An 8 mile in-and-out, exploring the lower canyon sections of Malibu Creek State Park. Lots of stream-side scenery, a few man-made lakes, spectacular Santa Monica Mountains scenery, and lots of side-trails make this an excellent area for a day hike or overnight. This has been and continues to be a popular place to shoot TV and movies — there are still a few remnants of the old M*A*S*H set here — and the creekside pools and rock formations are popular places for swimming and rock-climbing.
Malibu Creek State Park is a sprawling chunk of parkland in the Santa Monica Mountains, hugging the Malibu Creek as it flows into the ocean, while also stretching east along the Backbone Trail. There are several distinct sections of the park, and this write-up roughly covers the “lower canyon” area, along the trails that follow Malibu Creek through a striking section of the mountains known as the Goat Buttes.
After driving up Malibu Canyon Road, pay your parking admission ($10 at the time of writing), and park in the southernmost lot you can. You’ll see a small information kiosk, some horse-posts, and a bathroom. Cross the road heading west and you’ll see a well-marked paved road headed toward the backcountry trail system.
Once you’re back on the fire road, you’ll cross Malibu Creek on a bridge, just north of Century Lake. Here, the landscape is more like a wetland, and during the spring months there are many migratory birds that make a stop in this area of the canyon. Although sadly, I think I hiked it too early to see much green in the area:
Continue hiking along Crags Road. At 2.7 miles, you’ll reach a junction with Bulldog Road, which switchbacks and climbs up to a ridge on the southern border of the State Park. You can reach a fire road that will take you to Castro Peak (el. 2824), adding about 9.2 miles and 2100 feet of gain, round trip. If you don’t feel like turning this into a monster hike, you can veer right at the junction and continue on Crags Road as it turns north, following Malibu Creek. At the 3 mile mark, veer right again to follow the Creek at the junction with another fire road. You’ll notice the water level rise among a pool of giant boulders, which can provide a nice backdrop to a lunching spot or just a quick break.
At this point, turn around and head back to the trailhead, or you can explore a few of the shorter, picturesque side trails. At the 4.7 mile mark on the way back, you’ll reach the Forest Trail junction again. It isn’t marked with a sign like many of the other side trails, but it’s a very clear path cut through the grass, just before you cross the bridge over the Creek.
The Forest Trail is a short stretch of track that hugs the southern banks of Century Lake, another artificial lake formed by a dam. The trail here is shady and cool, the result of some non-native trees planted here some time ago.
Very good. Most of the trails are well traveled and very well marked, although a few trails are not marked. You can pick up a trail map for $1 at the ranger stations or visitor center. It may be worthwhile if you plan on doing some side-trail exploration.
There is developed camping available at Malibu Creek State Park.
If you're headed from the South, turn onto Malibu Canyon Road off the PCH and continue 6.1 miles. Turn left into the entrance station. From the North, take the Las Virgenes Road exit from the CA-101 in Calabasas. Continue south on Las Virgenes Road for 3.4 miles and turn right into the entrance station. Parking fee required.
With recent wildfire damage and ongoing waves of COVID-19 infections and restrictions, National Forest, National Park, and other public land closures, restrictions, or social distancing guidelines may be in-effect.
If infection rates are on the rise, please do your best to remain local for your hikes. If you do travel, please be mindful of small gateway communities and avoid as much interaction as you can. Also remember to be extra prepared with supplies so you don't have to stop somewhere outside your local community for gas, food, or anything else.
Please be sure to contact the local land management agency BEFORE you head out, as these conditions are likely to change without enough notice for us to fully stay on top of them. Thanks, and stay safe!
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