Run on some dirt

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At the request of one reader, I've compiled a list of sites for trail running. The reason this needs a special section is because these special sites are dwindling while anybody can find a paved road to run on. Please match the format and send in your favorites. Contact me at

A note: Some of these areas might involve private property. You do not have the right to trespass on private property. If I have inadvertently or directly told you of areas that are private, please respect the property owner's rights. I have not had a problem previously but that is always subject to change. If they want you off, please leave. Let me know so I can remove the reference. Contact me at Respect our few remaining sites. This information is being provided as a service to you the courteous runner, not a free pass to you the obnoxious idiot. Your trespassing whether deliberate or accidental also does not entitle you to sue them or me. By taking any information from this page you become responsible for your own actions.


Paramount Ranch

Lots of trails and once home of a traditional cross country series. This is the 5K course: From the road below the admistrative building go back past the entrance and onto the dirt path that paralells the creek. Hairpin back to the path that is adjacent to the road with plenty of ups and downs. At the entrance, follow the fence back down hill. Cross to the creek where there is a section to jump over a narrow section. The last time I ran there the spot to jump the creek was so wide that I (a long jumper) could not make it, so course may not be exactly usable here. On the other side you'll find a trail that runs along the base of the hill behind the western town. At the other end, turn right to the path aside the hill near the grass field (the same town and field you have seen in every Dr. Quinn episode). That path comes down the other end of the hill and returns to the roadway along side of the town. Cross the pedestrian bridge out of town and turn right at the park sign board. Stay on the creekside road, past the famous oak tree from The Cisco Kid, around the other side of the hill on your left, then take the path that goes up that hill to the top and down the back side of the hill. That path eventually circles around to the road that loops around the previously mentioned Oak Tree. When you get back to the creekside road, turn right and go back across the pedestrian bridge and finish on the grass. See my hand drawn map of the course. See Mapquest aerial photo.


Camarillo Grove Park

Once had a good high school cross country course. One of the coach's parents used to own the property next to the park, so they included a loop out there. That has been closed up by barbed wire and the trail isn't maintained anymore--the short loops inside the park will get boring quite quickly. See Mapquest aerial photo.

Mission Oaks Park

This is the new home of the high school courses. Nice trails go up the creekbed access roads.


Caripnteria Cliffs

There is a parking area off the South East end of Carpinteria Ave. from there are trails that lead down the cliffs to the railroad tracks and the beach below. This could connect along the railroad tracks to the Rincon Highway and Ventura Bike Paths.

Romero Canyon

A low key race is held here each year. Contact John (805) 969-3514 or Hans VanKoppen (805) 565-9939

San Ysidro Trail

A low key race is held here each year. Contact John (805) 969-3514 or Hans VanKoppen (805) 565-9939


Woodward Park (Friant Road Exit off of Hwy 41 in North Fresno)

Site of the State High School Cross Country Championships each year, NCAA regionals, etc. There is a board near the Mountain View picnic shelter that shows the different loops (5K, 8K, 10K, ?). Trails are on dirt, shaded, run alongside stream in places, some hills, lots of wide open grassy areas if you don't want to run on dirt.

Huntington Beach

Central Park

Site of bi-annual cross country races, has everything you don't expect to find in overcrowded Orange County, trails, grass, hills, a lake.

La Puente

Skyline Trail

Just north of 60 Fwy at Azusa Ave) free parking during week. You must drive to the very back of the park near the horse stables and run into trail which is marked with metal signs. The run traverses Colima Rd. and Hacienda Blvd on the way to the Whittier Hills. It ends at base of Rio Hondo College Police Academy on Workman Mill Rd.(about 14 miles)..if you wish to access the trail from Rio Hondo College (Peck Rd. offramp, 605 FWY) may park in the school parking lot and run up to the police academy and proceed up steep hill for 300 yards to large, yellow, iron gate with Skyline trail signs....It is about 1.5 miles uphill to highest point of the trail(NIKE Hill, named for the NIKE missile installation that was there in the "Cold War" days of the 50s. On a clear day you can see Santa Monica, Long Beach and Upland, Pomona area)....Good luck & TAKE WATER! The county has recently added trees and areas covered with woodchips and upgraded their maintenance. On the weekends runners will come upon horseman , hikers, and trail bikers, but the difficulty of the course keeps it from being a heavily used trail.--from Larry Knuth, Rio Hondo College Cross Country Coach Lknuth@RH.CC.CA.US


La Purisima Mission

Lots of trails behind the mission. See Mapquest aerial photo.

Los Angeles

Elysian Park

Off Stadium Way, south from the I-5. From just north of the first entrance on your right is a slight up hill trail that takes you to a nice, fairly level trail that skirts the steep hillside, then turns up hill to the water tanks. Past the tanks, cross over to the other side of the hill until you get to the edge of the park then return. Once home of a challenging 3M cross country race where they would open the fire hydrants and make steeplechase pits on the trail. See Mapquest aerial photo.

