By Benny Haddad
As spring moves into summer, hiking season gears up into full swing. People come from around to enjoy our famed Mediterranean climate, and what better way to decompress and enjoy the sun than to hit the trails. Surrounding the bustling Los Angeles metropolitan area are a plethora of canyons, woodlands, and tall peaks with stunning vistas, and following this winter’s El Niño rains, they promise to be extra lush. Here are three of our favorite hikes that are sure to please locals and visitors alike.
Malibu Creek State Park: Easy – 3.3 Miles – 580 Feet elevation gain
With more than 8,000 acres of rolling tallgrass plains, rugged peaks, and oak savannahs, Malibu Creek State Park is a beautiful and diverse hiking destination. This hike is an easy, family friendly trek following the Grasslands Trail to the Rock Pool.
The trail starts from an unmarked parking area on Mulhulland Highway, just West of Las Virgenes Road and provides a gentle and scenic stroll over rolling hills and the eponymous grasslands. After rounding a hill it connects to the High Road. Overhung with shade-providing oak trees and following beside Malibu Creek, the High Road’s level trail gives you time to enjoy the views of the surrounding mountains and chat with your companions. Stay left at the fork to continue on to Rock Pool Trail. If you’re lucky, as you pass by Ape’s Wall you’ll have a chance to watch the rock climbers maneuvering their way up this popular climbing spot. At the end of the trail is a cool rock pool surrounded by high cliffs. While it can be a very tempting swimming destination in the hot summer months, you should exercise caution. Injuries are common in the shallow rocky pools. A quick foot soak can be very refreshing though, before heading back to your car.
Sandstone Peak: Moderate – 5.84 Miles – 2,280 feet Elevation Gain
For those of you looking for a slightly more challenging trip, we recommend a hike to the top of Sandstone Peak. Just on the edge of Ventura County, Sandstone peak is the highest summit in the Santa Monica Mountains, and those who reach the top on a clear day can enjoy panoramic views of The Conejo Valley, Malibu, and the Pacific Ocean.
The six mile loop trail starts from the Sandstone Peak parking area on Yerba Buena Road in Malibu. A short entrance trail quickly takes you to a junction. Turn right to follow the Mishe Mokwa Trail. This beautiful and meandering trail takes you through a landscape of coastal sage scrub, over a stream, through a forest, and past views of the Echo Cliffs and Balance Rock. As you approach the end of the loop, a small wooden sign will point the way up a short rugged spur trail to the summit. Bask in the fantastic views of California’s Coast before completing the loop.
Mount Baldy: Very Difficult – 11.3 miles – 3950 Feet Elevation Gain
For advanced hikers looking for a leg-busting climb through subalpine scenery to claim a coveted peak, Mount San Antonio is a hiking destination that can’t be missed. At 10,064 feet Mount Baldy, as it is colloquially known, is the highest point in Los Angeles County.
The most popular route up Mount Baldy is a loop going up the Baldy Bowl – Ski Hut Trail and coming down the Devil’s Backbone Trail to Baldy Notch. You’ll want to start your day early to avoid overheating in the summer sun on the sparsely shaded mountain slopes. Park by the trailhead on Mount Baldy Road just past Manker Flats Campground. You’ll quickly see why this hike is so popular as you pass by the lovely San Antonio Falls only half a mile into it. Keep your eyes peeled as you continue past this for the narrow unmarked trail on your left that will take you up to the Ski Hut (a great place to stop for a breather) and past the Baldy Bowl. Your reward for conquering this steep trail is a treeless summit with 360-degree views of Southern California. Be careful as you descend the exposed and vertigo inducing Devil’s Backbone Trail. This trail is not for those with a fear of heights. You can celebrate with a beer and food at the Baldy Notch Ski Shack. Continue back down the trail when you’re ready, or save your knees the beating by buying a one-way ticket down the ski lift, which is open on weekends.