Take a 'Star Trek'-Inspired Trek at Vasquez Rocks Near Los Angeles

About an hour's drive north of Los Angeles are some unusual rock formations that will look very familiar if you're a fan of "Star Trek"—or if you've ever watched "The Big Bang Theory," the movies "Blazing Saddles" and "The Flintstones," and lots of Westerns. Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park in Agua Dulce has been featured more than 200 TV shows and movies. It's an interesting place to spend a couple of hours, even if you're not a Trekkie.

A Brief History of Vasquez Rocks
Unlike most tourist attractions in L.A., these sandstone rocks in the high desert have been around since prehistoric times, when they were "uplifted at a picturesque angle," according to the Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation (this could also describe a lot of celebrities' faces). Because L.A. loves its scandals, the rocks were not named after a philanthropist but after notorious bandit Tiburcio Vasquez, who used them as a hideout in the 1870s. He was later captured in Hollywood and executed.

Trekkie Alert!
Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park was featured in three episodes of the TV series "Star Trek." It's where Captain Kirk battled the Gorn, the reptilian captain of an enemy ship, in the episode "Arena." It also portrayed the planet Omicron Delta, where the Enterprise crew sees strange apparitions, in "Shore Leave." And it's where Kirk and Dr. McCoy helped the pregnant widow of a tribe's ruler give birth in "Friday's Child."

What to Do at Vasquez Rocks
The 912-acre park has lots of hiking and equestrian trails (you must BYOH—bring your own horse). The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail also passes through the park. The trails range from easy to moderately difficult. You can bring your leashed dog along with you. Also be sure to bring water and sunscreen, and wear a hat.

Along the trails, you can spot petroglyphs, rock paintings made by the Tatavium tribe over a thousand years ago, on the rocks and in some of the park's caves. When it rains in Southern California, there's a stream that runs through the park. There's also an historic ranger's house, a snake exhibit and a nature center where, yes, you can buy "Star Trek" tchotchkes. If you're not into hiking, you can park close to the famous rocks.

The Best Time to Go to Vasquez Rocks
Fall, spring and even winter are the best times to visit because the weather is usually mild. Unless you have a lizard-like affinity for heat, avoid visiting the park in the middle of the day from July through September, when temps are often in the triple digits. You'll avoid crowds and heatstroke by going in the early morning or late afternoon.

Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park is open every day from sunrise to sunset. There are no parking or admission fees.

Laura Goldman is a freelance writer and lifelong Angeleno. Check out her i Still Love Dogs blog and follow her on Twitter.

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