History and nature come together in the Santa Clarita Valley at the historic Placerita Canyon Nature Center
Most out-of-the-area types believe that Santa Clarita is known only for one tourist attraction. While Six Flags Magic Mountain may have put the Santa Clarita Valley on the map when it opened back in 1971, the Santa Clarita Valley is filled with rich history and great local attractions; one of them being the Placerita Canyon Nature Center.
A Rich History…Literally!
While many believe that California’s “golden” history dates back to the first discovery of gold in 1848 at Sutter’s Mill in Northern California, the first ACTUAL discovery of gold was actually in Placerita Canyon six years earlier in 1842. This was still when California was a part of Mexico, and Placerita Canyon was part of a vast cattle ranch in the Santa Clarita Valley (Santa Clarita by the way, got its name by Spanish explorers who thought it looked very similar to the Santa Clara Valley of Northern California…only smaller).
As the story goes, local cattle herder Francisco Lopez decided to take a nap under a large oak tree. Upon waking, he dug up some wild onions for a snack, and clinging to the roots were pieces of gold. Now whether this story is true or the stuff of legend, it is a fact that Lopez was schooled in mining at the University of Mexico, and his claim of being the first to find gold is historic fact. The Oak of the Golden Dream can still be seen at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center today.
As time went by and California became part of the United States, Placerita Canyon eventually came to be owned by the Walker Family from the early 1900’s until 1950, when
it was sold to the State of California as a park. Their preservation of the land over the years gave the Santa Clarita Valley an enduring legacy and an opportunity for many locals to experience history and nature simultaneously.
The Nature Center
The Placerita Canyon Nature Center opened in 1971, with major renovations taking place in 2008-2009. The Nature Center includes a
museum as well as live animals from the area on display. A network of self-guided tours and hiking trails, as well as a park for gatherings makes Placerita Canyon Nature Center a great place to spend the day with your family. Every Saturday the park offers a Family Nature Walk at 11AM, and a Native Animal Presentation at 1PM. There are also many other events and presentations that allow visitors to learn more about the flora and fauna that are native to the Santa Clarita Valley.
There are many easy-to-use walking trails at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center. The most popular being the Walker Ranch Trail; a 2 mile hike that follows the creek bed north of the Center to the original Walker Ranch area. There is also the Waterfall hike, which takes visitors through the scenic hillsides that ends at a waterfall that is approximately 15 feet high.
Hours of Operation and Fees
The Placerita Canyon Nature Center is open every day from Sunrise to Sunset. Admission and parking are free, which makes this a great opportunity for the family to get together and spend the day outdoors.