A short and easy beachside hike and stroll along the Pacific Ocean to some of the gems of coastal Southern California – including a beautiful lagoon filled with birds, one of the world’s landmark surfing beaches, and the historic Adamson House. From surfing and sunbathing to birdwatching, sportfishing, tidepool exploration, and a taste of local history, there’s a bit of something for everyone here – even those who don’t really hike.
I’ll admit I wasn’t really that excited to write this trail up. Drive all the way out to Malibu for a tiny little park that’s a strip of sand on the coast? But on an unseasonably warm day in November, I headed west toward the beach and was very pleasantly surprised by what I found.
After arriving at the small western parking lot, I laced up my sandals and unpacked my camera while those around me zipped up wetsuits and grabbed their boards. The first thing you see when you walk out of the parking area is a small overlook of the salt marsh – it’s enough to take you back to memories of Cape Cod – if you’ve ever had the privilege of exploring the cape’s salt marshes.
Hang a left and walk along the coast. To your left, you will see Malibu Lagoon – and it will probably be full of birds.
The beach turns to the northeast here, and will pass another larger parking area on the Pacific Coast Highway. You’re likely to see a variety of seafaring past-times here, from surfing and paddleboarding to windsurfing, boating, swimming and just plain-old low-impact sunbathing. Continue along the coast toward the Malibu Pier.
According to state law, any part of the beach below the “median high tide line” is public property – no matter how many signs or seasonal private guards are standing nearby. Basically, if the sand is wet or gets wet, you’re allowed to be there. For more information (and directions to some of the lesser-known coastal access points in Malibu), be sure to visit the LA Urban Rangers’ page on this issue.
Continue beneath Malibu Pier and look for a small staircase just past the structure. Head up these stairs and take a left at the sidewalk past another parking area to get to the entrance of Malibu Pier.
At the end of the Pier, visitors can book tickets for whale watching and harbor tours and even buy bait for pier fishing, too.
When you’re done soaking up the Pier’s nautical ambiance, head back to the PCH and take a left. Walk along the sidewalk until you get to the sign for the Adamson House. Hang a left here to step into the grounds.
The Adamson House offers some docent-led tours of the estate Wednesday through Saturday from 11AM to 3PM, with the last tour starting at 2. If you’re not there during those hours, though, you can still take a self-guided walking tour of the grounds and exterior – which is still very impressive.
The house was built in 1929 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. It features one of the best remaining collections of decorative tiles from Malibu Potteries, which was in operation from 1926 to 1933. And when I say this place is full of tiles, I mean this place is full of tiles. One of the bathrooms in the house is even completely tiled – floor to ceiling.
Even if you’re not a pottery or architecture junkie, the grounds have some breathtaking views and the scenery is tough to beat. Just take a walk around and soak everything up.
When you’re done enjoying the Adamson House, head back out to the Pacific Coast Highway and cross the Malibu Creek bridge to return to your parking area.
There's not really a trail, per se. But it's very difficult to get lost here - just walk along the Pacific Coast, then walk back along the Pacific Coast Highway.
Take the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu and park at the Malibu Lagoon State Beach parking lot at the corner of the PCH and Cross Creek Road. At the time of this writing, parking was $12 per vehicle. Transit accessible via Metro bus 534.
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!
Click here to read the current CDC guidelines for traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic.