Rocky Peak, Santa Susana mountains, Ventura countyJan. 4, 2009
6 mile round-trip up a rugged, boulder-strewn mountain to a 360 degree viewpoint


With such a simplistic name, you'd think Rocky Peak must surely have been named by a language-challenged surveyor. But actually, it's an appropriate description of this high point in a dramatic landscape of stone mountains, erosion carved rock formations and giant boulders, where vegetation struggles to find root.

Rocky Peak is located in the northwest corner of the Los Angeles metropolitan area, between Chatsworth and Simi Valley, an area distinguished by a mountainous landscape of house-sized boulders and rugged canyons filled with giant oak trees. There is Old West and movie-making history here and it's a popular hiking spot. The Santa Susana mountains run east and west, bordered roughly by Hwy. 118 to the South, Hwy. 126 to the North, I-5 to the East and Hwy 23 to the West. Much of the range is private land, but several organizations are purchasing tracts for parkland. The Santa Susana's have numerous peaks in the 2300-2800 ft. range.

Much of the year, there are incessant blue skies here and temperatures in excess of 100 degrees bake the landscape. A winter visit after recent rains is an enjoyable time to experience this usually dry and hot area of the Santa Susana mountains in conditions more accomodating to hikers.
The Santa Susana mountains are routinely scoured by wildfires when ferocious Santa Ana winds sweep over these rugged peaks, blowing west across the San Fernando valley and on to the Pacific. It's an endless cycle of re-growth and re-burning and residents of this area know all-too-well the peril of living here. The last fire was less than two years ago and hundreds of acres remain scarred and blackened. Although much of the Rocky Peak trail was in the burn area, there is opportunity to observe the contours of the landscape and unique rock formations that are usually covered by brush and trees.

This was my second trip to Rocky Peak. I started about 3pm and got back after 7. It was windy and cool on top, in the fifties, but I put on warm clothes and spent 45 minutes exploring the summit, relaxing and eating a snack. Sun breaks through the low clouds made for interesting light on the surrounding mountains. Only a handful of people were coming down the mountain when I arrived; by the time I left, there were none.

I enjoyed walking back down after dark, completely alone in the inky black mountains, contrasting against the million twinkling lights below in the vast San Fernando valley, an immense metropolitan area with millions of people. A new moon peeked through holes in low, fast-moving clouds, bathing the landscape with an eerie glow. I didn't even have to use my light.

Trail / Conditions / Maps
The Rocky Peak trail is a fire road up the mountain and then turns right on to a footpath for the last .25 miles. The fire road continues for miles into the Santa Susana mountains. The hike is a little over 3 miles one way.

The trailhead starts out from the end of Rocky Peak road, which is the next exit west of Topanga Canyon boulevard on Hwy. 118. Several trails branch off from the fire road that makes up most of Rocky Peak trail.

There are two diverging fire roads to pass as you climb and several somewhat confusing wide spots that may be stationing points for fire crews. To stay on the road to Rocky Peak, you'll want to go as straight as possible while continuing upward through the middle of the wide spots. Having a compass to point you northward will help as there are no signs.

After a 2 mile climb from the trailhead, you'll get your first look at the mountain that holds Rocky Peak, the most prominent of several summit mounds. After you walk to the top of the mountain on the fire road, look to your right for foot path to Rocky Peak. I don't recall a sign but I may be mistaken.
Rocky Peak Trail
map, Rocky Peak trail
Once atop the mountain on the footpath, it's not hard to scramble across the rocks to the summit mound, but there is a path. As you make your way along the footpath to the final peak, you'll pass a concrete slab that may have held a water tower. Soon the trail becomes rocky and can be difficult to follow. Stay to the right on the south face of the mountain for the easiest route. This trail dips below the ridge and doesn't go along the top. You'll pass a steep shortcut trail down a slippery face on the right. As you round the mountain eastward, the high knob that is Rocky Peak comes in to view. There is a steep and rather indistinct footpath you'll clamber up to the top. There's a geological marker embedded in the highest rock.

There is no water up here. In the summer and fall, daytime temperatures are routinely 100 degrees. I wouldn't attempt it then with less than 3 liters.
Elevation gain is about1200 ft. over 3 miles.

Directions / Permits / Links
From Hwy. 101 and I-405 in Los Angeles, take the 405 north, go west on Hwy. 118 about 15 miles. At the top of Santa Susana pass, exit on Rocky Peak road, which dead ends just right of the ramp at the parking lot/trailhead. There are a few parking spaces there, but more in a dirt lot on the other side of the highway overpass bridge. There is no westbound ramp back on to the 118, only eastbound.

Parking is free, but overnight parking is not allowed. There is no ranger presence and the mountain does not close, but camping and campfires aren't allowed.
Highway map to Rocky Peak
map, hwy. Rocky Peak
This is generally a safe area surrounded by residential communities, but miles below in Chatsworth Park, there are warning signs for mountain lions in the area. Of more concern are Valley bad guys, of which there are many. Leave nothing visable in your vehicle that looks valuable.
Santa Susana Mountain Park Association Advocacy organization with info and history of the area
NOAA Weather National Weather Service forecast for Rocky Peak area


The first two miles of the Rocky Peak trail is almost all steep uphill on a a fire road.

Rocky Peak is on the far right. The summit footpath starts where the road reaches the top of the mountain

One of the very few trees that survived the recent wildfire.

There's a shortcut trail from the green grass area, but it gets steep, slippery and risky

Looking back toward the fire ravaged landscape just ascended. It had rained earlier and the sun was feeling moody...

Although somewhat forlorn, the burned area opens up views and rock formations you wouldn't normally get to see
Rocky Peak
As you walk east on the top of the mountain, you come to the aptly named Rocky Peak

Someone must have thought they were so clever to paint this on the summit

Unusual eroded pot holes atop many of the boulders in the Santa Susana mountains collect water

Looking south to the road up

Boulder-strewn landscape

I prefer visiting this area in moody, post-rain conditions vs. the usual bright sun and intense heat. South toward the road up.

I enjoyed clamboring over the boulders all around the peak. East towards a distant fire road.

Hwy. 118 (top right) begins to climb Santa Susana Pass

The entire mountain seems like a carefully arranged and balanced pile of giant rocks

Last look back at Rocky Peak. The trail to the right and under the giant boulder is the easiest way to the top.

Reflection off a water channel in Simi Valley far below as dusk arrived.