This moderately graded fire road ascent just outside Topanga Village provides some amazing views of the interior of the Santa Monica Mountains – especially if you get to see the marine layer flowing over the peaks closest to the coast. This dog-friendly hike has enough of an incline to get your legs working but isn’t tough enough to scare off new hikers. There’s a lot of geology on display here – and opportunities to extend the hike if you feel like spending more time outside.

 

elevation profile of Red Rock Canyon to Calabasas Peak

google earth profile of Red Rock Canyon to Calabasas Peak

This moderately graded fire road ascent just outside Topanga Village provides some amazing views of the interior of the Santa Monica Mountains – especially if you get to see the marine layer flowing over the peaks closest to the coast. This dog-friendly hike has enough of an incline to get your legs working but isn’t tough enough to scare off new hikers. There’s a lot of geology on display here – and opportunities to extend the hike if you feel like spending more time outside.

If you’re looking for hiking near Topanga, odds are you’re going to end up in Topanga State Park. And while there are some incredible hikes there, they can often get on the crowded side.

With that in mind, some friends and I headed to Red Rock Canyon Park off Old Topanga Canyon Road (NOT to be confused with Red Rock Canyon STATE Park, which may come up in Google searches but is much further away.

Heading down Red Rock Road is a pretty amazing L.A. experience – some of the houses along the road are clearly old hippie communies from the 60s, while others are more recent treehouse-mansions built by the super-rich. As you drive down the winding, narrow road (and especially after it turns into a dirt road), you can be forgiven for thinking you’re somewhere that is definitely NOT Los Angeles.

There’s a gate at the end of the road with a small parking area, some outhouses, and an iron ranger. If the lot is full, you’ll have to wait for someone to come back to their car or backtrack a bit to a small spillover lot back down Red Rock Road. When we arrived on a Saturday morning, there weren’t that many people around – but on our way out a few people had decided to spend their birthdays picnicking there and parking was in much shorter supply.

When you’re ready to hit the trail, walk past the gate and start up the fire road under the shade of some large and beautiful oak trees.

IMG_7164 (2 of 44)
The first half-mile of the trail is relatively flat and shaded, so you’ll have plenty of time to soak in the scenery. About 0.2 miles into the hike, you’ll see a very short spur trail on the left hand side of the fire road. This leads to some interesting cave formations and fun scrambling rocks if you’re in the mood to get your hands dirty.

IMG_7169 (7 of 44)IMG_7201 (40 of 44)

IMG_7204 (43 of 44)

If you’re more peak-focused when you start hiking, you can also save this area for exploration on the way back to the trailhead – you may appreciate the shade more then.

At 0.4 miles, you’ll cross a junction with the Red Rock Trail, a short route that takes you up closer to more of the tinted rock formations that give the park its name.

If you stay on the fire road headed toward Calabasas Peak, you’ll pass a picnic area and more beautiful scenery as the road meanders around a bend.

IMG_7170 (8 of 44)IMG_7172 (9 of 44)

After you pass the half-mile mark, the road starts to pick up some noticeable elevation gain – but that’s less an effect of the gain itself and more an effect of you having it relatively easy for the past half-mile.

In another 0.6 miles, the road reaches a junction with the Calabasas Peak Motorway – another one of the many dirt roads that cris-cross the Santa Monica Mountains. From here, you’ll have some beautiful vantage points of the interior range and the canyon you just rose out of:


IMG_7175 (12 of 44)IMG_6882 (13 of 44)

IMG_7176 (14 of 44)

At the junction, turn right to continue on the fire road toward Calabasas Peak.

IMG_7179 (17 of 44)
Here, the road takes an even steeper incline – and you’ll gain 462 feet over the next 0.7 miles. The road’s various loops and sharp turns may not give you the most direct route to the summit of Calabasas Peak, but it definitely gives you some excellent vantage points of the mountains and valleys below.

IMG_7180 (18 of 44)IMG_7181 (19 of 44)

IMG_6884 (22 of 44)

IMG_7185 (24 of 44)

At about the 2.08 mile mark, you’ll reach a prominent peak overlooking the valley and much of the fire road you just traversed. This is not Calabasas Peak – although it’s very, very close.

Continue on the fire road and keep your eyes peeled for this faint use-trail leaving a ridge on the western side of the road. This is your trail to Calabasas Peak.

IMG_7189 (28 of 44)
This short fire-break climbs up two steep slopes before making a bee-line for the summit of Calabasas Peak – which is marked with a USGS marker and a summit register, too.

IMG_7192 (31 of 44)IMG_7195 (33 of 44)

IMG_6885 (35 of 44)

Soak in the views, then return back the way you came.

Follow

Casey Schreiner

Founder and Editor at Modern Hiker
In addition to writing about the outdoors since 2006, Casey has also been producing and writing television since 2003.He was the Head Writer on G4's "Attack of the Show," co-writer and host of "The MMO Report," and the Series Producer / Head Writer of pivot's "TakePart Live."His work has received several honors, including Webby, Telly, and CableFAX awards.
Follow

Latest posts by Casey Schreiner (see all)

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Categorised in: , , ,

This post was written by Casey Schreiner on July 12, 2013

4 Comments

  • My 14 yr old son and I made this trek on Saturday (6/8/14) and it is an incredible hike. You are right about the drive in not feeling like LA – I felt like we were in Northern California. We loved the hike but I have to say – if this is what rates as an “Easy to Moderate” hike I have a heckuva lot of training to do before we tackle Mt. Baldy. This hike kicked my butt. We did the whole thing in about 1:50 including a ten or fifteen minute detour for some rock scrambling but the incline combined with the 92+ degree heat that day had my legs howling by the time we reached Calabasas peak. I guess I will need a bunch more practice before we attempt Mono Pass up by Ruby Lake this coming August (12,000+ feet!). Thanks for the trail info – it was a great hike. – Jim C

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Jim! The heat on that trek can be pretty tough from the lack of shade – especially when it’s 92 degrees out! I bet if you tackled it in the morning it would have been a bit easier on you :)

  • I grew up hiking but still love it. We have three children (a 5 year old, a nearly 3 year old and an almost 12 months old). I completely accept your tips. I live in exactly the same area as I grew up and so i know many of the hikes around here very well.

  • Dale says:

    Thanks for sharing your trail pictures! You have really inspired me to include more and larger pictures in my own hiking blog! Working on my next trail write up…I have over 100 pictures to choose from. None are as terrific as yours…we’ll see how it goes!

    Thanks!
    Dale
    http://www.imoverthehill.com

Leave a Reply