There’s a gold rush happening less than an hour from L.A. Placerita Canyon
near Santa Clarita is home to the site of California’s first gold discovery in 1842 (several years prior to San Francisco’s famous gold rush). Today your chances of finding gold are next to none, but lace up the hiking boots for a 4-mile roundtrip hike and the surge of golden fall colors will have you feeling like you’ve struck it rich. Amidst changing leaves of yellow, orange, and red, follow the Canyon Trail upstream along Placerita Creek (mostly dry in fall) to Walker Ranch, home of early pioneer Frank Walker, his wife, and their 12 children. Enjoy the bright yellow leaves of cottonwood and alder trees and the golden brown of the occasional big-leaf maple tree. Poison oak provides vibrant splashes of oranges and reds—especially on your skin, so keep a fair distance. The canyon narrows into a rocky gorge before opening up to the park’s campground and early 20th-century remains of cottages built by the Walker family. Picnic tables shaded by live oaks make a perfect pit stop before returning the way you came. Gold standard.
Placerita Canyon Park is located at 19152 Placerita Canyon Rd. in Newhall. From the nature center, take Canyon Trail to Walker Ranch and return the way you came. (Stay straight at a right fork that appears after 100 yards on Canyon Trail.) The nature center is open 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday; 661-259-7721. Here is a map. Dog-friendly!