Red Rock canyon

The Templin Highway cutoff has another attraction besides Fish Canyon. There’s also Red Rock Canyon. This is an excellent route for a nude hike, so that’s your NSFW content warning.

If you do a Google search for Red Rock Canyon, you’ll get a million responses. It must be the single most common name for a canyon in the US. To get to this one, you head out to the blocked end of Templin Highway and hike down the road until you cross the bridge. Instead of continuing on the road, you turn left and go upstream. This path is not as frequently followed, especially a bit farther in when the trail vanishes amongst the rubble of a landslide.

A perfect place to wander about nude!

Twelve and a half miles round trip and 2200 ft. of elevation gain. I’m not going that far. Given the ruggedness of the trail I’ll be lucky to make it the point where the trail starts to leave the wash, maybe a mile an hour if I am lucky. .

Not to worry. No trip is ever about the goal. It is about what you did along the way. Just as much fun if you have to turn back.

It is confusing, but Castaic Creek flows down Redrock Canyon. Usually, the creek and canyon would share the same name, but here they don’t. The creek gets its name from the community downstream which in turn got its name from the native Chumash name, Kashtiq, meaning “wet spot.” Were I to follow this trail to its natural conclusion, I’d end up atop Redrock Mountain, which is where the canyon got its name.

Between 1890 and 1916, the Castaic Range War raged in this area with dozens of people killed. It was the deadliest range war in US history. I am amazed someone hasn’t made a movie about it.

Pro tip: If it is warm, take every opportunity to get wet. I like to soak my hat in water, splash my entire body, (especially my hair) and soak a bandana and tie it around my neck. You can’t drink the water without a filter but you can use it to cool off instead of sweat.

Of course I will be naked on the hike. Assuming nobody at the parking area, I’d start right at the bridge across Castaic Creek and stay that way until I get back. All my usual precautions will be in play. No nudity as long as there are people ahead of me. This time there are four cars at the trailhead. Ah well!

Water flow gauge at the end of the bridge.

I cross the bridge and turn left. There’s a water flow gauge inside a vertical culvert with a solar panel and a cell antenna. Humans no longer need to make the trip down here to learn the water flow down Castaic Creek during storms. Instead, it can be read from anywhere with a data connection. There’s another sensor nearby to measure the flow from Fish Canyon.

The aqueduct pipeline brings water down under high pressure. The energy is extracted by generators as electricity. It is then released gently into the lake.

I check the sandy spots in the trail and the creekbed for track. Nothing recent. When I reach a cluster of pines, I drop the clothing to continue hiking upstream. Most people out here follow Warm Springs Road to Fish Canyon Narrows, a much more famous and generally more scenic location. People rarely go this way. There’s a bit of bushwhacking. There’s a bit of rock climbing. There’s a bit of route finding. Not an easy trail for the faint of heart. I continue to check the trail for other people and look at natural “track traps” to see if anyone went this way recently. No desire to shock anyone, I just want to be alone and free.

Adjacent cliff faces are dotted with numerous small caves. Birds and small critters nest up there and at night the bats come out.

Ahead, the dry wash that is Castaic Creek stretches out. After a heavy rain, this becomes a wide river filled with raging rapids. We have not had heavy rain here in a very long time. The undergrowth has flourished, feeding off the underground flow that continues through much of the year. The next gully washer to happen will flush most of this into the lake downstream.

For the first half of the hike, I wander back and forth by – and across – a hot dry wash. The pink of the tamarisk, the beige of the sand and the green of he shrubs are the dominant colors

One of the plants that enjoy the intermittent riparian habitat is the tamarisk, aka salt cedar. Imported for their lovely pink flowers, tamarisks are invasive out here. Native to wetter areas, they suck massive amounts of water out of the stream leaving much less for the native flora and fauna over the dry summer. Any attempt to “rewild” a river in this area involves a massive tamarisk removal effort to restore a more natural water flow. I participated in one such project in the upper reaches of Piru Creek several years ago. However, the honeybees are thankful for this source of nectar. A dry year has left naive wildflowers few and scattered.

Blue eyes grass (I think) on the left. Datura (Loco weed) on the right,


A long time ago, somebody dug a mine out here. It could possibly even date back to the Spanish occupation and may have been dug with forced Native labor. This road served the mine in the 20th century. I don’t have a chance in hell of making it all the way to the mine. Other people who are in far better physical condition than I have tried and failed. The ones who succeeded went out Fish Canyon way and caught the trail that heads up to Redrock Mountain to get there. This site, Gold Mines of Los Angeles County gives a description of one man’s efforts.

There were also two bundles of phone lines routed this way. Whether it was to serve the mine or some ranches further up the canyon, I don’t know. Between erosion and rockslides, the cables have been severed and the road is gone except for traces. The trail itself becomes dicey.

Bush mallow and Spanish broom

Black sage and yerba santa

The trail takes me through fragrant Yerba Santa and black sage, often passing close to the creekside embankment. Sometimes I am forced into the creekbed when erosion has taken the trail out or it has been buried under a rockslide. In the not-to-distant future erosion and gravity will take the trail out completely.

Evidence of the road that once passed through here. Three sets of 7 ft. posts to measure the depth of water flow on each side of the creek. The top of one set is slightly higher than the bottom of the next. If the lower posts were covered with floodwaters you’d use the upper ones to measure. In the good old days, a human would estimate how high the water flow was by the markings on these posts. because of the dam downstream, it isn’t as important.

