Week 294: William S. Hart County Park, Newhall

September 24, 2023

 AllTrails Hart Trail, 1.8 mile loop 

As a fitting end to a semi-Western-themed summer, Barbara and I drove out to Newhall for a thoroughly charming hike through the William S. Hart County park. Hart (1864–1946) was one of the first great western movie stars of the silent era. Between 1914 and his retirement in 1925, western superstar "two-gun Bill" appeared in 87 westerns—so popular that in 1915–16 he was voted the biggest money-making star in the US. Hart leased the ranch house on the property in 1918 to use as a film location (the entire Santa Clarita Valley was dubbed "Hollywood North" for the number of movie studio ranches built in the area at the turn of the 20th c.) In 1921 Hart purchased the property, increased it to 230 acres, and called it Horseshoe Ranch. He had the Spanish colonial style mansion, La Loma de Los Vientos, built in 1928 at the top of the hill and lived there until his death, willing the entire property to LA County to be used as a park and museum. The care Hart put into the property shows—from the ranch house to the bunk house, the viewing tower at the entrance to the mansion, the courtyard sun deck, and the tea room he had built for his handicapped sister Mary Ellen. He named trails for his favorite horse Fritz (forerunner of famous western movie horses Champion, Trigger, Tony, and Silver) and for his and Fritz's pack mule costar Lizbeth. The Bison Trail was named by the county after Walt Disney donated a herd of bison for the park in 1962 (they have their own small valley). Points along the trail are named for Hamlet, Mack, Prince, and Prancer—four of the eleven dogs buried in Hart's Dog Cemetery. Barbara and I stopped to check out every building, catch the gorgeous valley views at each point, stare at the bisons calmly swinging their tails. At the end of the hike we visited the collection of swans, ducks, pot belly pigs, wild boars, llamas, turtles, chickens, roosters, horses, and the donkey in the fenced-in barnyard near the gift shop. The moderate trails require enough effort to make this a real hike, and the old buildings are interesting enough for a historic stop and look. With all of our wandering we managed to extend the 1.8 mile hike into a 2.5 mile trek. An enjoyable escape, this hike was a fun way to spend a morning—kids would love it!







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