Spectacular Vasquez Rocks, California

A flash of sunlight blinded me. The beam came from between two huge wind-worn boulders. I wondered if the glint could be from the legendary 500-pound silver ingot left behind by bandit Tiburcio Vasquez some 125 years ago — but no such luck. It was just the sun shining off a small pool of water. But I can dream of finding this supposed hidden treasure.

Vasquez Rocks County Park in Agua Dulce, Calif., is a treasure in itself. It is a 745-acre Los Angeles County Park, located in Agua Dulce, about 44 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

Located in the foothills of Antelope Valley, it has many trails for horseback riding, hiking and biking. Since the Tehachapi area has lots of horse enthusiasts, we’ll concentrate on the riding trails, which wind through unbelievable rock formations caused by earthquakes some 10 million years ago.

Backdrop For Movies
The granite configurations at the park were the backdrop for numerous movies, including “The Flintstones” and “Star Trek.” Westerns such as the “The Lone Ranger” also were shot in this rocky terrain, so you’ll feel right at home on horseback. But the story of the silver ingot brings some riders looking for a “Bonanza,” (which also was filmed there).

The granite configurations in Vasquez Rocks County Park were the backdrop for numerous movies, including “The Flintstones” and “Star Trek.”

Fact or fiction, the story goes that in 1874, Vasquez stole the huge ingot from a state senator. He supposedly dumped it later among the rocks because it was too heavy to transport and it was never recovered. Today, the park bears his name and legend, and it’s one of only a few parks named after an outlaw.

Despite not finding any silver, it was exciting just winding our way through the many interconnecting trails of wet and dry streambeds, rugged gullies, and rock outcroppings in the park. We started riding at “Famous Rocks,” a tremendous collection of jutting stones several stories high. Many visitors enjoy climbing this formation. I got a little queasy watching them scale the steep rock face.

Spectacular Rocks
Just past “Famous Rocks,” the trails work their way through rock-walled paths. We wound our way along the upper section of the park’s Pacific Crest Trail, which eventually gave us a bird’s eye view of the entire area and its spectacular twisted rocks. It felt like we were miles away from civilization. Although there are trail signs, riders can easily find they’ve made a circle and are back where they started, or on trails marked for hikers.

Vasquez Rocks can be a tough trek in some places for horses that aren’t in shape. Many trails are uphill and rocky; so make sure your horse is up to the task. But there is a nice, flat area for riding at the far end of the parking lot. Here you can leave your trailer and head out over smoother terrain before heading into the more rocky trails. There are picnic tables, hitching posts and water available for both horse and rider at this location.

Located just 44 miles northeast of Los Angeles, Vasquez Rocks park has many trails for horseback riding, hiking and biking.

Many horse groups host trail trials at the park. Trail trials test you and your horse on how well the two of you can perform various tasks such as crossing water and stepping over logs. Blowing flags and bags also are among the obstacles. Judges are at each of these 10 or so stops and give or take away points, depending on your horse’s reactions. The lowest scores usually are awarded ribbons.

The park can get hot and has little shade in mid-summer, so bring a hat, sunscreen and extra water. Although vegetation is sparse in most areas, early spring brings colorful wildflowers in full bloom. The rest of the year riders will find perennial grasses, yucca, California juniper, scrub oak, sage and various succulent desert plants. The winter season has good riding weather, usually with a warm sun during the day, but it cools down by evening.

Making The Trip
Vasquez Rocks is a 745-acre Los Angeles County Park, located in Agua Dulce next to the CA-14, Palmdale freeway, midway between Santa Clarita and Palmdale. It is about 44 miles northeast of Los Angeles. From the CA-14 Antelope Valley Freeway, exit at Agua Dulce Canyon Road. It’s about two miles to the park. The road becomes Escondido Canyon Road. After entering the park, go left to the far end parking lot. The roadway to the parking lot is narrow, bumpy and unpaved. You may encounter bike riders on the lower trails.

There are toilets, picnic tables and water for both riders and horses near the parking lot.

For more information, contact:
Vasquez Rocks County Park
10700 W. Escondido Canyon Road
Agua Dulce, CA 91350
661-268-0804.

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