The Vanalden Caves: A Hike You’ll Never Forget

Apr 20, 2021

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Distance 

2.7 Miles

Time

~1.5 Hrs

Difficulty

Easy

Season

All Year

Elevation Gain

515 Ft

Caves in Los Angeles? Yup, you read that correctly! These caves are called the Vanalden Caves, and they make for a very enjoyable hike.

The Vanalden Caves hike is an easy 2.7-mile trail located in Tarzana with only 585 feet of elevation gain. The trail features views of the San Gabriel Valley Mountains to the north and the Santa Monica Mountains to the southwest as it slowly descends into the canyon floor. Dogs are allowed but must be on a leash. 

Do yourself a favor and check out this amazing location before it blows up with crowds.

Map of Vanalden Caves Trail

Directions & Parking

Click here to obtain directions to the parking lot.

Although you’ll probably run into a decent amount of people at the parking lot, the hike to the caves is relatively less visited than the nearby hiking destinations. If you arrive early, you’ll more than likely have the caves to yourself.

This hike is located within Topanga State Park.

QUICK TIP: There are restrooms near the parking lot. 

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Hike to the Vanalden Caves

From the roundabout, begin your hike via the dirt road.

Shortly after, you’ll get to the Y split shown below. Make a right.

Don’t forget to pause and enjoy the view. After all, we venture into nature’s beautify to get away from the city.

The image below is the view of the Santa Monica mountains.

In order to get to the canyon floor, you’re going to have to keep an eye out for the single track that splits off the dirt road. It’ll be to your right and will stand out because of a wooden post stump.

The single track will quickly descend in the direction of the San Gabriel Valley and reach another Y split after roughly 5-10 minutes. Make another right at the split.

This section of the trail will lead you under the forest canopy and through a dry creek crossing where you will make a hard right and arrive at your destination shortly thereafter.

The mouth of the cave reaches a height of approximately 25 ft and has a depth of about 50 feet.

The cave is made of sandstone, a type of hardened sand, which is why you can see people carve into it.

Even though the entrance is massive, you’ll quickly notice how much warmer it gets inside.

I couldn’t help but think of our ancestors and why caves were the perfect shelter. How they must have started fires inside to keep their families warm and avoid rainy days.

You can also explore the top of the caves by following the single track in the image above. Just one switchback and you’ll find yourself on top of the caves.

Unfortunately, it’s been super vandalized as word has spread on this awesome place. But, it’s still a super unique hike that you wouldn’t think to find near the busy Los Angeles county.

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Look Out for This Plant!

Toyon

toyon

You’ve more than likely heard of or seen Toyon berries. They’re also called California holly or Christmas berry.

Fun fact, Toyon has been the official native plant of Los Angeles since 2012 and you can find it here on your way to the Vanalden Caves.

If you cut open a Toyon berry (technically known as a pome) you’ll notice the inside highly resembles an apple. However, don’t eat it! You have to properly cook it to release the toxins before consuming it.

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Hello, There!

We’re Monica and Phillip. Just like you, we share a passion for the outdoors and our beautiful state of California. After many years of exploring amazing and hidden places, we thought we’d share them with you! We hope this blog shows you tons of new CA adventures!