Griffith Park

Home of many trails and pedestrian paths. Some of them still haven't been paved. See Mapquest aeria photo.

Los Gatos

Los Gatos High School--Dammit Course

A most challenging loop is The Dammit Run course from the High School track past the basketball courts, through the condos to the trail along the creek 2M and up the side of the dam. Continue up the road to the first trail which will give you several options that return to the roads below the Novitiate. Follow painted arrows back down the hill to College Ave. and Main Street. Go west (left) a block to the pedestrian entrance to the creek bed. Turn right to get back to the High School.

Los Osos

Los Osos State Park

Run along the ocean cliffs and back into the hills! Go for miles!


Sycamore Canyon State Park

Actually north (west) of Malibu on PCH (Highway 1), this trail (home of the Lasse Viren 20K) has several trails. The main trail goes down the center of the canon. If you stay on it you could go 8 miles over the hill to Newbury Park. About 3 miles up is a fork to the west (where the race splits). You could follow that and complete the loop that returns to the main trail about 2.5 miles up. Or you could take another left that could take you to an overlook trail back to the entrance or into La Jolla Canyon, which provides even more trails to explore. La Jolla Canyon also returns to and has a trail head off PCH about 2 miles west of Sycamore. See Mapquest aerial photo of south part.

Mill Valley

Dipsea Trail

One of the most famous running trails (and races) around. Over Mt. Tamalpias from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach. Over 7M. The official rules of the race are, there is no specific course, just a start line in Mill Valley and a finish line in Stinson Beach. Starting at Old Mill Park, head west. The stairway path is famous. Take a right and follow Edgewood Ave. to the entrance of Muir Woods Park off the Panoramic Highway. Most of the rest of the trails are well worn and are much more direct than the highway. Once over the summit, you will rejoin the highway and take a right on Arenal Ave. into Stinson Beach. For another 7+M you could return and do a "Double Dipsea."


Westmont College

They host an annual cross country race that allows the public to join if they have a club team to compete with the colleges. The course goes through campus and around the soccer and baseball fields. See Mapquest aerial photo.

Newbury Park

Newbury Adventist Academy (off Wendy Drive, behind Target)

There are lots of nice trails up behind the school, once the site of an excellent race. This probably is private property but they have always been encouraging to runners as they go by. This is being encroached upon by lots of construction. See Mapquest aerial photo.


Lake Cassitas

Inside the park are lots of trails. A marked, maintained 3M course is at the very end of the road. Look for a small shed with a carved map on the side just up the hill from the boat loading parking lot. The 3M course passes the shed several times. That actual start is near the wide section of the road 1/4M before the shed (I think they once had some gas pumps here). Take the road all the way to the parking/boat loading area and onto the path on the other side. That returns to the shed and onto the road and back toward the start. At the driveway just before the start, turn left and follow the winding paths through the campground to the road behind. Take the road up the hill and down the other side. When it returns to the lake, turn left and follow it back to within sight of the shed. Turn left into the campground and follow the path around the front of the campground out to the road. Turn right and follow the road past the shed--the finish line is marked about 100 yards down the road back to the parking/boat loading area. See the official course map. See a close up Mapquest aerial photo of most of the course.


College Park (next to Oxnard College on Rose Ave.)

This once had a flat High School XC course but they've put in some fences now that have ruined the location. You can still make something up but you have to work at it. See Mapquest aerial photo.

Santa Clara River

Both the roadway in the riverbed and the levee on the south side are good running trails. From the Ventura Road exit got to the State Fund parking lot about 1/2 mile east of the freeway bridge. Though it is marked "private property" the levee is a public easment--even though they don't really want people there. You have the .5 mile of levee to the west and about 5 miles of uninterrupted levee to the east. See Mapquest aerial photo.

San Bruno

Mt. San Bruno Recreation Area

Several loops of trails at top of the hill.

San Jose

Alum Rock Park

North of the main road is a dirt trail that goes from the front of the park to the main central point. Take the paved road from parking down to this road, then take a right and follow it back.

San Luis Obispo

Cal Poly

Some challenging hilly trials in the mountains behind Cal Poly State University (behind upper level dorms past Administration building)

The campus also has a good cross country course in the agricultural area (though I see they no longer use it so it may be closed now).

Cuesta College

The Fairbanks Cross Country Course, across Education Drive from the Campus. Contact Joe Rubio for more details.

Laguna Lake

Various fitness trails, some that lead into the private property behind Madonna Inn--great hills there.

