Most Vasquez Rocks visitors scurry straight up the towering rock that leans, like hands in prayer, over the park's dusty main parking lot. But amble off in the opposite direction — into colossal folds of pallid red stone collared with cowering scrub — and you may not see your car again for hours. Though it covers just 900 acres and borders the humming I-14, this otherworldly area — where everything from Star Trek to CSI has filmed — can swiftly swallow hikers. What appears to be a single steep slope may actually be three in succession; promising routes cease suddenly in front of gulp-inducing cliffs and furtive gullies. Roll with the topography and you'll discover a lazy creek skulking through the canyon's foliaged floor. Natural caves in the mammoth outcrops above made Vasquez Rocks prime real estate for long-extinct Tataviam Indians. Lost amidst its odd echoes and deformed shadows, you'll feel ancient eyes upon you. 10700 W. Escondido Canyon Road, Agua Dulce. (661) 268-0840,

—Paul Rogers

LA Weekly