Malibu is a perfect place for hiking! So in this article, I wanted to share with you some of the best hiking trails in Malibu.
The climate in Malibu is amazing – it has temperate climate and ocean breezes. That means that the hiking trails can be enjoyed all year round.
The inland trails heading up through the canyons and into the mountains often lead to gorgeous panoramic ocean views. I found these amazing trails while in Malibu as I am always looking for a great outdoor hike.
So if you are a beginner or experienced hiker… Or even if you just want to take your dog for a walk – these trails have it all. Before you venture out and immerse yourself in nature take a moment to explore my top ten list below. I’ll also have some hiking tips for you!
Tips For Hiking in Malibu
* Bring lots of water; the longer the trek, the more you’ll need!
* Protect yourself from the sun. Remember to bring a hat and sunglasses and put on sunscreen, as many trails are exposed to the direct sun without any shade.
* Stay on the trails to avoid poisonous plants and ticks. Also, be on the alert for snakes or other wildlife.
* In your backpack, bring along the following: some snacks to keep up your energy level, first aid items, trail maps, and insect repellant (plus refuse bags if you have your dog along).
10 Best Hiking Trails in Malibu
Solstice Canyon Trail
Some of the best hikes in Malibu explore the canyons leading into the Santa Monica mountains. I think one of the top choices is Solstice Canyon, roughly a 3-mile loop trail on which you can enjoy a waterfall, natural pools, and the interesting ruins of two houses that were destroyed by wildfires.
The trail difficulty is considered moderate, and the elevation gain is 800 feet. Dogs are permitted on the trail if on a leash.
The Solstice Canyon Trail leads up past the ruins of an abandoned stone hunting cabin and an architectural curiosity that was a Polynesian-style house with tropical vegetation. After passing the ruins, you’ll reach some natural pools and a waterfall.
This would be my choice for a place to take a break before following the Rising Sun Trail back to your car. During this part of the walk, you’ll see great views of the ocean as you descend through the canyon walls!
It helps to see what the trail looks like in advance to help plan and decide if it’s right for you with your limited travel time. Here you can see Solstice Canyon as well as two other local trails with ocean views.
Point Dume Cove Trail
The aspect I like best about Malibu hiking is that you can hike from mountains to sea on some trails. One great example is the Point Dume Cove Trail. This is an easy, very scenic hike of about one hour from the top of the cliff at Point Dume down to the beach, where you could explore the tide pools. This trail does not allow dogs, however.
You may see rock climbers tackling the cliff, and from January – April you may even see migrating whales at sea. Or perhaps you’ll spot some seals on the rocks below. Depending on the tides, you may be able to walk the beach to the pier at Paradise Cove. This would be a great sunset spot.
There is a parking lot on Westward Beach Road that provides convenient beachside parking for $3 on weekdays from 6-9 a.m. or 4-6:30 p.m and $6 from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. On weekends the rate is $8 from 6 a.m. – 4 p.m. and $3 from 4-6:30 p.m. Or there is the potential for street parking on Cliffside Drive.
Malibu Creek State Park Rock Pool and Century Lakes Trail
As a fan of the old M.A.S.H. TV series from the 1970s and 80s, the Rock Pool and Century Lakes Trail in Malibu Creek State Park would have to rate among the best Malibu hikes. This trail is about a 4.4-mile outing with an elevation gain of only 331 feet. It’s considered easy terrain and should take about two hours to complete.
At about the 2.5-mile marker you’ll find remnants of the old M.A.S.H. TV series that was shot on location here. Some rusted old trucks remain on site. Formerly owned by 20th Century Fox, Malibu Creek State Park has been seen in many movies and TV shows through the years including M.A.S.H. and Planet of the Apes.
Malibu Creek State Park is a large park with over 8,000 acres in the Santa Monica Mountains, offering miles of hiking trails with beautiful views and rock pool swimming holes. For hikers, the park gates are open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. with parking fees of $12 a day or $3 per hour. Dogs are allowed in campgrounds and paved roads but not on trails.
Continuing beyond the M.A.S.H. site, have a dip at the Rock Pool, which also is a favorite area for climbing (the Rock Pool was used as a location in the 1968 film Planet of the Apes).
