For outdoor explorers who like their hikes with a helping of history and a frisson of dread, Santa Susana Pass is your kind of place. Several trails here wind through the ruggedly scenic Simi Hills, along with an unofficial trail that takes you through the former Spahn Ranch, onetime home of the Manson Family. This site is now part of Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park, and you'll want to explore the whole, Joshua Tree–like landscape with its Native American mortar holes, 19th-century artifacts and absurdly steep Old Stage Road. To access the park's north trailhead, locate the fire road south of the 118 freeway, just east of the Rocky Peak Park exit; continue east past this road and go up the second trail. A smaller trail branches off to the left, which you follow through a mile or so of chaparral to find the infamous “Manson Cave.” You can double back to the fire road and travel south over the ridge into the rest of the park. Start early — footing is rough and there is zero shade. But with recent trail improvements, you can enjoy fantastic scenery and get a peek at one of our most notorious sites without feeling like you're about to get lost, or die.
Credit: Suzy Beal