Monday, December 17, 2012

Little Rock Recreation Area makes for great day hike with kids

Little Rock Recreation Area, California

Verdant patch
runs through
high desert

If visiting the Mojave Desert, a great spot to find a little blue water and green lushness is the Little Rock Recreation Area. In the Angeles National Forest bordering California’s Antelope Valley, the rec area centers on a reservoir made from the dammed Little Rock Creek.

A walk along the western shore of the reservoir makes for a pleasant day hike. Technically no trial runs here, but a series of sand and paved walkways weave together alongside the water to form a makeshift one.

To reach the rec area, take Hwy. 138 east of Palmdale. Turn onto Cheseboro Road, taking it all the way to the reservoir’s end, parking at the Sage Picnic Grounds.

There you can spot Little Rock Creek flowing out of the higher San Gabriel Mountains through Santiago Canyon, a side canyon. No hiking is allowed on the reservoir’s south side to protect the endangered Arroyo Southwestern Toad, of which about 20 remain on the creek.

Slender strip of green
The reservoir cuts through desert country that is starting to give way to juniper. The elevation is about 3,600 feet – which means it’ll be a little cooler than the desert floor, but not by much.

Walk north alongside the water. Juniper, sage, yucca and a smattering of Joshua trees hug the reservoir's shoreline at Juniper Picnic Grounds. During spring, flowering yellow bushes provide a pleasant accent of color to the reservoir's turquoise waters. The canyon walls on either side of the reservoir are pure desert foothills, but the slender strip alongside the reservoir is green.

At the center of the reservoir's western shoreline is the Dam Grill, a great spot to pick up a burger and soft drink or to rent a boat for the day. Across from the dam is a small dock that takes you into the clear water – you’ll see boulders shimmering below the water. Ducks often frequent the area, a pleasant diversion kids will enjoy.

During spring when the reservoir enjoys good water flow from the spring snow melt, a number of trees will find themselves submerged north of the dock. Snow from Mt. Williamson, Kratka Ridge and Mt. Waterman feed Little Rock Creek.

Narrows and Dam
Rainbow and brown trout are popular targets for fishermen at the reservoir's northern edge. The recreation area also boasts boat access, campgrounds, great fishing spots and swimming holes.

Continuing north, you’ll wind through a narrows and alongside granite canyon walls. Keep a watchful eye on children here as the walkway runs alongside the road in this tight area.

Leaving the narrows, you’ll spot the top of the Little Rock Palmdale Dam. The dam holds back enough water to cover about 150 acres.

A good turnaround spot is a pullout the overlooks the spillway. By mid-May, the amount of water flowing over it is a mere trickle. A wide, verdant canyon stretches below the spillway, however.

Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.