Malibu Lake Vista Trail
It’s nice to have scenic variety when choosing from a number of hiking options, and this trail leads to beautiful lake vistas. The Malibu Lake Vista Trail has stunning views of Malibu Lake. The trail is 1.1 miles in length and has an elevation gain of 302 feet but is considered a difficult hike.
Located in the Santa Monica mountains, this trail leads to a panoramic overlook of Malibu Lake and the surrounding mountains. This is only one of several trails that lead to this overlook, but this route is the longer trail providing scenic views of the mountains.
Los Liones Trail
Another great out and back trail is the Los Liones Trail which is 4.4 miles in length and gains 1,190 feet in elevation. This trail is considered moderate in difficulty. The Trail Guide gives details on following the route.
The first 2.5 miles are a tough uphill climb but that means the return is downhill and easier on the legs! This is a well-maintained trail that heads up into the chaparral of Topanga State Park. The hike should take a few hours, with pretty steep going for the first few miles, but then towards the top, there’s a great view of the Pacific.
Take a well-deserved rest on the bench overlooking Santa Monica to the left and Malibu to the right. Bring sunscreen as there’s little shade, but your dog is not allowed. Parking is free at the Los Liones trailhead.
The Backbone Trail to Sandstone Peak
Another of the best hiking trails in Malibu is part of the Backbone Trail system, heading up either the Sandstone Peak or Mishe Mokwa trails. Park near Yerba Bueno Road along the Pacific Coast Highway, then head up through picturesque canyons and past dramatic rock formations before tackling the trail’s rocky uphill climb.
Upon reaching the top of Sandstone Peak (the highest point in L.A. County), hikers are rewarded with stunning panoramas of the canyons, mountain lakes, and the Pacific Ocean.
You can choose between two main trails to the summit: the Sandstone Peak Trail, which runs 3 miles round-trip and has an elevation gain of 1,000 feet, or the Mishe Mokwa Trail, a 6-mile trip with an elevation gain of 1,400 feet. Hikers are welcome to bring dogs but they must be on a leash.
Although the Mishe Mokwa trail is the longer of the two options, the surrounding scenery makes it well worth the extra effort. Along Mishe Mokwa Trail, you’ll walk amongst the mountains with magnificent glimpses of the valley.
Sandstone Peak is Santa Monica Mountain’s highest peak. On a clear day, you’ll be able to see all the way to the Channel Islands. The Trail will take you upwards along an easy-to-follow route just right for moderate-level climbers fascinated by unusual rock formations.
This popular six-mile trail takes about three hours to master. This is a rocky trail so bring boots or good hiking shoes. Also, there is no shade so consider an early morning or evening hike to best enjoy the scenic views without overheating.
Check out this video to see what the Mishe Mokwa Trail to Sandstone Peak is all about.
Escondido Falls – One Of The Best Hiking Trails In Malibu!
Among Malibu hiking trails, one of the most talked-about is the trail to Escondido Falls. There are several waterfalls on this route, with the biggest and best measuring 150 feet high, the tallest in the Santa Monica mountains! This 3.8-mile out and back trail with an elevation gain of 620 feet should take about 2 hours to complete. It is considered moderately difficult.
The trail is in Escondido Canyon Park and features a series of waterfalls. Dogs are only allowed if on a leash. If you are looking to park your car you can just off the Pacific Coast Highway or simply on Highway 1. If the lots are full you can park directly at the park for $12.
The first section is through a paved road through a Malibu neighborhood until you reach the dirt path towards the park. The lower falls are pretty enough, about 50-feet tall, but the best is yet to come as you proceed up the Trail!
The upper Escondido Falls have a 150-foot drop but have a steep ascent involved with a rope to help pull yourself up, so make sure you have good hiking boots on for this trip! Upper Escondido Falls is a beautiful sight, with a wall of green moss and falling water splashing into a still pool.
The pool at the base of the upper falls is shallow, but I think it would be a good place to cool off after your exertions!
Zuma Ridge Trail with Ocean Views
Looking for more great views of the Pacific? Then I suggest checking out the Zuma Ridge Trail. The Zuma Ridge Trail is a busy out-and-back hiking trail with a steady incline. The trail length is 5.6 miles with an elevation gain of 1,473 feet. It is considered of moderate difficulty, and you can plan on about 2 hours to complete the hike.
