15 Best Malibu Hikes for You to Conquer

Published:

by Seraph Sun

Hikers by the Point Dume Cove Trail and beach
Photo by John Michael Wilyat on Unsplash

In Los Angeles, the city of Malibu lies within the Santa Monica Mountains.  While it is better known for its surfing spots and lively California Beaches, there are a lot more things to do in Malibu. It is also home to various hiking trails within its beaches, lakes, and other canyons. Each trail gives you a glimpse of its beautiful parks, the Santa Monica Mountains, and the Pacific Ocean. These Malibu hikes also vary in distance and level of difficulty so both beginners and advanced hikers can find a suitable trail for them.

 

All the rocky roads, slippery creeks, and challenging desert-like trails will surely be worth the Malibu hike as you reach the summit and conquer new heights. Without further ado, here are some of the best hiking trails in Malibu. 

 

(Take note that total distances calculated are subject to change depending on current trail closures and conditions.)

1. Point Dume Cove Trail

Beachside views from Point Dume Cove trail

Photo by tmastro on Wikimedia Commons

Total Distance: 1.4 miles
Level of Difficulty: Beginner

 

The Point Dume Cove Trail is one of the Malibu beach hikes you should try if you want to enjoy the white sandy beach after a tiring hike. The Point Dume Cove is a jutting landform that extends to the Pacific Ocean located at the northwest Santa Monica Bay. During the hike, you will be able to see different picturesque views of both land and sea. You can also visit the Point Dume Natural Preserve State Park if the time permits.

 

For both tourists and hikers, the hiking trail is filled with wildflowers that go around Point Dume. Start from the parking area down the beach and work your way around Point Dume Cove, passing through wildflower bushes and cacti. If you’re lucky, you may even get the chance to spot migrating sea lions and whales along the coast. However, since Point Dume Cove Trail is an easy hike, expect heavy crowds especially during summer. 

2. Escondido Falls Trail

Escondido Falls from below

Photo by Eric Chan from Flickr

Total Distance: 1.75 miles

Level of Difficulty: Advanced

 

Escondido Falls is the tallest waterfall in the Santa Monica mountains and it is one of the most beautiful waterfall hikes in Malibu, California. Towering at 150 feet, it falls through different mossy rock formations and deep forest vegetation. 

 

Before seeing the Escondido Falls, you have to hike through a trail that begins at the Pacific Coast Highway then uphill 0.75 miles to the Winding Way. The Escondido Canyon Park can be one of your stopovers once you reach about 200 ft. A sign that reads “Edward Albert Escondido Canyon Trail and Waterfall” will serve as your guide to descend through rocky and wet areas headed to the Escondido Canyon itself. The trail will then ascend to 150 feet leading to the peak of the waterfalls. Thrill-seeking hikers can rappel down the waterfalls while beginner hikers can just take the trail back. Either way, everyone will get to see the picturesque Santa Monica Mountains. 

3. Temescal Canyon Trail

Trailhead to Temescal Canyon Trail

Photo by claumoho on Flickr

Total Distance: 4 miles

Level of Difficulty: Intermediate

 

The Temescal Canyon offers hikers unparalleled ocean views from Santa Monica Bay. This is also one of the Malibu canyon hikes where you can have a bird’s eye perspective of downtown Los Angeles. Since it begins its trail from the Temescal Gateway Park, its convenient location in the urban area makes it highly popular with both locals and tourists.

 

You have to drive through the Pacific Palisades neighborhood in Sunset Boulevard to get to the trailhead, rising up to 860 feet and 2.6 miles long. It extends to two main trails, the easier one being the Canyon Trail at the bottom of the canyon, and the more intense Ridge Trail which brings you up to the canyon summit. For a more scenic feel, start your hike at the parking lot on the southwest end of Temescal Gateway Park, where a dirt trail leads you to the Temescal Ridge. After 0.4 miles you’ll descend to the Temescal Canyon Trail, from there the trail goes deep into the Santa Monica Mountains where you’ll traverse past the iconic sandstone formation, Skull Rock, and finally to the Temescal Peak.

4. Los Liones Trail

View of the Topanga State park from the Los Liones Trail

Photo by Neeson Hsu from Flickr

Total Distance: 1.3 miles

Level of Difficulty: Intermediate

 

The Los Liones trail is known to be one of Malibu’s shorter hiking trails with coastline and ocean scenery. It weaves up a canyon at the end of the Topanga State Park which gives you a glimpse of the Santa Monica Pier and Bay. The natural rock formations provide nicely shaded areas especially at the beginning of the hiking trail. 

