Out of this World: Vasquez Rocks & The Pacific Crest Trail

Vasquez Rocks, the Pacific Crest Trail and this hiking family. On a quick trip down south to the greater Los Angeles area I decided to do a little solo hike with my toddlers at Vasquez Rocks.  All I knew about Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park was that an episode of the original Star Trek was filmed there a long time ago.  FYI, I only knew that fact because I watched a Big Bang Theory episode that was fake filmed at Vasquez Rocks so I researched it and Vasquez Rocks was a real location.

Vasquez Rocks is part of the Department of Parks and Recreation County of Los Angeles but it is a 20-30 drive east of Santa Clarita, California.  You can't really tell that Los Angeles is a desert until you leave the main metropolis area and can see the natural environment and really enjoy the beauty of  it, like Vasquez Rocks.  You can see this parks main features from the freeway and it is actually on the outskirts of Agua Dulce, California.  Off the freeway the drive to Vasquez Rocks is very rural and ranch-like, we even saw a buffalo on one of the ranches.

The Interpretive Center looked like a space ship to my kids.  It has a modern look to it, I'm assuming it was designed to compliment the rock formations but not only was the design modern it had a LEED Platinum Certification.  Layman's terms means that this center has the highest level of being "Green" which is fantastic!  The Interpretive Center had a diagram of Vasquez Rocks, a few reptiles and spiders, as well as a Hollywood history of all the movies that had been filmed at Vasquez Rocks.  Outside the center was a small area that housed some native birds.

The Pacific Crest Trail at Vasquez Rocks

The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a trail that runs from the border of Mexico/California to just across the Canadian border.  Almost every hiker that I know dreams of hiking the PCT, so any time I get a chance to hike on it, I do! Even just one mile on the PCT with my kids, satisfies my future dream just a little bit.  I didn't even know that the PCT went through Vasquez Rocks until the day before visiting so I was pleasantly surprised when I saw it on the map.  FYI: I brought EXTRA snacks and food just in case I ran into a PCT thru-hiker but I didn't run into anyone except some tourists.

We started out on the PCT (AKA the Geology Trail - 0.9 miles) near the Interpretive Center.  From the beginning there were giant rocks right along the trail which made the hike terribly slow because my kids had to explore every rock, hole and "mini-cave."  I'm not complaining, I want my kids to explore but I'd prefer they explored at least 100 ft down the trail vs. 10 feet down the trail! But alas the caves must be explored and my patience must be tested constantly on the trail.

We hope that someday we can do hike the entire PCT as a family, but probably not all in one sitting! PCT section hiking is more up our alley, but it won't be for a few more years until our little ones can hike longer distances and carry a pack.  Either way, I was getting a little nostalgic with the idea at some point in the future I was to return to Vasquez Rocks and remember that I had been there before with my babies.

It took a little while to get into the groove of hiking but everyone enjoyed the little 0.9 mile hike on the PCT.  There was exploring of the caves, playing with the sandy trail and even touching of the spiky Yucca Whipple-Our Lord's Candle.  My son has a fascination with prickly plants, I just make sure they aren't poisonous before he touches them.

The Geological Trail had many markers with the descriptions on the pamphlet, sadly I'm so busy with the kids on the trail I never get a chance to see what the markers are all about, but the geological formations are just amazing to see all along this tiny section.  When we had reach the famous section of the Vasquez Rocks, my kids starting yelling with glee, "Those rocks are Crocodile Rocks!!" and indeed they did look like crocodile heads.  One of the great things about hiking with kids is the fact that they help you view the world in a beautiful imaginative way.

The famous Vasquez Rocks are really neat, they are giant slabs of rock shooting out of the ground!  We hiked along the back side of the rocks and I was a little saddened by the graffiti and trash I found along there.  I picked up as much trash as I could but still I don't understand why people have to put "I was here" on these beautiful rocks.

The Pacific Crest Trail continued but my children could not, so once we reached the picnic/parking lot area for viewing the rock formations, we headed down another trail back to the Interpretive Center.  There is a dirt road which you can take to iconic Vasquez Rocks but we opted to hike on the PCT.  I almost took the dirt road back but decided to stay on the trail and I'm glad we did because we saw some hieroglyphs and a Road Runner, which of course was too fast to snap a picture of it!

Vasquez Rocks is a great park, truly felt like I was in a different planet! Great rock formations, family friendly trails, a great "green" center and it has the wonderful Pacific Crest Trail.  My suggestions would be:
  • Take lots of water! We visited on a cool day but it is still in the desert and it got very warm.
  • If you have time check out more of the longer trails, such as in SoCal Hiker's visit.
  • Visit the Interpretive Center! It's a really neat place and the employees are very informative.
  • Please take children on the Pacific Crest Trail.  You don't have to be a backpacking ninja to hike on the PCT.  Even a 0.9 mile hike is worth enjoying the PCT with your family.
Trip Report Details
Who: One Adult and two toddlers
Mileage: 1.8 miles (0.9 miles on the PCT)
Time: 1 hour (51 minutes to be exact)
Elevation: 7 ft - very flat
Family Friendly: Very Easy

I truly had lots of fun with my kids at Vasquez Rocks, knowing that it was a hideout for the California Bandido Tiburcio Vasquez (hence the namesake) and with all the Hollywood film history, makes hiking at Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park out of this world!

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Related Posts and Links:

  1. Family Desert Hiking: Devil's Punchbowl Natural Area
  2. The Pacific Crest Trail Association
  3. SoCal Hiker: Hiking the PCT in Vasquez Rocks