Six Flags Magic Mountain may have put Santa Clarita on the map but this California city is steeped in rich western and Hollywood history. Decades ago it was a remote rural area ideal for filming. It still is, but there’s more to do now. Over time, people moved here from throughout southern California for the award-winning schools, outdoor activities, and many other things to do in Santa Clarita.
My husband and I moved here with our three kids for those reasons and more. We love the miles of paseos, nearby hiking trails, and proximity to Los Angeles without being in the big city. And although we’ve lived here for 28 years, we continue to discover new places to explore.
Here’s my list of historical and outdoorsy things to do in Santa Clarita. A few of them might just surprise you.
Where is Santa Clarita Valley?
Santa Clarita Valley – typically shortened to SCV – is located in the northern corner of Los Angeles County, California. It’s about a 30-minute drive from Santa Clarita to Downtown Los Angeles. The Santa Clarita Valley comprises four communities: Valencia, Newhall, Saugus, and Canyon Country. We live in Valencia, perhaps best known for being home to Six Flags Magic Mountain and its adjacent water park.
But there’s a lot more to Santa Clarita than roller coasters and the water park. A year-round sunny climate, hundreds of miles of biking, equestrian, and hiking trails, and picturesque mountains and canyons make this a great place to call home or visit. Santa Clarita is also the site of the first gold discovery in California! In fact, there are several historical sites, including an authentic ghost town and the oldest restaurant in L.A. County.
Santa Clarita Valley is also an ever-growing community with an array of dining, shopping, and entertainment options. There’s also public art on streets and throughout the 36 parks. The next time you’re visiting Los Angeles, be sure to check out the many fun things to do in Santa Clarita.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Santa Clarita is easily accessible via Interstate 5 (the Golden State Freeway). You can even ride the Metrolink train from L.A. train stations to Newhall.
Read More: 2-Day Itinerary for Los Angeles
1.Explore Miles of Santa Clarita Paseos
Santa Clarita’s 30-plus miles of paseos are one of the city’s best features. The pedestrian-only pathways connect neighborhoods, communities, and parks via tunnels and bridges. That means you never have to cross a street while walking, jogging, biking, skating, or pushing a stroller. We love these paseos and use them nearly every day – even to walk to grocery stores and restaurants.
One of our favorite sections is the four-mile Iron Horse Trailhead popular for walking, biking, and horseback riding. A main attraction is the 1898 railroad trestle bridge, in place since 1928.
2. Have a Picnic in William S. Hart Park
Located in Newhall, the William S. Hart Park is a popular picnic area with hiking trails, historical buildings, farm animals, and the William S. Hart Museum. The museum is the former home of William S. Hart, a 1920s silent film cowboy. It’s a large part of history the SCV embraces. Hart donated his land and ranch home, filled with his personal belongings, to Los Angeles for the public to enjoy.
A unique feature of the park is a herd of bison, descendants of the original eight bison donated by Walt Disney to Hart Park in 1962. You can see them behind a fence near the Bison Road trailhead if you get an early start on your hike.
3. Visit Old Town Newhall
Known as the historic district of Santa Clarita, Old Town Newhall is the oldest neighborhood in the Santa Clarita Valley. But thanks to a revitalization project, the area retains its western ambiance – check out the Walk of Western Stars – while anchoring over 60 different businesses. Old Town Newhall is home to a farmers market on Main Street, the Laemmle movie theater, and the Pulchella Winery tasting room.
In addition, The Main arts complex, houses
4. Ride Roller Coasters at Six Flags Magic Mountain
Located in Valencia, Magic Mountain’s colorful roller coasters can be seen from the Golden State Freeway. The 260-acre theme park has 20 roller coasters and over 100 rides, games and attractions.
5. Splash Around at Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Water Park
The tropical-themed water park is located adjacent to Six Flags Magic Mountain and uses the same parking lot. The 25-acre water park is well-designed with a variety of water slides and pools for all ages. Young kids can wade through Castaway Cove and Splash Island while older kids zip down Black Snake Summit, Taboo Tower, and other water slides.
