The year was 1969 when Charles Manson and his occultist family lived out in the hidden hills of Simi Valley. They lived on a property called Spahn Ranch and hung around the nearby Manson Family Cave. This ominous trail was hiked by the family many times before and during they committed their cult murders. Today, the unnamed trail is part of the Santa Susana Historic State Park.
This article is part of the Halloween Special.
Time: 25 minutes
Distance: < 1 mile
History and Destruction of Spahn Ranch:
The land was first acquired by Lee and Ruth McReynolds who purchased the land and started building the western movie sets. In 1953 the 55-acre property was sold to George Spahn. Spahn built more movie sets and allowed horseback rentals, which made it a popular horseback riding spot among locals.
The Manson Family stumbled upon the ranch in 1968 and brokered a deal with George Spahn which allowed them to live there if they helped work the land. This is where the family lived and planned the murders of the Hollywood stars and residents. In the year of 1969 is when the famous “Hollywood Murders” were committed.
In 1970, most the ranch’s structures and movie sets burned down in a wildfire; The rest of the ruins were bulldozed by the city and cleared out of the way. The surrounding space is now flat and looks like a dry meadow, with trails running through everywhere. There are still remains and remnants of the ranch to this day and can be found sporadically on the hike.
The nearby Manson Family Cave is where they shot guns, consumed drugs and played music.
Getting to The Manson Family Cave:
No marked trail head or signage signals the start of the hike, it’s more of a find the best path down a slightly sleep hill kinda thing. As a warning, there is a lot of poison oak around the trail, but all of it is easy to avoid by being cautious.
After parking on Iverson Road, hike downhill towards the metal barrier separating the road and the hill which is the start of the hike.
It should be easy to find a path down to the main trail, which you will see from the top of Santa Susana Rd. but pick a path that looks the easiest and judge for yourself how to maneuver down this steep part of the hill.
You’ll almost immediately run into a trail going down into the canyon, take this trail to the left to get to the cave.
In this small but beautiful canyon you can hear the cars buzzing overhead on the Santa Susanna Pass Rd. A shaded and comfortable shaded trail which has all the right type of fall vibes.
In about 3 minutes the cave will come into view. This is where the Manson Family would hang out the five weeks while they committed the murders of 9 people.
The famous photo of them from 1969 was taken here:
And another photo of them hanging a hammock on the nearby oaks here:
Lastly, you can find the spot where Manson used to sit and play his guitar for visitors. As you can see the rock he played on has been cut away by people looking to take a piece of the history home.
From this point in the hike, there’s not that much more to see, but there is still the flattened ground where Spahn Ranch used to be.
In order to get to the Ranch site, you must continue hiking through the oaks until the canyon narrows and looks like it was pushed in on itself. This is an unnatural occurrence.
What has happened to this canyon is that after Spahn Ranch burned down, the city decided to bulldoze the dirt and remaining buildings/structures down into the canyon. Which is why much of the canyon walls look unnatural.
Anyways, the last portion of the hike, after hiking through the downed trees and thick branches, you’ll stumble upon an old concrete foundation and what looks like a concrete water tube. From this portion you can hike directly to the left of the concrete structure to see the land where Spahn Ranch was.
If you look around you’ll see a bed frame and some old burned fences, nothing big, but it’s living history.
And from the old ranch site you can see and hear the cars on Santa Susanna Rd. to finish the hike just find your path to the road and hike it back to your car.
Enjoy the hike and watch for the poison oak.
Parking and Map Directions:
Parking is off Iverson Rd. Located at this address: 11132 Iverson Rd,. Chatsworth
Trail Map and GPX route: