The Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park celebrated Chatsworth’s 125th anniversary on Sunday with a hike up the Stagecoach Trail led by volunteer John Luker.
On the National Register of Historic Places, the Stagecoach Trail was built upon what was then a Chumash trail in 1861. Christened El Camino de Santa Susana y Simi, the passage through the Simi Hills was so treacherous it bore the name Devil’s Slide.
The Devil’s Slide was so steep, during its heyday a massive oak timber was placed through the back wheels to keep the stagecoach from hurtling headlong over the cliffs to the north, and down into the deep gorge below. Horses were unhitched and walked down, blindfolded. All but the most delicate passengers were encouraged to disembark and walk.
The most expensive fare allowed one to remain inside, with those who walked paying a cheaper ticket price. The least expensive fare was reserved for those hardy souls who not only walked, but also helped to push the stagecoach up the Devil’s Slide, en route to San Francisco.
Today the Stagecoach Trail is open for hiking, where trekkers can see ruts grooved into the sandstone from stagecoach wheels, and experience the same sensational views of the San Fernando Valley witnessed by early travelers upon the dramatic incline. The hike itself is 3½ miles, difficult in terms of strenuousness, and can be accessed through the Lilac Lane or Larwin Street entrances to the Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park.
Hikes up the Stagecoach Trail are scheduled the second Saturday of every month, 9 a.m. at the Larwin Street entrance.