The famous Vasquez Rocks will be familiar to most people. They have been used as a film site for Star Trek (Captain Kirk battling the Gorn), Blazing Saddles, The Flintstones and many others. What you might not know is that the Pacific Crest Trail runs right through the park, and that there is a rich history that includes ancient Native American petroglyphs.
Getting to Vasquez Rocks Park
It took less than an hour to get their from LA, driving north on the 5 and east on the 14. The address of the park is: 10700 West Escondido Canyon Road, Agua Dulce, CA 91350. There is a beautiful visitor center with maps and a fantastic relief map of the area. Stop in and they can tell you everything you want to know about the area.
Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail at Vasquez Rocks
I parked at the middle lot, halfway between the visitor center and the famous Vasquez Rocks. We started by hiking on the PCT to the visitor center, where we picked up some tips and oriented ourselves. From here, we backtracked down the PCT, this time following it down the back side of the rocks.
There is a small climb to the top of a hill. Stop here and check out the views.
Once you descend to the lower parking lot (basically a large, open flat area), look for the pepper tree. You’ll turn left (east) here and head down a dirt road to stay on the PCT.
At 1.25 miles, the trail veers right (south) and follows a slight ridge where we enjoyed panoramic views in all directions.
As you hike, watch for the concrete-reinforced zip-line tower on your left. As the story goes, there used be a hermit that lived across that gulch. He built a zip-line to ferry supplies back and forth. How, I don’t know, as both the zip line and the hermit are long gone.
At 1.75 miles you reach the end of the fire road. There’s a sign marking the boundary of the 2007 wildfire that burned much of the surrounding hillside. Follow the signs for the PCT as it descends into the canyon on a wide single track trail.
At the bottom, you’ll turn left and follow the Pacific Crest Trail signs into a fairly narrow canyon. There is a seasonal creek that runs through here, although it was bone dry in October. In spring, water crossings add to the adventure.
In the canyon, take time to notice your surroundings. You’ll see holes in the canyon walls with bird markings. There are owls that nest in there, and if you’re lucky you might spy one or two.
At one point in the canyon we stopped to watch some birds circling overhead. We could actually hear the wind in their wings with each flap and swoop. I’ve never really heard a bird fly before, and it was pretty special.
We continued through the canyon until about the 2.7 mile mark, with Highway 14 looming above us. There is a fork in the trail. Bear right, heading towards the highway, and you’ll soon see the tunnel. This is a tall, unlit tunnel. We didn’t need flashlights, but be aware that it is also used by horses and wildlife; you may want to avoid the center of the tunnel or you might step into something you’d rather not.
The tunnel leads under Highway 14. We stopped here and took a few photos, then turned around to head back to the Vasquez Rocks. We simply retraced our steps to the lower parking area, then veered straight toward the iconic Vasquez Rocks. I was interested in scrambling to the top, but not sure how easy or hard it would be.
There is a ridge that is fairly easy to follow that takes you within about 30 feet of the summit. From here, it was pretty easy scrambling up on my hands and feet. I was grateful to be wearing my Keen trail shoes. At the top, there are several places where you can sit and soak in the views.
Going back down was a little more “thrilling.” I crab-walked down the that steep section back to the groove, after which is was an easy scramble back down to the bottom.
From here, we circled around the south side of the rocks and headed west on the History Trail. Note that there are many unofficial trails criss-crossing this area and it’s easy to get off track. Look for the trail signs and follow them to the Tatavium petroglyph site. Here you’ll see some great Native American petroglyphs left by the Tatavium tribe.
We circled back to the Visitor Center to thank the staff for their tips, and hiked one last time on the PCT back to the middle parking lot and our Xterra.
Total milage: 5.65 miles. And all smiles.
Vasquez Rocks Trail Map
Vasquez Rocks Photo Gallery
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Vasquez Rocks Tips
- You can visit this park year round, but it can get very hot. Check the weather forecast, bring sun protection and plenty of water, and plan your hikes to avoid the mid-day extremes.
- Vasquez Rocks Park is closed after rains for two days or more (check with the visitor center).
- Parking and entrance is free. The park is open sunrise to sunset.
More Vasquez Rocks Resources
- Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park – official website
- Hiking Vasquez Rocks – Modern Hiker
- More on Vasquez Rocks in movies and television, as well as the geology and history – Wikipedia
- The True Hollywood Story of Vasquez Rocks, Hollywood’s Favorite Rocky Set
- Bandido: The Life and Times of Tiburcio Vasquez – A history of the park’s namesake bandit
- Day and Section Hikes Pacific Crest Trail: Southern California – Wilderness Press
- Aprés-hike libations? We stopped at the Wolf Creek Restaurant and Brewery in Valencia