Roosters crow, birds chirp, and horses snort as sweaty hikers and bicyclists navigate uneven paths and twisted tree roots. Benches sheltered by drooping branches invite adventurers to escape the July heat, the setting sun having painted the sky lavender and pink. The trickle of the nearby creek and the tapping hooves of two black ponies walking with their owner soothe the weary traveler.
“It’s really pretty. Very rustic,” says Thomas Nolasco, 59, as he walks towards the northern end of Browns Creek Bike Path in Chatsworth on a Saturday evening, temperatures still in the 80s. With a black cap, dark sunglasses, and a salt and pepper mustache protecting his face, Nolasco clutches a water bottle as he nears the end of his journey, bright magenta bougainvilleas leading the way. “I do not own a bike. But if I did, I would try it.”
Browns Creek Bike Path doesn’t look anything like a national park. But with the trappings of a country walk, its northern half is a pleasant alternative for locals looking for tranquility at their doorstep. The asphalt trail runs along the eastern edge of the concrete-lined Browns Creek, Sierra Canyon’s lower school campus at its northern terminus. It ends a mile and a half to the south at Lassen Street, just east of Amtrak’s Chatsworth Station. Equestrians can ride on a dirt path along the creek’s western side.
“A friend of mine found it and he showed me,” explains Nolasco, a retired AT&T pay phone collector and Chatsworth resident who has been hiking along the creek several times a week for the last year. “I’ve been coming down since.”
On a summer’s evening, visitors can have the trail almost to themselves, with only farm animals, including goats, and a handful of hikers and bicyclists to greet them.
Near its northern entrance, the trail is bordered to the east by ranch houses, many with horses grazing in fenced yards. Small animals have taken shelter in the numerous burrows along the way. Weather-beaten vehicles reminiscent of a rural heartland, including an antique black Volvo coupe and a 1970s orange Honda hatchback, are parked in front of some homes. As they continue south, hikers and bicyclists encounter the rear walls of neighborhood businesses and major streets, including Devonshire.
To the west, the trail is bound by a chain link fence running along Browns Creek. The stream, which feeds the Los Angeles River, rushes during the rainy season but trickles during the summer. What it lacks in scenery, it compensates for by providing the trail with an open, airy setting.
While the cracked asphalt and tree roots along the path’s northern half provide pedestrians with an interesting hike, the well-maintained section by Chatsworth Station provides a smoother ride for the few bicyclists who use the trail. According to Nolasco, Browns Creek Bike Path tends to be frequented by parents strolling with children and locals walking their dogs.
“I usually see two bicyclists, depending on the day,” Nolasco says. “This time I didn’t see any.”
As he pauses upon reaching Variel Avenue, which intersects the trail, singing birds break the silence.
“I’ve been here when it’s 50 degrees and it’s freezing,” says Nolasco, as he approaches home. “But I find it to be so peaceful.”