L.A. Walks: Explore an old winery site on a La Crescenta ramble
Here is an opportunity to visit the South of France, and take a hearty hike, without leaving Los Angeles. This short, steep walk begins with some fascinating local history and ends with fabulous mountain views. It isn’t well shaded, so go early in the day and wear sunscreen. Also, because parts of the hike are a bit rocky, wear good walking shoes.
1. Start this walk in the parking lot at Deukmejian Wilderness Park, high above the mountainside community of La Crescenta, and up the hill from the intersection of Foothill Boulevard and New York Avenue. Take advantage of the public restrooms and water fountain, then take a gander at the large stone building that anchors the park.
This was the winery and later home of the Le Mesnager family, the legacy of French immigrant George Le Mesnager, who produced local wines at the end of the 19th century. (Mesnagers Street still exists where an earlier winery stood near Chinatown.) His family built this structure in 1914. Park volunteers later planted a vineyard just south of it.
Le Mesnager was from north of Le Mans, but this feels like Provence.
2. Facing the stone building, find a walkway off to the left that rises and climbs over some concrete steps. Where the walkway hits a narrow dirt path, turn right and begin walking uphill, keeping the chain link fence and, below, Dunsmore Canyon, on your right. (This is the site of a 1933 flash flood that leveled homes and killed dozens but left the stone winery building intact.)
3. A hundred yards on there is a magnificent oak tree, which the notorious California bandit Tiburcio Vasquez was said to have used to watch for his enemies. Pass this, and skip the left turn onto a trail marked Mt. Lukens, Rim of the Valley Trail and Le Mesnager Trail. Instead, continue up the canyon.
4. About half a mile from your starting point, find the other end of Le Mesnager Trail on the left. Turn in, and climb a rocky series of switchbacks as the trail rises.
You will be surrounded by bay laurel and sage, and may see lizards skittering on the ground and hawks circling above. A black bear and two cubs were sighted here last year, but we saw no signs of them. As always in the Southern California mountains, keep an eye out for rattlesnakes.
5. In time, the trail will flatten out and shortly present an opportunity to climb one final short spur to a lookout point that offers two benches for resting. Stop here to take in the big views from downtown L.A. through La Crescenta and all the way out to Burbank, Sun Valley and beyond.
6. Come back down that short spur, take a left, and follow Le Mesnager Trail as it winds down and around the other side of the mountain. Stay to the left at each of the small intersections until the trail deposits you back on flat ground.
7. Turn right down the canyon, headed for Vasquez’s big oak, and find your way back to the winery building and the end of this walk.
Distance: 1.75 miles round trip
Difficulty: 4 on a scale of 1 to 5
Duration: 1 to 1½ hours
Details: Deukmejian Wilderness Park is open from 7 a.m. to sunset. Free parking, but the lot closes one hour after sunset. OK for pets on leashes and bicycles. Nearest bus lines are the 90 and 91, on Foothill Boulevard.
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