 

The climb starts at the Los Liones entrance where you can see a huge sign indicating its trailhead. Hike through the dirt track on the eastern side of the canyon, and you’ll spot ivy plants hanging from the trees. At the summit, take a break at one of the benches and catch panoramic overlooks of the ocean. On a clear day, you may even get the chance to catch sight of Santa Catalina Island, one of Southern California’s gems.

5. Solstice Canyon Loop

Plantation and gloomy skies in the Solstice Canyon Loop

Photo by Jeremy Miles from Flickr

Total Distance: 3 miles

Level of Difficulty: Intermediate

 

Up for a hike that involves a little bit of history? Then you should try hiking at Solstice Canyon Loop. It is also known to be one of the best Malibu’s waterfall hikes. Going along this trail will also give you a wonderful spectacle of the Malibu coastline leading up to Solstice Canyon Park which opened in 1988. 

 

Begin your hike at a parking lot on Corral Canyon Road then goes up to the Matthew Kellow House, destroyed during the 2007 forest wildfire. The next stop will be the Fern grotto then finally to the Roberts Ranch house. Follow the Rising Sun Trail to descend back to the parking lot. By the end of the trail, you will finally behold the enchanting waterfalls and enjoy the beauty of its surrounding plants and rock formations. This trail is family-friendly and there are also picnic areas so that you can enjoy a good post-hike meal with your family and friends. 

6. Rock Pool & Century Lake Trails

Rock formations in the Century Lake, Malibu

Photo by Tracie Hall from Flickr

Total Distance: 6.6 miles

Level of Difficulty: Advanced

 

The Rock Pool & Century Lake Trails is the ultimate playground for rock climbers and hiking experts. The large C-shaped gorge is the main trail that requires expertise in hiking, rock climbing, and rappelling. 

 

Begin west of Crags Road where a parking lot can be found. After 0.3 miles, a grassland trail awaits along with rocky and slippery creeks. During high tide, leap through the rocks to continue the hike. At about 0.4 miles into the trek, there is a bridge above Malibu Creek that will treat you to a stunning scene of the Malibu forests. Finally, arrive at the rock pool after a 0.2-mile walk. The picturesque Century lake is a great place for picnics, so you might want to end your hike with both a visual and an actual feast. The obstacles on the way, however, are challenging even for expert hikers, so it’s best to remain careful. 

7. Saddle Peak Trail 

Purple wildflowers along the Saddle Peak Trail

Photo by Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area from Flickr

Total Distance: 2 Miles

Level of Difficulty: Beginner to Intermediate

 

The Saddle Peak Trail in Malibu has the sixth tallest peak point, elevating up to 450 feet. A wooded area filled with wild berries and Humboldt lilies surrounds the trail, making spring the perfect time to visit this place. Aside from epic ocean views, Saddle Peak Trail also offers gorgeous overlooks of Cold Creek Canyon, Malibu Creek Canyon, and the Calabasas Peak. 

 

Start at the trailhead and follow the 2-mile round trip hike through the Santa Monica mountains. What is also unique with the Saddle Peak trail is that it intersects with other hiking trails like the Backbone trail and the Stunt Peak trail. Since the trails aren’t too steep, this makes Saddle Peak Trail one of the most family-friendly Malibu hikes. Dogs are not allowed on the trail, but you can ride on horseback. This high hike will surely be worth it because of the sweeping mountaintop view of beautiful places in Malibu like Point Dume, Catalina island, and the Channel Islands. 

8. Sycamore Canyon Trail

Sycamore Canyon parking space with scenic ocean overlook

Photo by daveynin from Flickr

Total Distance: 6 miles 

Level of Difficulty: Intermediate to Advanced

 

The Big Sycamore Canyon Trail is the perfect family hiking destination because of its kid-friendly and easy leveled fire road trail. The 6-mile trail is not just for trekking but also biking and horseback riding. The trail starts from the Satwiwa Cultural Center and ends at the Sycamore campgrounds which are one of the best camping spots in California. Once you head down from the campsite, you will be rewarded with the magnificent sights of the Old Boney Mountain overhead. Best of all, you can take a respite on the beach at Sycamore Cove after your hike. All stopovers and picnic areas have benches and restrooms available so you don’t have to worry about cleaning up or taking a wash. 

