Once there were stagecoaches, rumbling over the hills of Simi Valley. The hills were alive with the sound of stagecoaches. But now, the hills are the quiet province of wildflowers and an occasional lizard. Were it not for the signs, the significance of the rugged, rocky trail cutting down the hill toward the railroad tracks below might have remained a mystery. Fortunately, as far back as 1939, some folks saw fit to mark the trail as the “Old Stagecoach Road.”

There are a few ways to find the trail—I strongly recommend coming at it from the top, on Lilac Road. This way is simple and straightforward and is located in a very rural neighborhood. The official park sign was burnt black in the Chatsworth fire a few years back, but if you walk up to it you’ll see some postings inside a glass case to let you know you’re in the right place. Plus, there’s a chain link fence cutting across what looks like an old dirt road. The road runs past an old house, well kept and clearly occupied, but from the windows of that old house the residents once saw stagecoaches roll by.

When first we ventured forth on what we thought was the stagecoach road, we climbed up and down small hills, appreciating the breathtaking view of the valley below (and when I say breathtaking, I mean breathtaking.) I’m curious to know what it looks like at different times of the year, but in the spring, it is exquisite. It was so beautiful, in fact, that it was a wonder we had never been here before. The sky, the breeze, the wildflowers—and did I mention the view? The thing is, after a little while on this beautiful trail, it became more and more implausible that it could be a stagecoach road– with all it’s ups and downs and twists and turns, not to mention the fact that there were no signs of wheel ruts. So we greets some fellow hikers and asked them if this was the Old Stagecoach road, and, sure enough, it wasn’t. They told us to go back to the beginning of the trail and take the path that branched off to the right when we first entered. In retrospect, it seemed the more obvious choice, but that’s retrospect for you.

In retrospect I’m glad we took the wrong trail at first because it was far more colorful than the Old Stagecoach trail. But this adventure was about the real stagecoach route, preserved in the hills of Chatsworth and if we hadn’t bothered to find it, I surely would have left Chatsworth wondering about the road not taken.

And what a road it is. Probably heavily eroded by years of rain and flooding, it is an incredibly rough and tumble route. It is a bit of a challenge to walk down, let alone ride on the brittle wheels of a stagecoach. This trail is straight and cuts into the side of a hill, but were it not for the tile sign set into the stone along the trail declaring “Old Santa Susana Stage Road 1859-90, Marked March 17, 1939, Native Daughters of the Golden West” one might still wonder aloud, repeatedly, ‘how could stagecoaches ride this road?’

I cannot say for sure that I saw wheel ruts, but there were some strong possibilities along the way. And there definitely was a snake that went from one side of the stage road to the other, but it looked like a baby snake, and there did not appear to be a rattle on its tail (but please note that most hiking areas around us have warnings for rattlesnakes.) To top off this whole hike into the past, there is even a railroad track near the bottom of the trail with a tunnel though one of the hills for the trains to come through.

Going back up the stage road, there is a small divergence to the left where a pond is tucked away, out of sight, but pretty. I could imagine horses being led away from the main road for a drink of water, but that may just be my imagination.

On the way back to our car, a resident of one of the homes on Lilac Road waved us over to take a look at a nest tucked deep inside a thorny cactus next to his mailbox. Crowded into the nest were a handful of very new baby birds waiting for their dinner.

Notes:

If there’s an “old” stagecoach road, there must be a “new” stagecoach road, because at some point folks had to have said enough is enough with regard to that rocky ride. By going left from the offramp onto Santa Susana Pass Road there is access to the new stagecoach road. It is most definitely a smoother ride, however, I do not recommend it for a hike. This road is also cut into the side of a hill, but is has a sharp drop off into a deep revine where several abandoned cars can be spotted, not to mention lots of litter.

The best way to reach this hike is by taking the 405 North to 118 West. Exit at Rocky Peak, take a right on Suzanna pass, then a left onto Lilac Road. Drive up this road until you see a dirt turn-out on the left with some burnt posts. Park off the road and walk into the opening of the old metal fence.