Every yin has a yang. While some people might love the very open spaces dreaded by those with agoraphobia, the very same folks could well find themselves sweating bullets in close quarters. Claustrophobia is the fear of tight, small spaces. As anyone who has seen the film “127 Hours” knows, when you’re hiking out in the middle of nowhere, things can close in on you quite quickly. The five hikes on this list are picked to help people challenge their claustrophobia – and even people who don’t suffer from the condition should be aware of the potential hazards of hiking in canyons. After all, you wouldn’t want a movie such as “127 Hours” to be made about you.
Black Star Canyon – This infamous waterfall in Orange County is the subject of many ghost stories and site of a lot of alleged paranormal activity. The waterfall at the back of the canyon is reached by a treacherous, nearly mile-long climb over rocks, up three smaller waterfalls and around MUCH poison oak.
Grottos (Mecca Hills) – Ironically, the thing that makes the slot canyons of the desert near Palm Springs the most dangerous is water. Flash floods can be deadly here. The hike to the two Grottos takes in some spectacular desert scenery, and the up-close views of the Salton Sea almost give the illusion of being near the ocean.
Rustic Canyon – In the eastern Santa Monica Mountains, Rustic Canyon, commonly accessed by the Backbone Trail in Will Rogers State Historic Park, has a surprisingly isolated feel to it. The trail is hard to follow, and will undoubtedly have hikers climbing up over rocks and around fallen trees. Abandoned buildings lend a strong sense of eeriness to the scene. Oh, by the way, Neo-Nazi groups used to have secret meetings here.
Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve (Stevenson Canyon) – Wait, wasn’t the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve on the list of agoraphobia-curing hikes? Yes, it was—but while the large nature area near Murrieta has lots of wide open space, tight-walled Stevenson Canyon in the northwestern corner of the reserve has a strongly mysterious feel to it. It certainly doesn’t feel like So Cal.
Santa Ynez Canyon – Like nearby Rustic Canyon, Santa Ynez feels particularly remote, especially considering its proximity to Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica. The beginning of the trail is pretty easy to follow, but the canyon itself requires some scrambling. The small waterfall at the back of the canyon usually only flows during the spring, but the hike to it provides an enjoyable retreat any time of the year.
As with the agoraphobia-curing hikes, the trips on this list present challenges that shouldn’t be underestimated, even by those who don’t suffer from claustrophobia. But people who try these hikes willl not only conquer their fear, but they might find themsleves enjoying the quiet and isolation, things that seem to be hard to find in Los Angeles and Orange County. Those who explore nature’s alcoves and crevaces will certainly find themselves with a new appreciation for open space.
Coming up next: Acrophobia!