After our third child, Megan, was born in 1995, we moved from Burbank to Valencia, one of four communities (including Newhall, Canyon Country and Saugus) in the city of Santa Clarita. Our kids grew up riding bikes on tree-lined paseos, hiking on local mountain trails and attending great schools within walking distance of our home.
While Valencia is probably best known for Six Flags Magic Mountain, there’s more to the area, which is steeped in California history. California’s first documented discovery of gold in 1842 took place in Placerita Canyon. And a few buildings still stand in Mentryville, an oil boomtown from the 1870s-1930s that’s now a ghost town.
Over the years, we watched housing developments, shopping centers and restaurants replace grassy fields full of grazing cows, and it was a big deal when Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center at College of the Canyons in Valencia opened its doors for concerts and shows. But it’s the ever-expand-ing network of hiking and biking trails that keeps us rooted here. So, when Megan – an outdoorsy girl who moved to New Zealand last year after college – came home to visit recently, I invited her on a date in her old stomping grounds.
Our day began with brunch at the Egg Plantation, a cozy cafe serving 100-plus omelets, salads and sandwiches in a Victorian-style building in Newhall. With an active day ahead, we fueled up with scrambled eggs, sausages, hash browns and coffee.
Afterward, it was a short drive to our favorite hiking trails, accessible from The Old Road in Newhall. Towsley Canyon, East and Rice Canyons and the Taylor Trail, which have seasonal streams and wildflowers, zigzag through canyons, meadows, chaparral, oak trees and rock formations.
The dog-friendly trails attract hikers of all levels, but because there are numerous offshoots, you don’t see many people. East Canyon begins near a ranch with horses and leads to a fork in the road. We veered right to Rice Canyon, the wind whispering in the trees as Megan shared stories about farm life (with a handsome Kiwi boyfriend) in New Zealand.
Back in the car, we drove home to get our bikes for a short ride. Those visiting Santa Clarita can check out bikes ($1 per half hour) through the Pace Bike Share Program using a smartphone app. Bridges and tunnels connect miles of paved paseos and bike trails, keeping cyclists and pedestrians safely away from vehicles.
After an active afternoon, we drove to Newhall Refinery, a popular restaurant serving good food and craft beer on Main Street in Old Town Newhall. It was quiet on this late Thursday afternoon, but it’s often bustling with free street entertainment and a weekly farmers market. Canyon Theatre Guild is a vintage venue where we’ve seen many holiday shows over the years.
I showed Megan the Walk of Western Stars that adorn the sidewalks. Similar to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the terrazzo and brass stars bear names of Western performers such as John Wayne, Roy Rogers and William Hart. As I snapped a photo of a star with Steve McQueen’s name, Megan asked, “Who’s he?” I told her he was an actor but that I hadn’t realized he did Westerns (upon checking, he made many).
Inside Newhall Refinery, Megan chose a Pocock brown ale, and I opted for the Trejos Negra (a Mexican amber lager). We considered the menu and weekly specials, which include Staff Burger Thursday, Taco Tuesday and the Chef’s Tasting Menu on weekends, but Megan had places to go and friends to see before returning to New Zealand. So, we finished our beers and made a dinner date for the next time she comes home.