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Open acres beckon hikers, dog walkers and cyclists in the West Valley

Our city has great walks in the most unexpected places. This terrific open space is nestled against the housing developments of the West Valley. A hiker or biker could spend an entire weekend — or more — exploring hundreds of acres. This is a brief introduction to the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve. For best results, go early in the day and take plenty of water and sunscreen, as this walk doesn't offer much shade.

1. Begin this walk at the westernmost end of Victory Boulevard, at about the 24700 block. Pay $3 for the parking lot, or find a place for your car on the street and walk through the big gates reading "Victory Trailhead." Bear left at the end of the parking lot and begin walking on a wide path across level ground.

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2. At the first intersection, as the trail begins to descend into a canyon, bear right and continue heading downhill as the path narrows into a ravine dotted with oak trees. This area is popular with mountain bikers.

3. After you've been walking 20 minutes or so, at about the 1.5-mile mark on the trail, leave the main path for a smaller trail that drops down to the left. Follow this into the bottom of the canyon and stay on it as it begins to climb up the opposite side.

4. The path will rise for 20 minutes or so and then flatten out (you're on Laskey Mesa Trail now). As you encounter intersections, stay left at each one, eschewing the smaller spurs and remaining on the main trail.

5. Watch your footing as the trail descends a set of slippery sandstone steps, giving back some of the elevation you gained climbing up to the Laskey Mesa. Soon the housing developments come back into view, as do the high rises of Warner Center.

6. Stay on the main path as it doubles back to the left, above the original trailhead and makes a dog-leg right and ends up back in the parking lot where this walk began.

STATS

Distance: 4 miles

Difficulty: 4 on a scale of 1 to 5

Duration: 1½ to 2 hours

Details: Free street parking. $3 paid parking. OK for pets on leashes and bicycles. Bus service via lines 169, 164 and 165.

Fleming is the author of "Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles" and "Secret Walks: A Walking Guide to the Hidden Trails of Los Angeles." Each month, he leads a free walk at one of his favorite spots in Southern California. Find out more at his Facebook page, Secret Stairs. He is on Twitter @misterfleming

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