Turnbull Canyon

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Turnbull Canyon
Turnbull Canyon.jpg
Turnbull Canyon from Skyline Dr.
Highest point
PeakSkyline Drive
Elevation242 m (794 ft)
Coordinates33°59′35″N 118°00′51″W / 33.99306°N 118.01417°W / 33.99306; -118.01417Coordinates: 33°59′35″N 118°00′51″W / 33.99306°N 118.01417°W / 33.99306; -118.01417
Turnbull Canyon is located in California
Turnbull Canyon
Turnbull Canyon
location of Turnbull Canyon in California[1]
CountryUnited States
DistrictLos Angeles County
Topo mapUSGS Whittier, California

Turnbull Canyon is a 4 mile loop trail located near Whittier, California and is part of Puente Hills Preserve.[2][3] It lies in the northern-central part of the preserve, and is an east-west canyon with relatively steep drainage. The canyon has a creek at its bottom that supports a narrow strip of riparian woodland dominated by sycamore trees, while the slopes are covered in coastal sage and native and non-native grasses.[4]


The climate in Turnbull Canyon is typical of Southern California, semi-arid. Because the Whittier Hills has a relatively close proximity to the ocean, which has an equalizing effect on the climate, it is somewhat cooler here than some of the areas just south of the region. During the winter months, it is not uncommon to see frost on the ground and during summer, it rarely gets hotter than 95 degrees.[5]

History and Legends[edit]

In the early Spanish Colonial Period, Several Tongva (Gabrieleño) Indians were supposedly put to death at Turnbull Canyon in the Puente Hills for rebelling against the Spanish and the Franciscan Friars at nearby Mission San Gabriel. As a result Turnbul Canyon supposedly had the nickname 'Hotuuknga' (the place of darkness/death). However, after research done by John Garside & Marty Shields, it is believed that this legend is inaccurate. Some rebellious Tongva were killed in the swamps around present day El Monte. The original name of Turnbull Canyon was 'Ahwingna' and the legendary name 'Hotuuknga' actually referred to the hills around Yorba Linda.[6]

Turnbull Canyon was named after Scottish immigrant Robert Turnbull after buying the canyon from Quaker businessmen in Whittier in the 1870s to raise sheep. He later sold the land back to the Quakers in the 1880s for a profit. Turnbull's luck ran out after that; he became a town drunk and was murdered. The Quakers decided to name the canyon after Turnbull in his honor.[7][8]

Oil exploration and drilling began to expand into Turnbull Canyon in the 1890s and a crude dirt road was constructed through the canyon. In November 1900, two oilmen in their wagon were chased out of the canyon by two large cougars as their horses panicked. By 1913, the road was paved for the first time for automobiles.[9]

Since then, Turnbull Canyon has developed a strange collection of various myths and urban legends, including tragic murders.[10][11]


Turnbull Canyon Daily Visitor Statistics[12]
Visitation Per Day Percentage Hikers/Runners Percentage Bikers Percentage Bringing Dogs Percentage Male Percentage Female
73 50% 41.07% 8.93% 78.41% 21.58%


Turnbull Canyon is known for the view it provides of the Hsi Lai Temple and Rose Hills Memorial Park. It has also been the source of rumors regarding paranormal activities [13] and was the scene of the discovery a then-missing person's body.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Turnbull Canyon". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 2015-04-30.
  2. ^ "Trails". Puente Hills Preservation Authority. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  3. ^ "Turnbull Canyon Trail". All Trails - National Geographic. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  4. ^ "Hike Turnbull Canyon in the Puente Hills". Modern Hiker.
  5. ^ Hodder, Roland F. "A Report of the Geology of a Portion of the Whittier Hills Between Turnbull and La Habra Canyons" (PDF). Caltech Thesis. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  6. ^ John Garside & Marty Shields. Forgotten Tales -The True Meaning of 'Hotuuknga' in Turnbull Canyon (2020). https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_aWR3-YwGsgCk_f1Zky43Q
  7. ^ John Garside & Marty Shields. How the Canyon Got Its Name - A Forgotten Tale of Turnbull Canyon. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ii8KDPMg7Ys
  8. ^ Find a Grave. Robert Turnbull (1843-1888) https://de.findagrave.com/memorial/95608847/robert-turnbull
  9. ^ John Garside & Marty Shields.Two Whittier Men and their Wild Ride. Forgotten Tales of Turnbull Canyon. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IimYfPmP-GE
  10. ^ The Quaker Campus. The Ascension to Hell: The Haunted History of Turnbull Canyon (2020). http://thequakercampus.org/campus-life/mystery-of-turnbull-canyon-haunted-gates-of-hell-true-crime/
  11. ^ Whittier Daily News. Woman's body found in Turnbull Canyon (March 3, 2011). https://www.whittierdailynews.com/2011/03/03/womans-body-found-in-turnbull-canyon-2/
  12. ^ "Final Report - Trail Visitor User Survey - A Pilot Study of Visitation at Hellman Park and Turnbull Canyon - Whittier, California" (PDF). Habitat Authority. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  13. ^ "Turnbull Canyon Whittier/Hacienda Heights, CA". Haunted Los Angeles. 2014-08-14. Retrieved 2016-02-15.
  14. ^ "Coroner's office identify woman's body found in Turnbull Canyon". Whittier Daily News. 2011-03-07. Retrieved 2020-10-20.

External links[edit]