Hiking with Kids in the Santa Monica Mountains

Serrano Valley
Serrano Valley
Distance: 3.2 miles
Level of difficulty: Easy
Child rating: 5 and up
Starting elevation: 1,000 feet
Highest point on trail: 375 feet
Topographic map: Triunfo Pass 7.5'

Serrano Valley is a seldom-visited bowl encircled by rugged cliffs and steep slopes in Boney Mountain State Wilderness. This easy trail follows the route of an abandoned road through a luxuriant grassland to the site of a farmstead long since consumed by wildfire. It is a pleasant walk in springtime when the grass is still green and the wildflowers are in bloom.

To reach the trailhead take Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, to Deer Creek Road, which is about 3 miles west of the Ventura County-Los Angeles County Line. Follow this roadwhich becomes Pacific View Road and then Cothrain Road 4.6 miles as it climbs steeply into the mountains. This drive alone makes the trip worthwhile, for it offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, the shoreline and the northern Channel Islands.

Turn left onto Serrano Valley Road, which is extremely narrow and steep, and drive 1 mile to the locked gate. Space is tight here, so turn around carefully and pull as far onto the shoulder as you can.

The trail follows the abandoned road past the gate. There are no restrooms or water at the trailhead.

Trail Description

The moderately steep trail switchbacks downhill across chaparral-covered hillside into Serrano Valley, which is visible to the west. Atop the steep north wall of the valley are spectacular volcanic outcroppings, forming a craggy escarpment. At 0.5 mile the trail crosses a small, shady creekbed and begins winding through rolling grasslands on the valley floor.

At 0.75 mile the trail dips into a small gully and climbs out the other side, reaching a fork at 1 mile. A faint trail climbs into the hills to the right; stay left and follow the main trail through the tall grass toward a fence line about 50 yards ahead that marks the boundary of Boney Mountain State Wilderness Area.

At 1.3 miles the trail crosses another gully and leads past a grove of canyon oaks before crossing another fence line at 1.5 miles. A pair of concrete pillars here mark the entrance to grounds of the former ranch house, of which only a few scattered remnants -- rusting farm equipment, broken pipes, blackened trees, derelict furnishings -- remain. The home site is at 1.6 miles.

According to old maps, a trail once led from here and looped around the rest of the valley, connecting with a route through Serrano Canyon and on into Big Sycamore Canyon to the west. The route has become overgrown through disuse, however, and would require cross-country bushwhacking, to follow. Newer maps do not depict it.

From the home site, a number of newer dwellings are visible on the steep ridges to the south and east. Despite poor access and the constant threat of wildfire, people seeking solitude and spectacular views are willing to spend enormous sums of money to develop this rugged land. This encroachment offers proof of the need to set aside tracts of the mountains to serve as havens for wildlife and as buffers against urbanization.

Return the way you came.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 19 May 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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