Hike the Puente Hills and celebrate 20 years of stellar conservation efforts on behalf of this little-known hiking area. The Puente Hills offer San Gabriel Valley residents a natural backdrop, and hikers many miles of trail to roam.

Hike the Puente Hills to peaceful retreats and metro views from Puente Hills Skyline Trail. (courtesy PHHA)
Hike the Puente Hills to peaceful retreats and metro views from Puente Hills Skyline Trail. (courtesy PHHA)
The hills have two unusual claims to fame: Rose Hills is the single largest memorial park in the world. The Puente Hills Landfill is the largest in the U.S.; “tipping fees” collected have funded considerable parkland acquisition in the hills.

With lots of tipping and consequently a lot of tipping fees, operations at the enormous landfill have funded the good work of the Puente Hills Habitat Preservation Authority, this year celebrating its 20th anniversary as a government park agency.

With the community’s support, more than 3,800 acres are managed as the Puente Hills Preserve by the Habitat Authority. During the past 20 years, the Habitat Authority has purchased 1,888 acres in the Puente Hills, restored hundreds of acres of native habitat, and provided outdoor education programs for communities nearby.

Learn more about the Puente Hills Habitat Authority and 20th anniversary celebrations and consider taking a hike and getting to know the hills.

If you don’t know the hills and never hiked them, well, you’re not alone.The hills are not exactly top of mind for the millions of motorists who drive by on the Pomona Freeway (60) north of the hills and on the San Gabriel River Freeway (605) west of the hills.

Literally and figuratively, the Puente Hills have a low profile. Geographers say the Puente Hills, which rise from 400 feet to 1200 feet in elevation, divide the Los Angeles Basin into a northern one-third and southern two-thirds. North of the hills is the San Gabriel Valley, south is a flat coastal plain tilted gently toward the Pacific.

Puente Hills Skyline Trail extends across the range, offers a variety of hiking options and terrific clear-day views of the metropolis. Cross the whole range on a 12-mile, one-way jaunt from the Seventh Avenue (Hacienda Hills) Trailhead to Schabarum Park. I like this hike a lot.

For a shorter hike and a great intro to the pleasures of the Puente Hills, I like heading out from the rather deluxe Hacienda Hills Trailhead and making a 5-mile loop via Ahwinga, Native Oak and Schabarum trails.

Whittier Hills offer hikers quite a workout!
Whittier Hills offer hikers quite a workout!
I also like hiking around Hellman Wilderness Park, perched above Whittier college in the Whittier Hills, the westernmost region of the Puente Hills. I spent my freshman year at Whittier College, alas more than 20 years ago and I can tell you I sure wish more of the Puente Hills was preserved back then. For sure I would have run trails instead of jogging the streets around the colloge.

Hikers can put together loops (lots of hill work!) of 2 to 5 miles through Hellman Park and get grand vistas of downtown Los Angeles, the San Gabriel Valley, the Pacific and Catalina Island.