The trail starts at the top of a wide dirt service road that goes through the Canyon and ventures into the grassy mountain slopes. Along this trail, you will enjoy the great panoramic views of Malibu’s beaches and the beautiful Ocean down below.
Because Zuma Ridge Trail is further north of Los Angeles than most other Malibu hikes, it tends to be less crowded. You’ll enjoy peace and quiet while enjoying the ocean and mountain scenery.
The trail offers free parking, which can be reached by taking the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) to Busch Drive. Dogs and horses are allowed on the trail. This hike is in the full sun much of the time, so wearing a hat is recommended.
Charmlee Wilderness Park Hiking Trails
Charmlee Wilderness Park is a 532-acre scenic park. There are around eight miles worth of trails that you can choose from, although the most popular tends to be the Ocean Overlook Loop Trail. Here you can enjoy beautiful ocean views up and down the coast.
Another photogenic feature of this hike is the Ranch house ruins. This is a 2.6-mile loop trail with an elevation gain of 450 feet. It is considered an easy hike, and you can bring your dog along if leashed.
Charmlee offers a wealth of picturesque settings. I could imagine myself sitting on Malibu’s inviting coastal bluffs amidst grassy meadows where wildflowers were riotously blooming.
Charmlee also features towering oak trees and even an old ranch that is now in ruins. The trails here are mild, with gentle slopes with flowery meadows. But it doesn’t disappoint in also laying on the truly dazzling coastal views. No wonder it’s one of the area hikes considered one of Malibu Magazine’s favorites.
While Charmlee is gorgeous all year round, it is best to visit early in the year. In the winter and spring, rains bring lush green grasses and wildflowers whose colorful explosions light up the meadows in front of the Pacific Ocean.
A unique fun aspect of this park’s hiking options is that all year long there are monthly full moon hikes. These popular hikes are led by park docents and start around 5 p.m. They are free of charge, aside from the $4 parking fee.
Corral Canyon Loop Trail
I looked at the various trails you can hike off the Backbone Trail, and the Corral Canyon loop trail caught my eye. It’s about at the midpoint of the 65-mile Backbone Trail. It gets kudos from reviewers as one of the best hiking trails with the most amazing views in all of Los Angeles.
The length is 2.3 miles with an elevation gain of 531 feet and is considered easy to moderately difficult. Dogs are allowed if they are on a leash.
On one side you have Thousand Oaks and the beautiful scenery of the mountains. On the other, you have a gorgeous view of the ocean. The best time for photography here is during the golden hour before the sun goes down, as the light is wonderful and you’ll be hoping for another great west coast sunset!
The parking area costs $15. However, the lot is shared with the Malibu Seafood restaurant, so it can get crowded around lunchtime. There is also free parking right on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) at the trailhead.
Take the far left trail from the start to enjoy panoramic ocean views as you climb higher. This alone makes the hike well worth it, even with the lack of shade along the trail.
This wraps up what I would consider to be the top 10 best hiking trails in Malibu California. They offer wonderful variety and scenic views, from ocean vistas to panoramic lake scenery, waterfalls and rock pools to beaches.
There are even old movie and TV show settings along a mountain trail. You’re sure to get a nice workout and experience some of the best hikes Malibu has to offer at the same time!
Additional Great Hiking Ideas
Why stop with California when there are so many other wonderful places to get out and walk in nature? If you have a thirst for hiking, here are some more places you should check out, both in the U.S. and across the border in Canada. So lace up your boots and let’s go!
Read about exploring great waterfall hiking trails in Ohio, the best hiking opportunities in Texas State Parks, hiking Taylors Falls in Minnesota in the beautiful fall season, various hiking options in Florida’s national parks such as the Everglades, and then head north of the border to savor for some hikes in Canada’s wonderful Banff National Park and Lake Louise areas.
We would love to hear from you!
Have you ever been on any of these hiking trails in Malibu? or any of the places mentioned above? Let us know in the comments what your experience was like and if you have any tips for anyone looking to go hiking. Thank you for reading!