Mentryville Park is a tiny oil ghost town rich in history tucked away in a tiny corner of Pico Canyon. It’s an important piece of US History for its role in the Oil Boon, but still draws people today for its beautiful hiking trails set in the Santa Susana Mountains. It’s recognizable from several tv and movie productions but also draws a crowd for its reputation for being haunted.
Hiking Mentryville and Pico Canyon
I honestly didn’t know that this registered historical site existed. It’s now a park deep in the canyons about 25 miles north of Los Angeles. My husband and I were trying to find new places to explore, and he surprised with a new discovery right here in our own hometown. The first time we went, we explored up to Johnston’s Park (follow the paved road) to the oil derricks. The trail winds up and around to give an overlook over the town. It’s about a 2.5-mile trail, each way, and ascends up about 1000 feet. There are some great ariel views overlooking the park.
There are areas of tar, and at times a faint scent of sulfur as you hike through the deep hills, reminiscent of why this area played such a key part in history.
Charles Mentry and the Oil Boon
Let’s talk about why Mentryville is so important when it comes to black gold. It was also the first commercially successful oil strike in California. Mentryville was founded by Charles Mentry in the 1870s after he discovered this oil deep in Pico Canyon. This site was the longest-running oil field on record from 1876 to 1990. It flourished into a town of over 100 people. It also held Santa Clarita’s first schoolhouse (1885). Standard Oil of California purchased the site and was later acquired by Chevron. The city of Santa Clarita received the gift of a refinery by Chevron in 1997. It is considered California’s first successful refinery and stands today as a tourist attraction in Newhall. It is believed to be the oldest refinery in the world. Mentry died in 1900, and by 1930s the townsfolk began dismantling their houses and moving on.
The Mentryville Park is the site of the original buildings left standing. Side note: Downtown Newhall has a gastropub known as The Newhall Refinery.
The Ghost Town of Mentryville
I am drawn to places with history and meaning. The character the buildings had just had so much personality. Hot, dry winds sweep through Pico Canyon, just adding to the energy. There is a paid parking lot just outside the park ($5.00) that has access to both the town and to the hiking trails.
The town started to falter after Mentry’s death and the Great Depression. His descendants made efforts were m to restore and preserve the town, now a national landmark. However, the infamous earthquake of 1994 caused damage, and then the wildfire of 2003 and the flood of 2004. This ghost town is reported to have an actual ghost: Charles Mentry. His descendants, who continued to occupy the mansion, tell stories of being guided to safety during the earthquake of 1994 and claim it is Charles.
Is Mentryville Haunted?
Some of the original buildings are rumored to be haunted. The 13 room mansion was the Mentry family home and the red barn were original buildings as well. All of these structures require a ranger to accompany a visitor. Many reports of hearing footsteps, voices, seeing handprints appear have all been reported.
Stories of spiritual mediums telling a man named Hughes to strike in Pico Canyon for oil. He struck a small pocket in 1866 (before Mentry) but his tools then stuck in the well, and he died in 1877.
Mentryville Park as a Film Site Location
Speaking of horror and scary things, the “Mentryville Movie” otherwise known as Spores or Toxin (depending on what you google) made in 2015 starring Danny Glover features the park in a starring role.
Santa Clarita has a lengthy resume of having movie studio locations, permanent ranches, and being the home of many TV and movie scenes. The Santa Clarita Valley is as a “second Hollywood”. Disney used the yellow guest in 1980 for the film “One Magic Christmas”. Mentryville Park has hosted other productions, includingThe Color Purple, The A-Team, The X-Files and Murder She Wrote.
I’ve lived in Santa Clarita for three years now and didn’t even realize this existed. Since moving to California, our personal quest has been to discover, seek out “More to Life” so even on weekends when I have an hour or two free, I try to explore. And who knows what other secrets I may unlock?