Hike Less Known Hillside Wilderness Preserve in Monrovia
Monrovia’s Hillside Wilderness Preserve may be far less popular than the iconic neighboring Monrovia Canyon, but it’s just as worthy of a hike, and you’ll see fewer people! Visit a beautiful portion of the preserve via a 2.75-mile out-and-back rambler that ascends over 500 feet through serene Clamshell Canyon and has a hill of a good view of downtown Monrovia and the surrounding valley.
Hillside Wilderness Preserve has four suburban entrances, all of which can easily be completely overlooked by the typical passerby. We like the Ridgeside entrance off of Ridgeside Drive, just north of Briarcliff Drive, tucked away in a beautiful north Monrovia neighborhood at the base of the San Gabriels. Head up the paved road that flanks a stunning succulent garden before you pass through a gate and check the park map.
The trail follows the hillside (what else did you expect?) and straddles steep drop-offs into the canyon below. You’ll pass by oaks, sycamores, and other typical chaparral flora as you gradually ascend. There are trail markers throughout, indicating the distance to the Sunset Bench, your destination, which is especially beautiful as the day winds down. The vistas of the rolling hills to the south and mountain peaks to the north are constant, but spy Monrovia as it comes into view partway through the climb.
At the halfway mark, reach a trail junction that directs you right up a small bunch of wooden stairs past a towering yucca (the left path continues downhill to another preserve entrance). You’ll find the bench at this spur trail’s terminus, next to a surprising cedar and a patch of cacti. The bench looks northwest over more views of rolling hills and gorgeous homes—the perfect resting spot before heading back.
Before leaving town, be sure to take a stroll through Old Town Monrovia, which is always decked out for the holidays. The library park has ornaments in the trees, cheery lights, and even some presents and nutcrackers set up. For a festive drink, head to Cup of Cha for any of their delicious teas (boba optional!). Our favorites are OMG and Owlkaido! Monrovi-duh!
To get to the Ridgeside entrance of Monrovia Hillside Wilderness Preserve, take the I-210 to the Myrtle Ave. exit and head north for 1.7 miles. Head right on Hillcrest Blvd. and after 0.3 mile, turn left on Canyon Blvd., and after 0.4 mile, turn left onto Ridgeside Dr. Just after the intersection with Briarcliff Rd., find the paved entrance on the right. Dog-friendly!
Story and photos by Matt Pawlik, @mattitudehikes
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