Santa Barbara

Shoreline Park

A sloping flat park of grass, SBCC puts on an annual race here that includes a section of Ledbetter Beach below. Its pretty basic. Out and back on the grass and main path of the park. Down the sidewalk to the Ledbetter Beach parking lot, at the restaurant, take a hard right across the sand to the water, turn right and back to opposite the path going up the side of the hill. At the top, repeat the out and back on the park. See Mapquest aerial photo. Contact Robin Paulsen (805) 965-0581 ex.2275

UCSB Lagoon

Behind the student union there are courses from .5 to 6 miles measured. They were once home of a weekly series of races. Start neat the platform behind the UCEN. Locate the staircase 1/4 mile West around the lagoon (coastline is East/West here). .5M goes to the base of that and back to the (now faintly visible) start line. 1M goes up the stairs (or the path next to it). Left at the top across a path that follows a drainage ditch to the south. At the main paved path, turn left and left again at the lagoon and follow the perimeter path back to the start. 3M follows the perimeter path to the previously mentioned paved path. Turn left and up the hill. Near the top of the hill look for the dirt path going to the left. Follow that path overlooking the lagoon until it returns to the paved path. Turn left and left again off the pavement onto the next path (with wood erosion seperators) that takes you again onto the paved road along side of the lagoon. Take that up hill to the main Campus Road. Left there to the first parking area. Off the side of the parking area is a paved bike path that returns to the start line. The 3M passes the start line, goes up the mile course and returns to the start, meaning the basic loop is 2M. The other courses follow the same loop repeating multiples. At the intersection of the paved path (at the Southwest corner of the Lagoon, you could also turn right and follow that out of the campus into Isla Vista by the frat houses along Del Play Drive. That is all paved. North of El Colegio Road are sections of dirt trails. See Mapquest aerial photo.

Santa Maria

Waller Park

Home of a 2M, 3M and 4M cross country courses. The park has changed since I knew the course so I can only get you to the location. See Mapquest aerial photo.

Stinson Beach

Dipsea Trail

Opposite end of one of the most famous running trails (and races) around. Over Mt. Tamalpias to Mill Valley. Over 7M. The official rules of the race are, there is no specific course, just a start line in Mill Valley and a finish line in Stinson Beach. See Mill Valley for the normal direction of the course.

Thousand Oaks

California Lutheran University

a private college, they have occasional cross country races here which use the trails behind the campus. See Mapquest aerial photo.

Wildwood Regional Park

They have some great trails that can be accessed from either side of the hill. At the far west end of Camino de Los Arboles from the Thousand Oaks side or take the road to the water treatment pland off Santa Rosa Road from the Camarillo side. This park is very particular about their endangered wildlife--stay on the trails or they will arrest you. See Mapquest aerial photo.


College of the Canyons

Go up the hill behind the Child Care facility and you'll find the start of a marked, well maintained 3M course. They hold a weekly series here each summer and other races in the fall. Since the course changes frequently as they construct more buildings on what was once pristine orchard land, I can't keep up with the changes. There are several trails there to follow. The main feature of this course is the path between the hill and the freeway, stay left. Take it until it turns you right up that hill. At the top is another path that eventually returns you to the original. See Mapquest aerial photo of the trails.


Arroyo Verde Park (Foothill at Day Road)

Follow Victoria North to its end at Foothill Road then turn left (west) until you come to Arroyo Verde Park on your right about 1.5 miles west of Victoria Avenue opposite Day Road. A map is posted on a signboard next to the house at the entrance to the park. The park is a wonderful array of trails and hills. Ask anyone in the park for the "lower" trails or the "upper" trails. On private property are many trails leading from the upper trail out of the park and into the hills. target="_blank" I put a race on here on the evening of the time change in October. See a Mapquest aerial photo--hit the back button to return here.

Buenaventura Golf Course (Olivas Park Road)

This course involves some private property. From the front of the course go down the road to the radio station, turn into the golf course at the break in the fence just before the building. Cut across the cart path to the dirt trail. Stay left until you return to the cart path. Look for the break in the bamboo near the barricade on the other side. Take the road back to the front of the course. See Mapquest aerial photo.

Camino Real Park (Dean Drive)

This doesn't have a marked trail but its soft and there are frequently lights for the softball games at night. The hills are just a slow grind and you can make about a mile and a half loop. See Mapquest aerial photo.

Olivas Golf Course (Olivas Park Road)

Gary Tuttle puts on a cross country race there each year. There isn't much of a course in some sections, but after the race (which changes each year) you'll have a course to follow until it grows over. I recommend you come to the January event to learn the course (for that year). See Mapquest aerial photo. Call Gary Tuttle (805) 643-1104

San Buenaventura State Beach

Six rocky breakwaters break up this otherwise flat, tilted course from the Promenade to Marina Park. Low tide is best unless you want the extreem challenge of loose sand. Check the tide charts for the best time to run. See Mapquest aerial photo.

