Escape LA – Anacapa Island

Escape LA is a feature that will routinely discuss day trips outside of Los Angeles to encourage discovery of Southern California’s outdoor opportunities.  All features will not require overnight accommodations and can be accomplished within an 8 hour window of time.

Just west of the Ventura coast lies Channel Island National Park.  You’ve likely heard of one of the islands, Catalina.   The national park is made up of Santa Cruz, Anacapa, Santa Rosa, Santa Miguel, and Santa Barabara islands.  The remaining Channel islands are used for a variety of purposes.  San Clemente and San Nicolas islands are owned by the Navy and used for training purposes, while Catalina is a tourist trap a privatized island for the more luxurious travelers.  I have some choice words for Catalina, but that will have to wait for another day.


Catalina, Santa Cruz and Anacapa all provide great day trips with accommodation options.  The smallest of the two, Anacapa, makes the perfect day trip, because of it’s proximity to Ventura harbor and easy trails.

The trademark rock formation of the Channel Islands

The trademark rock formation of the Channel Islands

The island itself is divided into 3 different islands, East, Middle and West island.  The only island you’re able to visit is the Eastern island, about 1 square mile around, and has no beach access.  Anacapa sits high up on a plateau, about 100 feet to the ocean.  There’s little shade, several flights of stairs to climb, and lots of birds.  Lots of birds.

Visitor's Center

Visitor’s Center

Get There: The island can be reached by taking a 2 hour ferry ride.  Anacapa and Santa Cruz both have two ferry rides a day, so most people will ride out in the morning and head home at night without staying the night.  If you decide to camp, you must bring your own water, and conditions are rough.  The lack of shade gets a little annoying, and the wind gets really intense at night.  But if you’re up for the adventure, Anacapa doesn’t disappoint.

The island serves as a breeding ground for the Western Gull, as well as a dozen other endangered species of birds.  Nesting months are between May and July, and seeing these small birds hatch is a pretty incredible experience, especially from someone who hates birds.

Inspiration Point, Anacapa Island

Inspiration Point, Anacapa Island

The island has one particular amazing view.  Hiking to the eastern most point of the island gives way to views of middle and west Anacapa Island, with Santa Cruz island off in the distance.  This view alone makes the entire trip worth it.  It’s dirty, hot, cold, windy, dry, but the island’s scenery makes it all worth it.


Escape LA – Dawn Mine

Escape LA is a feature that will routinely discuss day trips outside of Los Angeles to encourage discovery of Southern California’s outdoor opportunities.  All features will not require overnight accommodations and can be accomplished within an 8 hour window of time.


Most people don’t think of the Angeles National Forest as a hot spot for gold in the 19th century, but deep in Millard Canyon, just west of Echo Mountain, lies Dawn Mine.



Dawn Mine was active between 1890 and 1950.  The mine is about 500 feet deep, with an additional entrance blasted shut about 20 years ago.  The historical use of this mine has little evidence, as little remains from these days aside from a giant water pump on the outside of the mine.

But the mine has about 500 feet worth of exploration, including an underground water fall, some class 3 climbing, and a 50 foot abyss filled with water.  Flash lights are strongly encouraged!!

dawn mineTo get there: 

You’re looking at a strenuous 6 mile round trip hike.  Its not that the hike is strenuous from altitude or hills, the hike is difficult from about 1.5 miles of brush to cut through, or boulders to scramble up.  The trail itself gets difficult to see at this point, and then canyon has a few other turns that could lead you astray.  The best way to find your way from the dozens of rocks with arrows spray painted.



Long story short, this trail is challenging for even experienced hikers.  With that said, it’s an incredibly rewarding hike, and with ample foliage, you’ll find yourself shaded from direct sunlight for most of the hike.



If you’re still reading at this point, then sounds like you’re up for the challenge.  To start, the trail head begins at Millard Camp.  Park in the lot and start walking towards the camp.  As the road turns left toward the entrance of camp, take the trail up hill towards the right.

This part is fairly easy.  The trail will wind up a hill to a paved fire service road with a great view of Pasadena below.  After you follow the road for about 500 feet, you’ll come to the trail marker below.



Follow this trail along a ridge for another quarter mile, as it heads downhill.  As the trail descends into the canyon, you’ll come to another fork with a trail marker that states the trail is closed.  Take this route.



Ignore my group walking right.  We actually went uphill to the right for a while before turning around and going down the ‘Closed’ trail.  This portion of the trail is beautiful, as it winds along a stream.  The main portion of this trail will lead to Millard Falls, which may or may not actually have water flowing.

This is when the trail splits off and begins to get difficult.  Follow this trail through some foliage and across the stream.  At some point, you’ll reach the first trail marker photo (pictured above).



At this point, you’re about half way and the canyon starts scrambling up boulders.  The trail will pick up from time to time, however it is broken up by sections of boulders.  Fortunately the rocky sections have arrows painted on them, and as trail gets more difficult, more arrows will appear.  Make sure you take some time to leave trail markers otherwise finding your way home will be just as difficult.

Just as you begin to question where you’re going, you’ll come to a shaded dead end in the canyon.  Up a small hill you’ll see a large, turn of the century piece of machinery with two huge wheels.  If you walk about 10 feet past it, you’ll come to the entrance of the mine.  It will be tucked behind a large rock, and will require some crawling.



As soon as you enter, you’ll notice the temperature drop about 15 degrees.  You’ll have to cross a small puddle using some planks on the ground.  At about 50 feet in, the mine will take a sharp left turn.  To the right, you’ll notice a puddle.  This puddle doesn’t look like much, but this will go down about 55 feet.

