This is an unexpected delight in an unlikely place: a raw, natural, open space in the midst of highly manicured gated housing developments in Northridge. Shady, lush and likely to have running water much of the year, it feels surprisingly remote for a location so close to “civilization.” Especially in summer, go early in the day, before the heat picks up.
1. Start your walk near the intersection of Rinaldi Street and Tampa Avenue near the park entrance at 19585 Rinaldi St. Begin walking downhill on a broad path, past a grassy field and under the shade of oak, pine and even a few redwood trees. Note the warning about rattlesnakes: This is another reason to keep your dog on a leash.
2. At the first Y intersection, just before you hit a creek on your left, leave the wide trail for a narrower one heading up to the right. Walk on, keeping the creek on your left. In the streambed, note the sycamore and willow trees, interrupted by the occasional incongruous fan palm.
3. At the next Y, head right and climb a short, steep bit of trail to a wider trail. (Or go straight ahead at the bottom of this climb to check on a shady spot with a rope swing over the creek.) Continue along this flat trail, which is paved in places, leaving the streambed far below you as it passes under Hollow Springs Drive.
4. Walk on as the trail rises and falls, sometimes running close to the stream down to the left, sometimes close to Tampa Avenue up to the right. Watch for several narrow trails off to the left, some of which offer closer looks at the water below. But watch your step. In places the drop to the creek is quite sharp.
5. In a little less than two miles, the wide, flat trail suddenly ends. Two spur trails rise up to Sesnon Boulevard, and more trails continue on the other side, but this is the end of the line for this walk. Turn around and head back downhill.
6. Descending, stay on the unpaved narrow trail to the right wherever there is a Y intersection with a paved road going to the left. (These will lead up to Tampa Avenue.)
7. Near the bottom, bear right at one last Y intersection and cross a wide meadow shaded by tall pine trees. Then turn left and make a water crossing — the creek you skipped at the beginning of the walk — to return to the main trail, under those redwoods, and the way back to your starting point on Rinaldi.
Distance: 3.9 miles round trip
Difficulty: 3 on a scale of 1 to 5
Duration: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Details: Free street parking. Dogs OK on leashes. No bicycles. Bus service numbers 243/242.
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