6. Explore Placerita Canyon Natural Area
Located in a canyon in Newhall, the area is home to the Placerita Canyon Nature Center, numerous hiking trails, and the site of California’s first gold discovery in 1842. The short, paved Heritage Trail leads to the Oak of the Golden Dream, where the first gold nuggets were discovered by a rancher.
7. Enjoy the Many Hiking Trails
Santa Clarita has a large network of hiking trails in the mountains, parks, and natural open spaces. Towsley Canyon has two popular hiking trails. One is about two miles, the other five miles. Both meander through the beautiful Santa Susana Mountains. There’s a seasonal stream. The nearby Taylor Trail has several hiking trails with a couple linking to the Towsley Canyon parking lot. Other area hiking trails include East Canyon, Rice Canyon, and Quigley Canyon open space.
8. Step Back in Time in Mentryville
Nestled in Newhall’s chaparral slopes in the Santa Susana Mountains, Mentryville was an oil drilling boomtown from 1876 to 1900. Named after French immigrant Charles Mentry, the town was built around oil well Pico No. 4. It was the first commercially successful oil well in the western U.S. Today, it’s a ghost town with just a few buildings still standing. The area is open to the public and has hiking trails.
9. Play at Central Park
This 105-acre park in Santa Clarita has sports courts, a playground, a dog park, and summer concerts with live music.
10. Shop at Valencia Town Center
Formerly called Westfield Valencia Town Center, the mall was recently purchased. Plans call for a multi-use retail village. But in the meantime, it’s the outdoor Patios district that grabs the attention of locals and visitors. Restaurants and stores surround water fountains and sitting areas.
11. Discover Tesoro Adobe Park
I only recently discovered this nugget of history hidden in the Tesoro development in Valencia. Tesoro Adobe was the home of Western actor Harry Carey Sr., who fell in love with the area while filming here in the early 20th century. The 2,000-acre ranch was miles away from Hollywood and city life. But today it’s surrounded by two-story homes and a park. The Tesoro Adobe Park, which contains stables, bunkhouses, and the main adobe structure, is free and open to the public. It’s a nice quiet spot with a rich film history.
12. Outdoorsy Things to do in Santa Clarita: Horseback Riding
Santa Clarita has several equestrian centers in the San Francisquito area, a rural part of Santa Clarita. From lessons to trail rides, the centers offer a variety of opportunities for horseback riding on picturesque trails.
13. Pet Animals at The Gentle Barn
The Gentle Barn is a sanctuary for rescued animals. The public is invited to visit and interact with cows, pigs, turkeys, and other animals.
14. Learn About the Gibbon Conservation Center
Gibbons are a rare group of apes. Learn about them on a guided tour at the Gibbon Conservation Center. Established in 1976, the center is the only institution in the world to house and breed gibbons. Reservations are necessary.
15. Hide Out in Vasquez Rocks
Located in the high desert about 30 minutes from Santa Clarita, Vasquez Rocks features 932 acres of unique rock formations. It’s a great place to hike and take photos. The area is named after Tiburico Vasquez, a notorious bandit who hid in the rocks to escape law enforcement in 1874.
Enjoy a Meal at The Original Saugus Cafe
Established in 1886 as the Saugus Eating House, the eatery is the oldest restaurant in Los Angeles County. It was built near a train depot to serve hungry travelers, which included President Harrison and President Roosevelt. It was also a popular film location, so it was common to see celebrities like Douglas Fairbanks, John Wayne, and Clark Gable dining there.
Over time, the eatery was renamed the Original Saugus Cafe, but it still serves classic American comfort food like chicken fried steak, meatloaf, and spaghetti. And it’s still located by the railroad, where the rumbling of passing trains serves as a reminder of the diner’s early history.