California State Park Closures


State of the Parks

Remember the excitement of going to recess as a kid? Our grown-up playground is the great outdoors and much of it is provided by designated open spaces. But what if recess was taken away? The proposed state budget plans to close 70 parks within the year and these three are on the hit list. Get out and see them before they’re closed.

Santa Susana Pass Stage Road hike

On Stage

In the 1860s, travel between the San Fernando and Simi valleys (and all the way to San Francisco) meant riding a stagecoach on the rugged Old Santa Susana Stage Road with its perilous section, Devil’s Slide, a short, bone-rattling path so steep drivers would blindfold their horses before heading down it. Today, you can travel this trail by foot, hiking on the Old Stagecoach Trail in 680-acre Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park. Discover just how rough the journey over the Simi Hills must have been on a rocky, 3-mile round-trip hike climbing 700 feet along sandstone cliffs used as a backdrop for Western shows like Bonanza and The Lone Ranger. Red-tailed hawks hover overhead, and that rustle in the bush? Probably just a white-tailed rabbit. Those who succeed in tackling Devil’s Slide quarter-mile 180-foot ascent will reach a large plaque honoring the pioneer travelers. The nearby city of Chatsworth stretches to the horizon, and you may even catch a train rumbling down through the Santa Susana Tunnel. This is a good spot to round up the wagons and head for home, unless you’re planning to go up the road to San Francisco. In this case, be sure to put a flower in your hair.

WANT TO SAVE THE PARKS? California State Parks Foundation (an official partner of Weekend Sherpa) has set up a system that automatically sends an email letter to your legislators and Governor Jerry Brown.

To reach Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park the 405: Take Hwy. 118 west to Route 27/Topanga Canyon Blvd. Drive south for 2.2 miles and turn right on Lassen St. Make a slight left on Andora Ave. and park. The trailhead is on the right. Honoring the pioneer experience, there are no trail markers inside the park so it’s wise to bring along a trail map. You can’t mess up the first fork, a third of a mile from the start, because both trails head to the same place. Take the slightly longer route to the left to pass over a scenic ravine. When the trails reunite, turn left toward the base of the rocky cliffs. The trail bends to the right, angling downhill to a four-way junction. Turn left and head north. Make another left after a quarter-mile up a draw in the mountains. (If you start to approach power lines, you’ve missed the turn.) From here, it’s less than a quarter-mile to the commemorative plaque. Dog-friendly!

McGrath State Beach


Feathers will fly at this seaside sleepover, and it won’t be from a pillow fight. McGrath State Beach in Oxnard is home to one of the most amazing bird refuges in California, and its cushy coastal campsites and vast secluded sand dunes make its 295 acres a tranquil respite from urbanity. Pitch a tent at one of the park’s 174 sites, grab your binoculars, and head to where the Santa Clara River meets the Pacific. A half-mile boardwalk through a jungle of cottonwoods, willows, and thick reeds spills out at the bountiful Santa Clara Estuary Natural Preserve. More than 200 species of birds utilize this vast area for feeding, nesting, resting, and mating. Two of its most common dwellers, least terns and snowy plovers, are endangered species. You’re also likely to spot pelicans, osprey, and black-necked stilts milling about while double-crested cormorants—noted for their deep-water dives—spread their wings for drying, and hawks circle above looking for a quick meal. Migrating merganser ducks were spotted here in June, and rumor has it they may still be around. Just don’t ruffle their feathers with the chicken dance—you may get quacked.

BEACH BONUS: Less than a quarter-mile from the campground lies a beautiful 2-mile beachfront, a sandy sanctuary without the crowds.

WANT TO SAVE THE PARKS? California State Parks Foundation (an official partner of Weekend Sherpa) has set up a system that automatically sends an email letter to your legislators and Governor Jerry Brown.

McGrath State Beach is located in Oxnard. Take Hwy. 101 to Seaward Ave. (exit 68). Cross to the west side of the freeway and turn south on Harbor Blvd. Proceed 3 miles to the state park entrance on the right. The hike into the Santa Clara Estuary Natural Preserve begins from the day-use parking lot at the northeast corner of the campground. Camping in McGrath is $35 per night; day use is $10. For reservations, visit Areas of dunes may be closed to protect nesting grounds, but there is always waterfront to enjoy. The campground is dog-friendly. Photo by Dept. of Parks and Recreation.

Hike Palomar Mountain State Park

High-Country Hike

With conifer-covered slopes, mountain meadows, and a cooling canopy of cedars and silver firs, Palomar Mountain State Park feels like a hiking haven in the Sierra Nevada. Surprise! This 1,862-acre gem is in San Diego County. Take in some of the park’s marquee highlights by jumping onto the 4.25-mile round-trip loop trail at Doane Pond, a popular spot among anglers vying for trout and catfish. Make tracks through a forest of shady oaks and ferns to the waters of Thunder Springs. (By summer, the thunder is more like a murmur.) At the loop’s highpoint—5,350 feet—thinned-out fir and Ponderosa pine give way to gaping views of nearby peaks, including the southern edge of the 3-mile-long Aqua Tibia Mountain ridge. Small patches of purple lupine adorn the mile-high crossing to the loop’s last landmark, the remains of a homesteader’s cottage from the 1880s known as Scott’s Cabin. Today, the ruins could easily be mistaken for a pile of oversize Lincoln Logs, but if properly assembled, you would probably want to move in. Location, location, location.

WANT TO SAVE THE PARKS? California State Parks Foundation (an official partner of Weekend Sherpa) has set up a system that automatically sends an email letter to your legislators and Governor Jerry Brown.

Palomar Mountain State Park is situated between Temecula and Escondido. Take the 15 Freeway to exit 46 and drive east on Route 76 toward Pala. After 20 miles, turn left on South Grade Rd. Drive 7 miles up the mountain and turn left onto Route S7. Continue 3 miles into the park. Pay an $8 day-use fee at the entrance or at Doane Valley Campground and proceed 1.7 miles to the Doane Pond Trailhead, passing the turnoff for Boucher Hill. Hike straight around the pond toward Thunder Spring. Turn right on Chimney Flats Trail after the first mile and proceed up to a maintenance road at 2.3 miles. The path becomes temporarily faint passing through a cluster of pines to the right, becoming Scott’s Cabin Trail. Turn right on Cedar Trail and hike the final 0.6 miles back to Doane Pond. All junctions are well-marked.

Triple Play

Not all frequent-flyer programs are created equal—some come with blackout dates, hidden fees, and expired points. Along comes California-based Virgin America, with Elevate, the frequent-flyer program that helps you fly free faster. Sign up for Elevate and you can earn triple points on flights to two of Virgin America’s latest destinations. Fly from LAX to Chicago O’Hare or Dallas-Fort Worth by August 31 and get 15 points per $1 spent on your fare. With reward flights starting around 2,500 points, you could be flying free* by Labor Day.

Virgin America—awarded Best Domestic Airline by Travel + Leisure for the fourth year in a row—is offering sweet perks along with its signature superior flying experience (fleetwide WiFi, cushy leather seats, on-demand food and entertainment, and, of course, mood lighting). In addition to getting triple points for flying to Virgin’s latest destinations, signing up for Elevate is the best way to stay on top of Virgin America’s best fares. What are you waiting for? Elevate your flying experience.

Sign up for Virgin America’s frequent-flyer program, Elevate, and register by August 31 to earn 15 points per $1 spent on travel from Los Angeles to Chicago O’Hare and Dallas-Fort Worth. Grab a seat to get three times closer to a complimentary trip.

Get ’em while they’re hot:

LAX to San Francisco: $79* one-way

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