Ventura River (Main St. at the river)

Flat slowly rising you can go a couple of miles on top of the levee or on the road in the riverbed. Watch for transients in Ventura--they throw rocks at outsiders. See Mapquest aerial photo.


Mt. San Antonio College

This is a no brainer. The course has been there for years and hosts numerous meets. You've got to go there to say you've done it. This is the 3M course and all the trails will be well worn from thousands of runners. Start on the runway, southwest of the stadium. Go south to the hammer ring. Start on the lower path to your right. You will go up the steeper hill to the right, later. Stay on the lower path that goes in a loop (with a hairpin) to the East. Repeat this loop twice (turn before the edge of the parking lot). You'll see the mile marker (relevant on the second time around) and just after that turn right and go between the parking lot and the hill. When you get to the path called "Switchback Hill" on your right, go up the hill. That will take you to the top of the hill on the east of the stadium, looping you back to the parking lot. Follow the paved road through the parking lot to the runway and turn left back toward the hammer throw ring. Now you go up the steeper hill to the right. Take the left trail when it forks. Follow that around behind the hills (stay left) until you can see the runway again. Make the hairpin turn to the right, up hill. After the top of the hill, make the first left and return to the hammer area. If you were in the race, you will have to hug the left side of the runway (because more races will be lining up on the runway). Make a right at the far end of the football practice field and take the path back to the stadium. Go under the famous finish sign and you're done. See a Mapquest aerial photo--hit the back button to return here.


Loyola Marymount University

Has a good course that covers the bluffs behind the campus.

Westlake Village

Potrero Road

Behind the Westlake Elementary School are several good trails and home of another defunct annual 8K/5M race. I'll try to describe that course. Start on the path behind the baseball field. Go west behind the houses to the turnstyle. Turn right on the ramp into the creek. One time we ran this race in the rain. The dry creek bed (wasn't) came up to our knees. Work your way through the creek bed, under the bridge. On the other side of the bridge, turn right up the ramp to the horse trail entrance (there is a metal aparatus to discourage motorcycles easily visible). Follow the path. When you reach the path that turns into the houses, go left and stay on the path. Follow that path all the way up hill to the ridge and continue. After a mile of ups and downs you'll see a path coming in from the left (you'll be coming back on that). Continue to the right. Stay on the main path that drops down the other side (you could also continue straight and explore the hills, I believe it comes out on the other side but haven't followed that--during the race we've had people do that for hours inintentionally). Follow the path to the bottom and around to the left. You will see return path going to the left up the hill. If you are on the steepest hill imaginable (in a footrace at least) you are on the right trail. At the top, turn right and return the way you came. See my hand drawn map. See Mapquest aerial photo. Contact Brian Pritchard at (805) 496-0088 or

Woodland Hills

Pierce College

The traditional Cross Country course at Pierce College needs guidance to folow the repeating loops correctly. To my knowledge they haven't put on a public race there in a couple of years. Go up and watch the weekly high school races in the fall. Traditional courses include a 2M, 2 different 3M courses and a 4M. Start on the Football practice field behind the stadium. You'll see the permanent finish chute east of the field--the hill it is at the base of is called "Puke Hill." by the locals. See the steep path on the south side of the hill, the finish of all courses goes up that, down the other side and around to that finish chute. They used to run these races concurrently so I'll try to describe the different cut offs as they went. Effectively there are three loops that are elements of all courses, the upper goes to the top of the hill; the middle finger--pun intended--goes up the back side of the hill and returns and the lower drops down the hill into the farm.

All courses start going up the path that leaves the field to the south and immediately turns right. 2M and 3M stay right, 4M take the upper trail at the gate. At the first T intersection, 4M turns left and goes up the upper loop, 2M and 3M turns right and goes down to the farm. 2M and 3M make a hairpin turn at the bottom of the hill and return to the intersection on the other paralell trail. 4M goes straight at the bottom of the upper loop and goes straight down into the farm, but the 4M does not make the hairpin but goes straight into the farm. You'll go up a a fold small canyon and back to a break in the fence that opens into a loop of the farm and back to the fence and return to the path leaving the farm. At the top of this hill, all three turn right at the first trail and go up the middle finger. It will hairpin back to the intersection where the 3M goes up the upper hill and the 2M goes straight. 3M and 4M after doing the upper loop returns to the intersection and turns right. Both turn right. Return to the gap in the fence. 2M and 3M turn left and repeat the middle finger loops they just did (3M doing the upper loop again), without the farm loop. 4M goes straight down the hill and up "Puke Hill." After the second loops 2M and 3M also go straight to "Puke Hill." Everybody see why it has its name. Continue on the path around the hill to the finish chute. See my hand drawn maps of the 2M course. See my hand drawn map of the 3M course. See Mapquest aerial photo.

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