Saturday, May 2, 2015

Redrock Mountain Loop

Hiked: 5/1/2015
Distance: 12.3 miles round trip on trail and cross country
Summit Elevation: 3991'
Elevation Gain: 2500'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 2.00
Round trip time: 7 hours 30 minutes
Recommended water: 120 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass
Difficulty: Strenuous (returning via Redrock Canyon)

Redrock Mountain lies just north of Castaic Lake, a solid hour north of LA. Sean, Cecelia, and Dima joined me on this Lower Peak bagging adventure in the northwestern Angeles National Forest. I picked everyone up at a park and ride and we found our way to the trailhead at a locked gate four miles down Templin Highway. You start past the gate down a paved road that soon turns to dirt as it heads up Fish Canyon. In 2.5 miles and several easy stream crossings, it leads to the old Cienega Campground where concrete restrooms are still standing. No one used the facilities, so what kind of shape they are in remains a mystery. A single track trail continues up canyon north of the campground. Until you reach the high cliffs of the narrows, the trail is mostly level. Then it leaves the canyon on the left and starts ascending switchbacks moderately toward the Redrock Mountain saddle.

Heading into Fish Canyon

Approaching Cienega Campground

First view of Redrock Mountain

Looking back down Fish Canyon

Approaching the outcrops on the ridge

From the saddle, a use trail climbs a steep, loose ridge past two prominent rock outcrops to the Redrock Mountain summit. The summit is some 800' above the saddle, gained in roughly a half mile. There are a couple of unnamed higher bumps along the ridge. The ridge use trail goes to the right of the first outcrop and left of the second. We scrambled a little on the lower outcrop before getting back on the trail. Dima was first on the summit filled with namesake red colored boulders. The benchmark was in pristine condition despite being set in 1930. We all did our summit rituals, enjoying very nice 360 views. The register had a small number of entries and went back more than 10 years. This mountain seems mainly of interest to peakbaggers. While reading the register, Dima noted one group had completed a loop with Redrock Canyon as the other segment. We kicked around the idea of returning that way, facing some unknowns in that canyon. The consensus was to tackle the loop.

Dima on the first major rock outcrop

Redrock Mountain benchmark 1930

Cobblestone Mountain in the Los Padres National Forest

Sean and Cecelia on the summit

Peak 3263

After descending to the saddle, we continued along the trail away from Fish Canyon and turned left at a junction that led down into Redrock Canyon. Coming down that way gave us spectacular views of peak 3263 with red and tan strata. There were also giant gray rock formations visible in the canyon. The trail ended in a small stream and we started our trek through the unknown. The canyon was mostly clear at first, then started to get clogged with trees, boulders, and poison oak. We tried following some trail bypasses, but soon found ourselves out of the canyon in deep vegetation with thorny brambles and hungry ticks. We found our way back to the canyon and made slow progress through the wild upper section. I became concerned about time, since I needed to let my wife know I would not be able to pick up our son. At one point, I wanted to turn around and head back but the group convinced me to push forward. Fortunately, the worst was already behind us. The canyon opened up a little and offered some short waterfall down climbs and entertaining formations. With about a mile and a half to go, where Falls Creek joins Redrock Canyon, we found a use trail marked with cairns and ribbons leading the way out. This saved us a good amount of time and trouble.

Into Redrock Canyon

Sean and Cecelia fighting through some evil greenery

Wild upper section of Redrock Canyon

Dima on a section of smooth rocks

Large conglomerate boulders in a fun section with 10-15' waterfalls

Down climbing one of the small waterfalls

Following the use trail out

Photosphere from the summit of Redrock Mountain


  1. Fantastic write-up and pictures. The geology is also amazing....

    1. Missy,

      The geology is weird and cool, very similar to the nearby Los Padres National Forest. As an example, see this post from David Stillman on the Agua Blanca backcountry.

  2. Ah I've heard of David Stillman of Los Padres! So funny I didn't get the notice that you replied to my comment. I was looking into reaching Redrock mine, lucky that I stumbled upon your write-up again! Thanks again!

  3. DId you guys take Redrock canyon back to Piano Prospect or Redrock canyon all the way back out to the trailhead where you guys parked?

    1. We took Redrock canyon all the way back out, or nearly all the way. Dima found this link to the Redrock mine, you may have already seen it:

      Good luck! It is a cool area.