiseled into the rocks that were used as wench points to help pull the wagons and stagecoaches delivering mail, packages and people from Los Angeles to San Fransisco, up the darn mountain.
Have you touched history lately?
There is a plaque that was put in place many years ago to commemorate this trail and calls to mind the history and sacrifices of a great many people went into this very important lifeline connection between the valleys, along the Indian footpath. The plaque was placed along the narrowest, most dangerous portion (for stagecoaches) that was called “Devil’s Slide”.
This land has always been very important to a great many people and animals over the course of its time.
Now it is an important part of the wildlife corridor that links the local hills and mountain ranges together, allowing animals large and small to access another location a little more safely and mostly unnoticed.
Do you recall the intro for The Lone Ranger?
It was filmed right where we stood gawking up at a red tailed hawk performing an aerial ballet amongst the currents of wind above us.
By the train tracks, tucked between the hill and the train once stood the saloon set of Cecil B. DeMille’s first feature–and his first film, The Squaw Man of 1914. Fires have claimed the structures of old Hollywood past but the rock formations that became the backdrop of many old movies will forever stand as a quiet guardian of these historic and breath taking old movie ranches turned awesome outdoor recreation areas.
The Stagecoach Trail is 2.5 miles round trip with trash cans available at trail heads only so be prepared to take out what you bring in.
Simi Valley and Chatsworth can get beyond 100 degrees during the summer, do check weather before setting off. In the afternoons you will hike in the shadow of the mountain so remember a long sleeve shirt when you grab some water before you go.
(Trail head starts on Lilac Ln. off the Santa Susana Pass)
There are signs of abundant wildlife in the area but we have never encountered more than rabbits, squirrels and a beautiful array of local birds along this trail. Do remember that these mountains are home to coyotes, mountain lion, bobcats, fox, venomous snakes and plants that will make you itchy.
If you stay on the path you wont get itchy and most wildlife wants nothing to do with us but being aware and playing attention to your surroundings is always advisable.
For heavens sake, if it lives in the wild, don’t touch it or pick it up. Even that cute baby (bat, rat, cat, weasel, squirrel, snake you think isn’t venomous until after it bites you) has teeth or claws and knows how to use them.
Just looking out for those cute fingers of yours.
Is it any wonder why the mountains are calling to me?
With amazing places like this to explore, who can stand to stay indoors?!