Best View - 2011
There are lots of weird stories about Black Star Canyon. One is that rapacious Satanists lurk in the oak groves and await the arrival of unsuspecting virgins walking along the county-owned road. There's also the one about gap-toothed hillbillies confronting startled hikers and brandishing firearms. We'll leave it to you to figure out if any of them are actually true. Though it's spooky, Black Star offers incredible rewards to adventurous souls, with a glorious, sprawling view at 3,000 feet at a spot known as Beeks' Place. Grab your mountain bike or hiking shoes, plus plenty of water and snacks. Take the trail leading from the gate at the terminus of Black Star Canyon Road. Follow the path that meanders leisurely through the aforementioned oak groves. Depending on the time of year, there might be a clear, blue, babbling brook. Don't dawdle among the homes nestled against the canyon walls—some of the locals don't recognize the fact that a public road bisects their libertarian utopia. The climb out of the lowlands switches back and forth across towering hillsides flush with buckwheat and sage. Though the trip isn't technical, it's a grueling, mostly uphill schlep. At the top, you'll find a massive soccer-ball-shaped Doppler-radar tower owned by the National Weather Service and a cluster of stone buildings without roofs—the remnants of what was once owned by long-dead, former State Senator Joseph Beeks (whose family still owns the Balboa Island Ferry). People not used to seeing clouds from above may experience some vertigo. And those tiny black specks with wings hovering in the atmosphere below? Those are airplanes. Clear days afford views of Catalina Island to the south (enthralled gasp) and Corona to the north (stifling cough). It's not the highest spot in the county (that would be Santiago Peak), but it's within almost everyone's reach—and undoubtedly worth the effort.