Summit Valley: Land Nature Lovers Saved

McKinney's book "Day Hiker's Guide to Southern California" is available through The Times for $16.45 (including tax, shipping and handling) by calling (800) 246-4042

Just a few miles from the Ventura Freeway, at the head of Topanga Canyon, lies Summit Valley, a new park likely to become a favorite of local hikers.

About 20 years ago, it seemed Summit Valley was about to resemble the San Fernando Valley. Developers intended to construct 967 homes, three artificial lakes and a golf course.

Santa Monica Mountains’ conservation groups, along with vociferous Topanga Canyon residents, battled developers for 16 years. Finally, in 1994, the state’s Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy purchased the 659-acre property for $20 million.


The new preserve’s official name is Summit Valley Edmund Edelman Park, named for the county supervisor who helped broker the deal.

The park is perched just over the 1,560-foot high ridge that walls off imperturbable Topanga Canyon from the hustle and bustle of the San Fernando Valley.

Trails on the park’s west side are not signed, but are fairly easy to follow. East side trails, along with a formal trail head and a canyon-spanning footbridge, are under construction.

Directions to trail head: From the Ventura Freeway (U.S. 101) in Woodland Hills, exit on Topanga Canyon Boulevard South and drive south five miles to the signed (Summit Valley Edmund Edelman Park) turnout on the right (west) side of the road. If you’re coming from Pacific Coast Highway 1, drive eight miles inland on Topanga Canyon Boulevard to the trail head.

The hike: The path descends into a draw and crosses the headwaters of Topanga Creek. You’ll soon encounter a right-forking path (the loop trail’s return leg) that leads north along the bottom of Topanga Canyon. Continue straight (west) on the original path, which soon bends north as it climbs through mustard plants.

About three-quarters of a mile out, a steep, left-branching connector trail offers the opportunity to climb to Summit Motorway (a dirt road). For the astute map-reading hiker, the motorway adds many trail options.

Summit Valley Loop Trail soon reaches a junction with the east leg of the loop. The return to the trail head is via an easy creek-side saunter down Topanga Canyon on a wide path.

Those hikers wishing to explore the still rudimentary trail network on the east side of Summit Valley will continue east at the above-mentioned junction and hike through a eucalyptus grove to Topanga Canyon Boulevard. Carefully cross the road, then join the pedestrian walkway alongside Viewridge Road for a modest one-third-mile ascent to the trail head at road’s end opposite the gated and guarded Summit Pointe subdivision.

A splendid mile of trail leads across oak-studded hill and grassy dale to Santa Maria Road. (Warning: En route there is a very steep descent into--and out of--a creek bed; later this year a footbridge will be built to span the creek.) The developed trail ends a few hundred yards past Santa Maria Road at a precipitous rock outcropping that offers spectacular canyon views.

Where: Summit Valley, Ed Edelman Park

Distance: 2-mile loop with 200-foot elevation gain; to Summit to Summit Motorway is 3.5 miles round trip with 400-foot elevation.

Terrain: Hidden, hanging valley

Highlights: New trails in undiscoverd park

Degree of difficulty: Easy to moderate

For more information: Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy; tel. (310) 858-7272.