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Monsters of rock: ten more great geology hikes in Southern California

Holcomb Canyon, north slope of the San Gabriel Mountains
Holcomb Canyon, north slope of the San Gabriel Mountains
David Lockeretz

In the summer, L.A. residents can catch many of the world's great rock stars on tour. Not all great rock shows happen at the Staples Center or Dodger Stadium however: L.A. and its vicinity has a huge variety of great geological rock formations, from volcanic outcrops to scars from earthquake faults from canyons carved from wind and water. At these rock shows, you don't have to worry about battling crowds, paying too much for refreshments or losing your hearing. Here are ten great hiking trips that show off some of Southern California's best geology.

Devil's Punchbowl - Like a wilder version of Vasquez Rocks, the Punchbowl showcases some of L.A.'s best earthquake related geology. Pushed up from below the surface and carved by snow melt from the San Gabriel Mountains far above, the rocks of the Punchbowl are truly one of a kind.

Gaviota Wind Caves - West of Santa Barbara, the caves of Gaviota are created from the winds of the open sea. Add ocean views, wildflowers and mountain vistas to this hike and it's well worth the drive; certainly an essential stop for anyone heading north on Highway 101.

Holcomb Canyon - Like the Devil's Punchbowl, Holcomb Canyon is located on the north slope of the San Gabriel Mountains and features some of So Cal's wildest geology. In addition to the scenery, this is a good off-trail adventure for those looking to develop their navigational skills.

Mesa Peak - This prominent summit above Malibu Creek State Park features some of the volcanic geology and sandstone caves typical of the area - plus great ocean views.

Narrows Earth - Located in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, this short trail makes a perfect stop for anyone heading eastbound on Highway 78. The hike's short distance, level grade and shade from the canyon walls make it one of the few desert hikes that can be enjoyed year round.

Oak Canyon Nature Center - You can pay Disneyland prices and battle crowds there, or you can visit this park on Anaheim's eastern edge where sandstone caves are among the scenic highlights. Only 58 acres, the park offers surprising variety.

Sage Ranch - Just beyond the San Fernando Valley, this small park features a loop trail that passes by some interesting geological formations, including "Turtle Rock."

Shaw's Cove/Crescent Bay - In between the better known sea caves of Corona Del Mar and Dana Point, the caves at Shaw's Cove allow O.C. hikers to see marine geology up close.

Tahquitz Canyon - Once ruined by graffiti and waste, Tahquitz Canyon has been restored to its original condition, allowing hikers to experience a deep, dramatic canyon with a 60-foot waterfall - all a short drive from Palm Springs.

Van Alden Caves - A short walk from the edge of the San Fernando Valley, the Van Alden Caves are a popular destination, especially for people who want to escape the Valley's notorious summer heat. Sadly, graffiti and trash have taken away from the natural attractiveness of the caves, but hopefully with enough awareness, action and vigilance, they will be restored for future generations to enjoy - perhaps Tahquitz Canyon may be a role model.

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