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Home » Santa Clarita News » Environment » SCV Outdoor Report » SCV Outdoor Report: Happy Trails To You

SCV Outdoor Report: Happy Trails To You

By Wendy Langhans

When the vegetation gets too thick, it blocks the trail and spoils the view.

Creating a well-designed trail requires the technical skills of a civil engineer and the aesthetic sensitivity of an artist.  


For example, you can evoke an aura of mystery and excitement by designing curves in a trail, which alternately reveal and conceal what’s around the bend.  Think of the way a parent plays “peek-a-boo” with a toddler, which often ends in a giggles as the child is swooped into the air.  Now I’m sure you can think of many other examples of revealing and concealing, but this is a G-rated story, so I’ll leave that to your imagination.


But curves in a trail can also serve a useful technical purpose.  Let me start by reminding you of “slope”, a term that you may recall from high school geometry.   Slope is “the rise over the run”.  However, civil engineers use another term, “grade”, which is a measurement of trail slope expressed as a percentage. For example, a trail with an 8 percent grade is one that goes up or down 8 feet for every 100 feet of length.


Controlling the amount of grade is important for two reasons.  First, there’s ease of use.  A grade of less than 5% is easy for a hiker to maintain.   Second, we want to prevent erosion from water runoff.   A steep, straight section of trail will erode quickly during the winter rains, especially if the soil is full of clay.  So the trail designer incorporates curves to adjust the slope of the trail.  If the hill is steep enough (>25%), you will even find switchbacks.  


Other volunteers use specialized tools known as McLeods to widen the trail.

A well-designed trail is an exercise in humility, because it doesn’t call attention to itself and cares about the person using the trail.  But even a well-designed trail doesn’t maintain itself.  In our valley we are fortunate to have a group of volunteers who maintain our trails at Towsley, East/Rice, Pico, Whitney and Placerita Canyon.  Like the trails they work on, they don’t call attention to themselves.  And though their work, they care for others.  


So if you see them, I encourage you to say thanks.  Better still – come join them for a day.


Upcoming Outdoor Events:  



June 7, 8:30 AM – 12:30 PM. National Trails Day event at Towsley Canyon.  Come on over if you’d like to help with clean-up and trail maintenance at Towsley Canyon.  There are jobs for everyone. No experience is required. Bring snacks, garden gloves, sunscreen, hat, and lots of water. REI is co-sponsoring the event and will be there with T-shirts and prizes. Be prepared for some hard work and good company!


For directions, click here


Sponsored by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, the Community Hiking Club and REI.



June 16, 7-9 PM.  Almost Full Moon Hike at Towsley Canyon.  Whooo knows what creatures will be out at night in Towsley Canyon?  Bring a flashlight, water and wear close-toed shoes.  Suitable for families.


For directions, click here


MRCA volunteers remove overgrown mustard with a weed-wacker.

Sponsored by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.



June 14, 24 and every Wednesday, 8:00 am.  Trail Maintenance Volunteers at Towsley Canyon.
Come join our trail maintenance volunteers for camaraderie and a heart-thumping workout.  For more information call Steve Ioerger at 661-291-1565 or


Sponsored by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.


You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The Hike Report", brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS AM 1220 and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.



For the complete MRCA hike and activity schedule and for trail maps, go to

SCV Outdoor Report: Happy Trails To You

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