The Bonelli Park Trail offers a view of a quiet day on Puddingstone Lake. The trail takes hikers around the lake as well as through the surrounding wilderness.

The Bonelli Park Trail offers a view of a quiet day on Puddingstone Lake. The trail takes hikers around the lake as well as through the surrounding wilderness.

story and photography by Jack Janes

One of the beautiful aspects of living in La Verne—or in the Foothill area in general—is getting that close-up view of the Angeles National Forest mountains and sometimes seeing them caked in snow, depending on the time of the year. The breathtaking view of the mountains may give the impression that taking in the wonders of nature first-hand requires a drive up the mountain. In reality, they are a lot closer than you might think.

The La Verne, San Dimas and Claremont area is home to six main hiking trails that are easily accessible, and require only a 15-minute drive at most. The six trails: San Dimas Avenue Trailhead, Marshall Canyon Trail, Bonelli Park Trail, Sycamore Canyon Trail, Thompson Creek Trail and Claremont Wilderness Loop, are all unique in their own way through terrain, difficulty and the views that they offer.

The creek at San Dimas Avenue Trail runs along the trail quietly, with not even a ripple. The shallow creek gets to about knee-deep at its deepest points and attracts wildlife as drinking water.

The creek at San Dimas Avenue Trail runs along the trail quietly, with not even a ripple. The shallow creek gets to about knee-deep at its deepest points and attracts wildlife as drinking water.

San Dimas Avenue Trailhead

Conveniently located at 1079 S. San Dimas Ave., San Dimas Avenue Trailhead is the perfect hiking trail to escape city life while not technically leaving the city. The trail starts at the side of the road with a picnic table area that overlooks Walnut Creek and, on a clear day, you can even see Downtown Los Angeles. Its narrow trail leads you down Walnut Creek with thick trees and shrubs that provide plenty of shade on a warm sunny day. The sound of cars rushing by slowly fades the deeper you make your way toward the creek. Soon the sounds of birds chirping and frogs croaking take over until they are the only things you hear besides your own footsteps.

As you make your way down the winding trail to the creek, the sound of flowing water grows louder. Upon reaching the creek, the trail begins to break off into shorter paths that lead you to different points along the water. The creek flows gracefully through the rocks, hardly making a ripple. It’s shallow enough to not have any fish, but deep enough for ducks to enjoy. The water is also deep enough to attract wildlife who come to drink, leaving footprints along the banks. In places, the trail and the creek intersect, and hikers will need to hop on rocks to cross. San Dimas Avenue Trailhead is roughly four miles long, and can take up to three hours to complete if you start from the trailhead and hike to the very end and back, keeping a consistent pace.

Marshall Canyon Trail leads through a dense patch of wilderness in the middle of a residential area in Northern La Verne. There is also a tunnel that goes under Esperanza Drive, which is about halfway through the trail.

Marshall Canyon Trail leads through a dense patch of wilderness in the middle of a residential area in Northern La Verne. There is also a tunnel that goes under Esperanza Drive, which is about halfway through the trail.

Marshall Canyon Trail

Tucked away in the middle of a residential area in northern La Verne is Marshall Canyon Trail, a unique trail that can be accessed right from your backyard. Although there are multiple entrances to the trail, the main entrance according to Google Maps is at 1758 Orangewood Street.

The trail starts as a dirt path that goes along the backyards of houses and an open storm drain. The path runs about a quarter mile before it leads to a trail into a slim patch of wilderness in the middle of the residential area. The trail then runs alongside a creek that once in a while intersects with the trail, and you must use stepping stones to cross. Once you are in the wilderness, trees are so thick that they provide shade for most of the hike. As you go through the trail, you will find the occasional wooden or tire swing that is tied onto the trees by rope. There are also picnic tables sporadically placed off to the side of the trail where it opens up a bit, as most of the trail is narrow. After about a mile, the trail runs along what used to be Sierra La Verne Country Club. You can actually walk along a cart path and take in the fairways that are now five-years overgrown. Milk thistle flowers tower over tall grass in what used to be fairways, their purple leaves vibrant in the sunlight.

Once you hit the tunnel that goes underneath Esperanza Drive, the trail then continues for about another mile until you hit Marshall Canyon Regional Park. However, if you turn around at Esperanza drive and head back to the main entrance, you will have completed about a four-mile hike.

The vibrant wildflowers surrounding Puddingstone Lake add an extra element to the Bonelli Park Trail, especially on a quiet day. On a summer day, the lake and trail will be a popular place to be and will have numerous hikers and bikers strolling through the park.