9. Paseo Miramar

Ocean view from the Paseo Miramar

Photo by David Krieger from Flickr

Total Distance: 5 miles

Level of Difficulty: Intermediate

 

The Paseo Miramar trail is one of the most iconic hikes in Malibu with a trail extending up to 5 miles. This is where Malibu locals often go because it is near some residential areas and it isn’t as heavily trafficked as compared to other Malibu hikes. You will find a whole lot of unique stops and views through the whole hike, including the famous J. Paul Getty Villa, a recreated Roman-style museum that showcases Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities.

 

Upon arriving at the summit, get a glimpse of the seaside vistas along the Pacific Palisades parkland. Apart from the scenic coastal views, you’ll even be able to see downtown Los Angeles from the pea. With a steep incline, this challenging hike is recommended for hikers who want to take on a thrilling adventure. This trail isn’t dog-friendly however, so make sure to leave your pooch behind. 

10. Zuma Ridge Trail

View of Zuma Canyon

Photo by Chris M Morris on Flickr

Total Distance: 5.4 miles

Level of Difficulty: Intermediate

 

Also known as the Zuma Ridge Motorway, this Malibu hiking trail has a desert-like road that runs along the ridge of Zuma Canyon. The broad fire trail suits beginner and intermediate hikers. Along the way, you’ll be greeted with sights of the Zuma Beach, Point Dume, and the sparkling waters of the Pacific Ocean. Zuma Ridge Trail is also one of the Malibu hiking trails that allow dogs. 

 

Once 2.7 miles from the trailhead is reached, the road will intersect with Edison Road with striking views of the Upper Zuma and Trancas Canyon. In this specific hike, there are so many routes to choose from. From the peak, you can choose to hike an additional 3.2 miles to reach the Encinal Canyon Road or you can complete a loop hike by going through the Zuma Canyon narrows back to the Zuma Canyon Trail. Zuma Ridge Trail may be one of the least hiked trails, but its sights are nevertheless breathtaking. 

11. Backbone Trail 

Rock formations along the Backbone Trail

Photo by IrishFireside from Flickr

Total Distance: 67 miles

Level of Difficulty: Intermediate to Advanced

 

Climb through the rocky peaks above Malibu at the 67-mile long Backbone trail. It goes all around the entire range of the Santa Monica Mountains. Diverse rock formations and unique Mediterranean ecosystems are nestled within the trail making it an adventurous yet thrilling hiking experience. As the landscape is varied in this long trail, you’ll discover all sorts of vegetation and wildlife from coastal sage scrubs to freshwater marshes and coyote to king snakes. 

 

The Backbone Trail has 12 main trailheads making it one of the most unique hiking trails in Malibu, California. The highest point is Sandstone Peak at 3,111 feet. This trail also connects to other hiking trails, leading to different stops. If you take the Ray Miller Trail, you will get to the Point Mugu State Park where you’ll be welcomed with a dazzling ocean scenery. Take the Upper Solstice Canyon trail and you will end up at the Malibu Creek State Park. The Backbone Trail is also home to the so-called Prayer Labyrinth, made up of small to medium rocks that are said to possess healing and meditative qualities. 

12. Malibu Lake Vista Trail 

View of mountains and Malibu Lake

Photo by Heidi Franz from Flickr

Total Distance: 5 miles

Level of Difficulty: Beginner to Intermediate

 

The Malibu Lake Vista Trail can be found at the Malibu Creek State Park. The vista peak will give you an overlooking view of the state park, Malibu lake, and other mountains. The difficulty level of the hike is medium and you can also bring your horses along to explore the place. 

 

The hike starts downhill then ascends to the peak of the Lake Vista Trail with 350 feet of elevation. You can choose from two different main routes. The Cistern Trail goes through some wooded ridges with splendid views of the Goat Buttes. On the other hand, the Lake Drive Vista will lead you to the Paramount Ranch, a Hollywood film site filled with old barnyards and houses. Upon reaching the summit, marvel at the panoramic spectacle of Malibu Lake and its surrounding mountains. 

13. Corral Canyon Loop Trail 

Scenic view at Corral Canyon Park

Photo by Travis Swicegood on Flickr

Total Distance: 2.3 miles 

Level of Difficulty: Intermediate

 

The 1,000-acre Corral Canyon Loop Trail extends from the Dam Blocker Beach to the Malibu Creek State Park. It is also the only underdeveloped canyon in Los Angeles with a 2.5-mile loop where hikers can discover different natural spots and vegetation. Furthermore, it is one of the Malibu hiking trails that allow dogs.

