Hart Park in Newhall Is a Keepsake of the Old West
“On the Night Stage,” “Wild Bill Hickok,” “Hell’s Hinges,” “The Narrow Trail.”
These were some of the classic silent Westerns starring movie cowboy great William S. Hart. Hart was the personification of the strong, silent Western hero, and his films were noted for their realism and authenticity.
There is a scene near the beginning of “Tumbleweeds,” Hart’s last film, in which the cowboy/hero halts his horse on a ridge top. Removing his hat, he observes the last cattle drive over land that settlers will soon claim. “Boys,” Hart says, “it’s the last of the West.”
“Tumbleweeds” was also the last of the West for Hart, who retired in 1925 to his Newhall ranch. William S. Hart County Park preserves Hart’s 22-room hacienda and his ranch. Hart’s home, full of Western memorabilia and mementos from his film days, can be viewed on a guided tour. His ranch can be explored via a short hiking trail.
A Small Zoo
Hart Park displays the last of the West in other ways. A small zoo with barnyard animals recalls the Newhall area’s ranching and farming heritage. The Saugus Train Station has been relocated to the park and offers Sunday tours of the old depot. Just outside the park is Pioneer Oil Refinery, the first refinery built in Southern California.
The hiker too can get a feel for the last of the West, Southern California-style, by wandering into the hills above Hart’s home. From atop the hills, hikers can survey the Santa Clarita Valley.
During the last century and a good part of this one, San Fernando Pass--that narrow gap in the Santa Susana Mountains and San Gabriel Mountains separating the San Fernando Valley from neighboring Santa Clarita Valley--was something of an impediment to the settlement of the Santa Clarita Valley. Not anymore. Now, the old railroad/market towns of Newhall and Saugus are rapidly developing, and the once-extensive agricultural land is growing suburbs.
After Hart’s retirement from acting, his company, William S. Hart Productions, filmed many Westerns on his ranch. You can get a feel for the Old West by hiking into the hills so loved by Hart. Fire roads and a nature trail explore the ranch and offer easy hiking for the whole family.
Directions to trailhead: From California 14 (Antelope Valley Freeway) in Newhall, exit on San Fernando Road and head west 1 1/2 miles to Newhall Avenue. Turn left on Newhall Avenue and drive into William S. Hart Park.
The hike: Exit the park, walk along Newhall Avenue a short way, then turn left on Market Street. Walk 150 yards to a senior citizens’ center on the left. At the edge of the center’s parking lot is a riding and hiking trail sign and a closed fire road.
Head up the dirt fire road, which climbs above a seasonal creek that winds into the brushy hills. The road crests at an overlook where you’ll find a hitching post and some handsome cement and river-rock benches.
You get good clear-day views of the Santa Clarita Valley and a glimpse of Hart’s home, La Loma de Los Vientos (the Hill of the Winds). Inspired by this view, Hart wrote his autobiography, as well as some Western fiction and poetry.
From the overlook, you can descend toward a campground and the old Saugus Train Station or head down toward Hart’s home. After reaching the house, hikers may join a nature trail and descend to the main part of the park.