To the left, you’ll notice a shaft climbing up at about a 45 degree angle.  Further down on ground level, the mine come to a underground water fall.  It’s a pretty incredible sight, however at this point I felt a little uncomfortable being this deep in the mountain, so we turned around.  Being in a mine is different than being in a cave that was formed naturally.  I’ve been in caves, but this was something different, and I wanted to get out just as much as I wanted to explore further.

All in all, the hike is amazing and I would recommend it.  Be smart, plan to spend at least 5 hours on the trail, bring lots of water, and expect to get dirty, sore and a little beat up.

Escape LA – Salvation Mountain / Slab City

Escape LA is a feature that will routinely discuss day trips outside of Los Angeles to encourage discovery of Southern California’s outdoor opportunities.  All features will not require overnight accommodations and can be accomplished within an 8 hour window of time.

The deserts in Southern California are often overlooked as a recreation hot spot, but the area is full of beauty (Joshua Tree), relaxation (Palm Springs), and freedom (Anza Borrego).

About an hour south of Palm Springs along the 111 highway, lies the Salton Sea, a desolate wasteland full of abandoned yacht clubs, dead fish, flooded neighborhoods, and nudist colonies.

Among this lies Salvation Mountain, a 70 foot tall mountain made of adobe mud, hay bales, sticks and an unlimited supply of paint.  The project is the life’s work of creator Leonard Knight.

The mountain serves as a pilgrimage for Christians, hippies, and adventurers.  While the mountain has a certain amount of lore, it remains relatively unnoticed.  The biggest stage Knight’s mountain has been featured on, was ‘Into The Wild’ when Emile Hirsch tour’s the landmark while staying in nearby Slab City.

salvation mountain

As you follow the 111 highway as it wraps around the east side of Salton Sea, you’ll come to Niland, CA.  Once you reach Main st, head east away from the lake.  After about 5 minutes, the mountain will come into view.

Leonard’s work is breath taking.  There are few words that can describe the mountain’s power, and the mutli-colored giant has so many intricate details, it’s worthy of several repeat visits.  What makes this trip even better, is the mountain features a ‘yellow brick road’ that climbs to the top of the mountain.

salvation mountain

Behind the mountain, you’ll find a series of huts constructed of hay bales and paint with the roof constructed on scattered driftwood from the sea.  Leonard is the epitome of conservation, reusing literally every piece of plastic, wood or metal that comes to his property.  The man’s creativity is unending, which he credits to God’s everlasting love.  As soon as you walk into these huts, you’ll notice the temperature drop about 50 degrees.

About 1/4 mile down the road is Slab City.  A former Air Force base, Slab city is a drifter’s town named after the concrete slabs left over from the Military.  The shanty town can feel a little rough, but revolves around the local’s impromptu flea markets and yard sales for passing travelers.

slab city

Saturdays bring out the best in Slab City, a weekly stage show called “The Range at Slab City”.  Patrons toting six-packs, whiskey and cigarettes spend this weekly celebration dancing and proclaiming their freedom from the rest of the world.

Given the timing of this post, Leonard Knight has been staying in an assisted living home for the past couple years, so maintenance of the mountain relies heavily on volunteers.  Given that the mountain no longer has a passionate groundskeeper, the location’s future is fairly undetermined, making this day trip a must for Southern California travelers, photographers and adventurers.

Escape LA – Hermit Falls

Welcome to Sixty Eight West, dedicated to inspiring outdoor adventure.

This is the beginning of a blog which requires a little audience participation.  This is a blog which requires some creativity on your end.  And if read correctly, this blog will inspire you to get outside and explore the world around you.

Eighty Six West will routinely visit a few different columns.  Based in Southern California, we’ll visit day hikes just a stones throw from the urbal sprawl of Los Angeles.  We’ll provide insightful equipment reviews, resources for planning the big backpacking excursion, and MacGyver-like camping inventions that are borderline genius.  Expect some music reviews for the dusty trail, and maybe some interviews as well.


For our first installment of Escape LA, we’ll discuss Hermit Falls.

Santa Anita

Less than 25 minutes from Downtown Los Angeles (no traffic) sits Big Anta Anita Canyon in the hills overlooking Arcadia.  Head east toward Pasadena, and continue along the 210 to Santa Anita Blvd, exit and make a left.  Stay on Santa Anita as the road begins to climb into the canyon and park once you reach the Chantry Flats Pack Station.  Before you park, remember to buy an Adventure pass ($5), otherwise the ranger will ticket your car!

chantry falts

From the parking area, follow the asphalt utility road downhill.  After about half a mile, look for a small dirt trail with a sign labeled ‘Hermit Falls’ that breaks off from the main road.  Although it does not look like much, this trail descends deep into Santa Anita Canyon.

As you wind into the canyon, it’s easy to forget how close to Los Angeles you are.  The foliage is lush, water is plentiful, and animals are abundant.  Once you reach the bottom of the descent, you’ll find a couple cabins.

These historic landmarks were constructed between 1890 and 1920,  and are remnants from the recreation era of the San Gabriel mountains.  While many more existed at the time, these remaining cabins have eluded wildfires and flooding for nearly a century.

Today, they are privately owned and exist much as they did 100 years ago, with supplies hauled in on the backs of burros.

To reach the falls, follow the creek downstream.  As the trail crosses over the river, the trail will be ambiguous but picks up just before the first dam.  As this trail winds around another cabin and some vibrant wetlands, you can help but feel at peace.  The air is cooler this deep in the canyon, and the stream provides subtle tranquility.

After about a half a mile, you’ll come to the main swimming area.  Two natural water slides and three cliff-jump spots (20 ft, 30 ft, and 40-45 ft) provide ample opportunity to cool off from the summer heat.  Bring a couple beers and some goodies, this is a great summer hang out spot and you will not be alone.  MAKE SURE TO PACK OUT ALL OF YOUR TRASH.