 

Corral Canyon Loop Trail is located at Sara Wan right next to the Malibu Seafood and Deli. There is also a nearby car park that charges 5 USD which is the only place you can park your car within the area. Soak up the warm coastal breeze as you enjoy the ocean and canyon views. Despite being out in the open, alder and willow trees provide shade along the way. Purple sage bushes also give a nice pop of color to the trail. 

14. Grotto Trail 

Hikers at Circle X Ranch along Grotto Trail

Photo by Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area on Flickr

Total Distance: 3 miles 

Level of Difficulty: Beginner to Intermediate

 

The Grotto Trail of Malibu leads to a small canyon filled with boulders, rock formations, small caves, and creeks. This short hike starts on the Circle X ranch where you can find a campsite. Along the trail, pass by small creeks and wildflower beds which are abundant in the spring. There are a couple of mini open trails that will allow you to explore the hidden parts of the grotto including a 12ft natural pool and a small waterfall. This hike will surely make you feel as if you’re in a Jurassic Park film thanks to all the natural rock structures, diverse vegetation, and natural water forms. 

15. Tuna Canyon Park

Panoramic view of Tuna Canyon Park

Photo by Shawn Hinsey on Flickr

Total Distance: 1.8 miles

Level of Difficulty: Beginner to Intermediate

 

The Tuna Canyon Park Trail is one of the Malibu canyon hikes located above the Pacific Coast Highway in the western part of the Santa Monica Mountains. This canyon park has an open space linking the Topanga State Park to the Las Flores Canyon. Along the way, scenes of rugged mountains, glittering sea, and even the city will unfold before you. You can also see diverse elements of nature such as sycamore trees, coastal sage scrubs, and beautiful wildflowers. 

 

Unlike most Malibu hikes, Tuna Canyon Park has a few visitors because its trailhead hides within the mountains of Malibu and Topanga. That being said, don’t miss the chance to go on an exciting hike on the trail. Starting from the Tuna Canyon Road, descend along the dirt service road which is about 0.15 miles. Hike up to the Hearst Tank Motorway ascending to 1,800 feet where you will be shaded by huge oak trees. Once you reach the peak, you will finally witness an all-around view of the San Gabriel mountains, Santa Monica Bay, and the rest of Malibu. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

1.  Are Malibu Hiking Trails Child-Friendly?

Most trails are rocky and steep, dangerous for kids to walk through. However, there are also some child-friendly Malibu hikes like the Point Dume Cove Trail, Grotto Trail, Corral Canyon Loop Trail, Backbone Trail, and Sycamore Canyon which you can easily enjoy with the whole family. 

2. Are Dogs Allowed in Malibu Trails and State Parks?

It depends on each hiking trail and state park. Other rocky and steep hiking trails often do not allow dogs because of precautionary reasons. However, there are state parks along these hiking trails that are dog-friendly including the Solstice Canyon, Zuma Canyon Loop Trail, Grotto Trail, Corral Canyon Trail, Sandstone Peak, and the Charmlee Wilderness Park. In addition, other Malibu hiking trails also allow service dogs. For more information, you can drop by the national park services or check official websites to know the pet policies. 

3.  What Are the Animals That Can Be Found Along Malibu Trails?

Some of the more common animals found along the Malibu trails are frogs, lizards, coyotes, kangaroo rats, and tanrantulas. These animals are fairly harmless, just make sure not to disturb them. 

4. What Is the Best Time to Hike in Malibu?

The best time of the year to visit Malibu is within the months of June to September which is the summertime with July being the hottest month. This is perfect to go on both a surfing trip and a hiking trip. Autumn is also an ideal season to hike in Malibu as the warm hues of the foliage add to the beauty of the trails. For those worried about the typhoon season, Malibu is located in the low-risk hurricane zone in Southern California. Nonetheless, hikers are always advised to stay up to date with the latest weather information and check in advance for trail closures due to inclement weather. 

The Malibu Hikes Have So Much in Store for You

Malibu may be famous for its sunny California beaches, but its hikes offer you a different vantage point of the oceans. With so many hiking trails in Malibu, you will be able to find one that best suits you, whether it be family-friendly likes, scenic hikes, or challenging ones. Just always remember to wear the right hiking outfit and bring quality hiking equipment and of course a water bottle. Every site and view is worth seeing so make sure to take a hiking trip to one of Malibu’s big and long hiking trails. This will surely be a fresh and awesome experience that you will want to do over and over again.