An old check dam. Before Castaic lake was created, this dam was intended to slow the flow of water during a flash flood.

I cross the wash several times, twice by concrete fords and four times because the trail simply becomes impassable. These wide-open spaces don’t offer any protection from the heat. I learned after that the high in the area hit 88F (31C). I was starting to get hot but I finally rounded a curve to where the canyon narrows. The walls and thicker vegetation provide shade and an impermeable rock layer forces water to the surface.

Pro tip: If it is warm, take every opportunity to get wet. I like to soak my hat in water, splash my entire body, (especially my hair) and soak a bandana and tie it around my neck. You can’t drink the water without a filter but you can use it to cool off instead of sweat.

A landslide, the worst of several. This used to be a road you could rive a truck down. Now the trail passes through the creekbed itself

Some intrepid explorer has placed trail tape to identify the easiest route to take. Surface water is a welcome respite from dry heat. The latter part of the hike becomes rock climbing and boulder hopping. Occasionally I’d flush a covey of quail entirely by accident and it would make me jump.

I saw little wildlife. It was all waiting to come out in the cool of the evening. Tracks in the mud show what remains hidden from me.

Big picture on the right you can see a bit of flagging in the foreground and in the background near the top is a rock cairn. But I’m no longer on a trail, rather a general direction of travel.

This little fellow has a month at most to chow down before summer hits with 100F heat for days on end.
That’s my backpack to the right of me. I may take it off at every opportunity but I’m not willing to hike very far without.

My pack contains 3 liters of water, a bit of first aid stuff, some food, a SPoT communicator, water filter, camera gear, and a few other “survival” items… and my clothes. It is in Mossy Oak camo so that I can leave it behind in an out-of-the-way place for a bit of free wandering and feel confident it will be there when I get back to it. (It also leaves weird tan lines.)

The one thing I’m more worried about losing than anything else? My car keys. I could drive home if I had nothing else. Without them, I’m stuck until I can contact my wife.

I come to the end of the line – at least for me. I’ve gone beyond what was flagged and with no easy way forward, it is just too rough to pursue further. Thirty years ago, I’d have pushed on.

More flowers on my way back. Indian paintbrush, buckwheat, thistle and monkeyflower This area is too dry to be chaparral and is considered coastal scrub.

A small trickle where there should have been decent flow. It is because of the drought.

Pro tip: For photography of flowers, doing selfies, low light photography or just to get maximum sharpness, pack a small collapsible tripod. Only a few ounces and 8 inches or less and make a huge difference. You will destroy your camera by sitting it on the ground or trying to balance it on rocks/logs. There are also models for phones.


A word about ticks. I picked up three ticks on this hike, my first in several years. This was the result of my crashing thru brush and deep grass. I also took no precautions to repel them. In most of the places I hike, the trail is wider, the brush is not dense and it is too dry for them. It is a risk anyone takes who hikes in brushy, moist, or riparian areas. My dogs get ticks all the time.

I know some people freak out about ticks. And bugs and spiders and bees and snakes. These things don’t bother me. All are part of the natural world that one needs to have respect for. You don’t get to pick and choose between nice and “icky” creatures.

Distribution of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme Disease.

If you are aware of your body and enjoying the sensations of nudity, you’ll feel a tick crawling through your fine vellus hair long before it attaches. Then it is just a matter of brushing it off. You’ll see it too, as a dark spot that doesn’t belong there. Run your hand lightly over your body and you’ll feel it. This is all very easy for a naked person. It can take an hour after landing on you to attach so a tick check every hour is good enough. Lavender, peppermint, citronella, lemongrass, citrus, and good old DEET (most common mosquito repellent) have all been shown to keep ticks away.

Any individual tick bite offers very little chance of any infection. If one should attach, it takes a half-day for any chance of infection occurring, more often a full day. You have plenty of time to get it off. In California, that chance is very, very, low.

Pro tip: If a tick gets attached, you may be able to make it back out by touching it with something very hot, like a match. Generally though, the best technique is to use a tick key. Second best is to grab its head as close to the skin as possible with tweezers and gently pull straight out. Do not twist the tick. Do not grab it by its body or cover it in Vaseline and wait for it to fall off. The one risks squeezing tick fluid into your body and the other takes time. You want it off now and if the mouth pieces remain behind, they’ll fall out soon enough.


These pine trees are not native. They were planted here long ago. A few found spots that were clement enough for them to grow. I can just see the bridge up ahead, even if it doesn’t really show in the photo

All too soon I must make my way back to the trailhead. I’d like to get home before my wife returns from work. It’s still not that late. There were four cars at the trailhead when I got there, so there a reasonable chance I’d meet someone hiking on the main road. I reluctantly dress at the same point I undressed, a cove of pine trees just in sight of the bridge. No sense in frightening the locals.

But the most exciting part of the hike is yet to come! As I crossed the bridge on my way back to the car I met this fellow, a fine healthy specimen of the Southern Pacific rattlesnake.

It must have cooled off enough for the rattlesnakes to come out. It was in the middle of the road. I saw it and it saw me at about the same time. I stopped and took a slow step back. Snakey turned its head to check me out and raised its tail. Should I rattle, or not? Naw. This guy’s keeping his distance. Paying me no more heed, it slowly slithered its way off the pavement into the nearby undergrowth. I stayed put until it was gone, partly in awe of this beautiful predator and partly to stand watch for people. If anyone came this way I intended to protect both the people and the snake.

What an exciting way to finish a wonderful hike!

Redrock Mountain – where I didn’t make it to.

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