The vibrant wildflowers surrounding Puddingstone Lake add an extra element to the Bonelli Park Trail, especially on a quiet day. On a summer day, the lake and trail will be a popular place to be and will have numerous hikers and bikers strolling through the park.

Bonelli Park Trail

Bonelli Park Trail is a versatile trail that breaks off into multiple pathways, each varying in difficulty. There are two common ways to access the Bonelli Park Trail. You can go through the main entrance on Via Verde Drive, just east of the 57 freeway, which will cost you $10 to park unless it is a weekday in the winter months when it’s free. Or you can park at the Norm’s Hangar Coffee Shop lot for free and walk down McKinley Avenue until you reach the trail. I did the latter, and what I liked about it was that I got to walk on a dirt path through nature before hitting the RV park. On the other side of the park, the trail resumes at Puddingstone Lake. From there, it is a paved trail that can take you all the way around the lake, with smaller trails to explore along the way.

I took this hike on a cold weekday in early spring. The lake was quiet, with only two boats on the water—a fishing boat and a rowboat with a few people aboard. The trails were also quiet with only the occasional biker riding by. That will change once the weather heats up.

The main trail along the lake is an easy path, and can be hiked by most. The dirt trails that break off into the wilderness are more difficult, some being narrow and steep in places. But those trails offer a welcome escape from the populated park.

Yellow wildflowers at Sycamore Canyon Trail appear to glow in the sunlight, giving the trail a summer vibe. The flowers can be found primarily at the base of the hill that the trail climbs.

Yellow wildflowers at Sycamore Canyon Trail appear to glow in the sunlight, giving the trail a summer vibe. The flowers can be found primarily at the base of the hill that the trail climbs.

Sycamore Canyon Trail

Sycamore Canyon Trail lies at the base of the mountains in San Dimas. You can access the trail by walking straight up the dirt path past San Dimas Dog Park at 301 Horsethief Canyon Road. There are two ways you can go about the trail: the steep way, or loop the bottom of the trail. I did both, starting with the steep route. Sycamore Canyon trail is a relatively short hike because of how steep it is. From hiking both parts of the trail, I hiked 1.86 miles but gained 559 feet in elevation, and it took me about 45 minutes to complete. When you start, you walk slightly uphill with tall grass and wildflowers on your left and a flat dirt area to your right that looks like it may have been an old equestrian area. The slight uphill climb gradually gets steeper the further you go, and you reach a point where the trail splits and you can either continue the steep climb to the top of the trail, or go sideways along the base of the mountain. I chose to keep climbing and the trail seemed to keep getting steeper the further I went, with quite a few twists and turns along the way. At each turn, there was a small flat area to either pull over and catch your breath or to take in the view of San Dimas.

At the top of the trail is a flat area with a couple picnic tables and a bench near the edge where you can take in the view of San Dimas from 559 feet up. On the way back down, it can be a little dangerous, given how steep the trail is.

When I reached the place where the trail breaks off, I went through the trail that goes along the base of the mountain. Here, I found a lot more rabbits and squirrels. There were also a lot more flowers on the lower trail than the steep trail. There are options to take different turns on this trail and explore the area behind the San Dimas Dog Park more, or you could stay on the same path and it will lead you right back to the initial dirt path where you began, and you can make your way back to your car from there.

Thompson Creek Trail is home to numerous colored flowers and plants. The main trail is very flat and runs along the backs of houses.

Thompson Creek Trail is home to numerous colored
flowers and plants. The main trail is very flat and runs along the backs of houses.

Thompson Creek Trail

For those looking for a more relaxed trail, Thompson Creek is the trail to go to. It is a paved trail that runs along the backs of houses at the base of the hills in Claremont. The trail runs for just over two miles and remains flat, making it a pleasant walk for anybody. There are numerous ways to access the trail, whether through residential areas or the occasional parking lot. I parked at the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park parking lot off of North Indian Hill Boulevard, and the trail was accessible right from the lot.

Thompson Creek Trail is fairly popular, especially on weekends, with people walking dogs, pushing strollers or just enjoying the day. The trail also takes you through Higginbotham Park, with plenty of picnic tables, and a playground for children.

For those interested in more challenging hikes, another trail next to Thompson Creek will take you up the hills in Claremont. The trail is on the other side of the drainage tunnel at Higginbotham Park, and will take you up the hill to Pomello Drive. It’s a narrow dirt path that can be steep at times, but there are dirt steps supported by wood in the steep areas.

