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Hiking is a staple of outdoor life in Malibu. Just like the beaches, the beautiful hiking trails attract people from all over Southern California and beyond with promises of magnificent views combined with pleasant ocean breezes. With the many hikes in Malibu offering different views and levels of difficulty, you can always find the perfect one for you!
With Summer upon us and more and more people visiting our city for hiking, it got us thinking; What are our favorite hikes? This was no easy task given all of the great hikes that the city has to offer. However, after some serious contemplation and and difficult decision making, we narrowed down our 5 best hikes in Malibu! Hope you enjoy!
The Solstice Canyon hike is a low-difficulty, flat hike that takes you along a creek through a set of Malibu home ruins. In total, it is 2.6 miles in and out. Hike time can take between an hour and two hours. There are various ways to spend a day hiking through this trail and surrounding area. If you are looking for a more intense hike, hang right at the beginning of the trail. This will take you to a loop trail up the mountainside for some great views of the ocean. Feeling adventurous? Hop off the paved path and take the trails that go along the creek and in between the trees. Once you get to the end of the hike there are large rock formations that you can climb up and follow deep into the mountains. You could easily spend an extra hour on the excursion.
Take some time to check out the 2 ruins in the canyon. Both homes were victim to wildfires. The first you will encounter burnt down in 2007. The second is the Robert Ranch House that burnt down in 1982. It gets its name the “Tropical Terrace” from the surrounding, rather out of place, tropical vegetation. Beyond these ruins the creek ends at what used to be a waterfall.
Solstice Canyon is a great hike to bring along the family and dog (if he or she is on a leash) to enjoy some of Malibu’s scenery and history. Beware of snakes! The ATM team encountered 2 snakes on our visit — one a 5-foot rattlesnake!
Escondido Falls (also known as the Winding Way Hike) is a very popular hike located at Winding Way and Pacific Coast Highway. There is a small, free parking lot but we can almost guarantee on the weekend you will have to find street parking on PCH.
Once you arrive at Winding Way don’t assume you’re at the wrong spot when you find yourself walking a long (3/4 mile) paved road through a beautiful Malibu neighborhood. Continue passed the homes until you reach the dirt path on the left towards Escondido Canyon Park. Follow the trail down the short hill and it will level out for the rest of the hike.
This hike was once known for its flowing creek and beautiful water all. The drought has really affected this Los Angeles staple and is almost entirely dry unless there has been a recent rain. Not to worry, if you are feeling particularly adventurous, this just makes it easier to climb up the mountain adjacent to the waterfall. If not, the area surrounding the waterfall is a great place to sit, relax and enjoy the nature.
The trail is 3.8 miles round trip and will take you1.25 hr to 2.5 hr depending on your pace and decision to take on the mountain climb at the end of the trail. A forewarning, there are no public restrooms. Happy hiking!
Charmlee Wilderness Park is located up Encinal Canyon on the northern end of Malibu. The 590-acre park has many trails that add up to around 8 miles. We recommend grabbing a map at the trailhead, if they are available, or bringing your own copy from home (they are often out).
Charmlee has trails for all ages and physical capabilities that range in difficulty from very flat and easy to significant inclines and declines. You can pick one trail and stay for an hour, or explore the entire park and spend the whole day. One of the must see trails takes you to the “Ocean Overlook Area”. Here you can enjoy beautiful ocean views up and down the coast. Another awesome feature of this hike are the Ranch house ruins. Consult the map at the main trailhead to find both the Ocean Overlook and the ruins.
If we could use one word to describe hiking at Charmlee Wilderness Park it would be variety. There is such a diverse mixture of scenery on each of the different trails. One minute you are surrounded by tall trees, the next you feel like you have been transported to the flat lands of an African Safari, followed by incredible ocean views.
Also unique about Charmlee Wilderness Park is that every full moon they host a moonlit hike hosted by a representative from the Santa Monica Mountains Nature Preserve. – Check out a Charmlee moonlit night hike!
The Cameron Nature Preserve off of Puerco Canyon Road is a popular trail for hikers, bikers, and equestrians. The Puerco Canyon fire road leads you past several side roads and trails. Most notably, the ruins of an old ranch presumably consumed by a brush fire. (To our amazement there is little documentation of this ranch or its demise on the internet.)
ATM recently did a hike up the trail to an altitude of 1,835 feet—a distance of 7.5 miles up and down. Around each turn we were greeted by gorgeous views of Point Dume and Corral Canyon. The great thing about this hike is that the spectacular views are almost instant, so you can turn around for home feeling satisfied if you don’t have the time to keep going. Round trip took us about 3 hours with time spent hiking, enjoying the beautiful views, and exploring the interesting things along the way.
The Sycamore Canyon hike located in the Sycamore Canyon Campgrounds is another great choice for a morning of hiking in Malibu. To get to the trailhead, enter the Sycamore Canyon gates and the parking lot is off to the left. After you park, head the opposite direction of the parking lot (to the right of the gate) through the campgrounds. Once you reach the end of the campsite, take the Scenic Trail immediately to the left. It will take you down through the dried up creek and up a flight of stairs.
In total, the hike is about 2.7 miles entirely uphill. The ocean views are spectacular as you reach the peak of the mountain. This is a great place to take pictures and pause to enjoy your surroundings. Those looking for a longer hike can choose to take the Loop Trail an extra 3.5 miles back to the start of the hike. After your hike, take some time to stroll down to the beach and reward yourself for the active morning!