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P is for Placerita Canyon State Park: A Free to See #AtoZChallenge Post


An accessible sign for Placerita Canyon Heritage Trail shows the trail map in relief and has information in English and Braille
I'm living in southern California this year, and decided to use my exploration of the area as my focus for the #AtoZChallenge. I'm concentrating on free to see places, though I will include locations that require a parking fee. This is the sixteenth post in the series. 

I have driven up and down the 14 Freeway many times, but I had never taken the exit to Placerita Canyon State Park and the Oak of the Golden Dream until just recently. How I wish I had known about this beautiful park when my own children were little! I will definitely be taking my grandchildren here. 

Admission and parking are free, and the park is located a mile or so off the 14 Freeway in Santa Clarita, California. It's only a mile out of the way, but you find yourself in a wonderful little wilderness, and feel like you are much farther from civilization.

Because I forgot that I was visiting for the letter P, and thought I was here solely for the Oak of the Golden Dream (letter O--my apologies to Olvera Street!), I took most of my photos on the trail to the famous tree. As the above sign indicates, the short trail is accessible to all. It is paved, curbed, and has signs in Braille. It follows a shallow stream. Birds were chirping and lizards running around on the day of my visit. 

The Oak of the Golden Dream is important, because it was near this tree that the first documented discovery of gold was made in California, way back in 1842. Sutter's Mill might be the more widely remembered site, but this site in Los Angeles county actually holds the record for earliest discovery. Apparently a man by the name of Francisco Lopez was sleeping under the tree and he dreamed he was floating down a river of gold. When he awoke, he was hungry and pulled up some wild onions. He was amazed to discover gold flecks clinging to the roots of the plants. 

As you walk along the trail, right before the tree, you go through a short tunnel, where a beautiful mural has been painted depicting the discovery of gold. I was so impressed to see that the mural was painted in 1976 and is free from graffiti. 

A beautifully painted mural, featuring golden meadows near a stream, depicts the discovery of gold in California
The tree itself shows its age, but is miraculously still standing.
The main trunk of the Golden Oak is nearly completely hollow

Though I thought my main focus was on this heritage trail, there was so much more to love about Placerita Canyon Park! The visitor's center was amazing; there are several live birds, snakes, and turtles there, as well as many taxidermized animals on display. There is an old cabin that used to be occupied by a family of 14. Dozens of tables, set under shady trees, offer excellent picnic spots. The shallow stream is perfect for young children to wade in and explore. Numerous other hiking trails and short informative walks are throughout the park. A large amphitheater is also on site, presumably for programs that are offered throughout the year.

If you want to "get away from it all," Placerita Canyon State Park is a quick drive from the city and offers a great escape from the hustle and bustle. Highly recommend!


  1. It looks beautiful. Sometimes you just need to get into the wilds.


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