Claremont Wilderness Loop takes you high up into the mountains in Claremont with a wide dirt trail. Although you never reach the tops of the mountains, the five-mile hike makes you feel like you are on top of the world at times.

Claremont Wilderness Loop takes you high up into the mountains in Claremont with a wide dirt trail. Although you never reach the tops of the mountains, the five-mile hike makes you feel like you are on top of the world at times.

Claremont Wilderness Loop Trail

Lastly, one of the more popular hiking trails in the Foothill community is the Claremont Wilderness Loop Trail. There are a couple paid parking lots that charge $4 on weekdays, $9 on weekends and holidays for four hours, $6 on weekdays and $10 on weekends and holidays for six hours. The main parking lot at the entrance to the trail is located at 4031 N. Mills Avenue in Claremont. Two trails connect to make the “loop,” and you get to decide which trail you start with at the very beginning of the hike. Burbank Mountain Way is to the left; Cobal Canyon Mountain Way is straight ahead. Whichever way you choose, both trails are similar and take you up the mountain to Johnson Pasture Road.

The whole trail is a wide dirt road with enough room to keep traffic flowing during busy weekends. The biggest difference between the two trails is that the Cobal Canyon trail provides shaded areas from the tall trees. The shaded areas are mostly toward the start of the hike, but they provide a soothing break from the hot sun. As you climb higher you’ll find stopping points with benches where you can rest and enjoy a view of Claremont and surrounding areas. Squirrels, rabbits and birds abound, and, if you are lucky, you may even spot deer or coyotes. I went at eight in the morning and saw two coyotes just off the trail who seemed unfazed by passing hikers. The whole loop runs just over five miles and takes more than two hours to complete.

Go out and hike!

Nature is always just around the corner from you in the Foothills, so take advantage of it and get connected to the land. There are plenty of trails out there in the Foothill community, but these six are the headliners, and hopefully will inspire you to find more trails in your area.

The skyline of downtown Los Angeles can be seen on a clear day from the top of the San Dimas Avenue Trail. The trail starts right off of San Dimas Avenue and takes visitors through Walnut Creek, and lasts about four miles.

The skyline of downtown Los Angeles can be seen on a clear day from the top of the San Dimas Avenue Trail. The trail starts right off of San Dimas Avenue and takes visitors through Walnut Creek, and lasts about four miles.

There are points on the San Dimas Avenue Trail where the creek intersects the trail and you will need to step on rocks to cross the creek. The creek runs along the trail for almost the entirety of the four-mile trail.

There are points on the San Dimas Avenue Trail where the creek intersects the trail and you will need to step on rocks to cross the creek. The creek runs along the trail for almost the entirety of the four-mile trail.

Marshall Canyon Trail eventually runs alongside a cart path of what used to be Sierra La Verne Country Club, which closed in 2019 and has not been touched since. The view of one of the former tee boxes shows how overgrown the fairways have become.

Marshall Canyon Trail eventually runs alongside a cart path of what used to be Sierra La Verne Country Club, which closed in 2019 and has not been touched since. The view of one of the former tee boxes shows how overgrown the fairways have become.

Sycamore Canyon Trail gives hikers the option to either stay at the base of the hill for an easier hike or climb up the steep hill. Although the trail is short in terms of distance, the trail still climbs almost 600 feet in elevation before reaching the top.

Sycamore Canyon Trail gives hikers the option to either stay at the base of the hill for an easier hike or climb up the steep hill. Although the trail is short in terms of distance, the trail still climbs almost 600 feet in elevation before reaching the top.

There is a side trail that breaks off from Thompson Creek Trail and climbs the hills of Claremont. As you continue your climb, Thompson Creek Trail, and the rest of Claremont, can be seen from up above.

There is a side trail that breaks off from Thompson Creek Trail and climbs the hills of Claremont. As you continue your climb, Thompson Creek Trail, and the rest of Claremont, can be seen from up above.

The Claremont Wilderness Loop has multiple areas to take in the sights of Claremont from high up. The trail runs a few miles up the mountains of Claremont before looping back down to the base.

The Claremont Wilderness Loop has multiple areas to take in the sights of Claremont from high up. The trail runs a few miles up the mountains of Claremont before looping back down to the base.

A fallen log sits at the side of the San Dimas Avenue Trail. The trail features a thick layer of trees that can provide plenty of shade on a warm sunny day.

A fallen log sits at the side of the San Dimas Avenue Trail. The trail features a thick layer of trees that can provide plenty of shade on a warm sunny day.

Jack Janes is a senior journalism major at the University of La Verne.