This beautiful trail is hidden so well, it’s unlikely you would ever stumble across it. One end is is on Canyon Oaks Drive, inside the Ridgemont townhouse development; the other is behind the library at Merritt College. In between, a broad trail of decomposed rock gradually climbs a spectacular canyon beside Leona Creek.
Beginning at the Canyon Oaks parking lot, you pass a pond full of cattails and quickly move into a grove of oaks. The grade at this end is gentle enough that many of the dogs being walked this morning are gray-muzzled seniors. A gentle wildflower scent fills the air, and California buckeyes are shooting out new leaves like bright green candle flames. The creek chuckles past a bank is covered with sword ferns; wild carrot and nettles flank the trail.
The canyon also proves to be a nice place to spot butterflies, including a pair of buckeyes doing a courtship dance, a common blue so brilliant as to be almost violet, a dramatic red admiral and a dusky mourning cloak.
A little over half a mile from the parking lot, two side trails, the Artemesia and the Pyrite, join the Canyon Trail. They looked inviting, but are marked on the map as having no public access and on the trail as leading to private property. If you have an old dog — or if you are an old dog — you may want to turn around at this point, where the creek crosses the main canyon trail and a bench offers a chance to rest a moment. Further on, the trail begins a more serious climb, and in places, the grade is steep enough to make it hard to exchange pleasant talk with walkers headed in the other direction.
If you persevere, you are rewarded with a lovely view back down the canyon from a bench at the top dedicated to the native Jalquin and Irgin peoples. It’s possible to download a guide and use numbered posts along the trail to learn something about how the area’s original inhabitants used its native plants.
Getting there: Best public transit access is to the Merritt College end of the trail. There are no signs guiding you to the open space, so keep an eye out for the Ridgemont sign and turn left inside the development to find the public lot.
Cool stuff nearby: Merritt College itself has a pretty campus. Skyline Pizza is right across Keller Road from the Canyon Oaks entrance. Or try Red Boy Pizza in the Lincoln Square Shopping Center on Redwood Road.