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.
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.
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:
At the junction, turn right to continue on the fire road toward Calabasas Peak.
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.
Soak in the views, then return back the way you came.
Excellent. The trails and fire roads are very well maintained. The use-trail to Calabasas Peak might be easy to pass by, but if you keep your eye out for it you shouldn't have a problem.
From the 101, exit on Topanga Canyon Boulevard heading south. In 1.4 miles, turn right onto Mullholland Drive and in another 0.5 miles, take the third left onto Mullholland Highway (that part can get a little confusing, so go slowly). From there, continue 1.7 miles and take a left onto Old Topanga Canyon Road. Stay on Old Topanga for 3.8 miles and take a right onto Red Rock Road. Self-issued fee required ($5 at time of writing).
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.