Big Laguna Trail

4 Comments

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

View of the Anza-Borrego Desert from the Pacific Crest Trail, eastern San Diego County

View of the Anza-Borrego Desert from the Pacific Crest Trail

Panoramic view of Big Laguna Meadow, Cleveland National Forest, eastern San Diego County

Big Laguna Meadow

Big Laguna Trail

  • Location: Eastern San Diego County in the Cleveland National Forest, near the town of Mt. Laguna.  From San Diego, take I-8 to exit 47 (Sunrise Highway or County Road S1).  Head north (left) for 14.6 miles and park at the Penny Pines Trailhead on the right side of the road.  From Julian and points north take highway 79 to Sunrise Highway/S1 and head southeast (left) for 9.2 miles.  The Penny Pines Trailhead will be on the left.  A National Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 for a day or $30 for the year) is required for parking. Click here to purchase.
  • Agency: Cleveland National Forest/Descanso District
  • Distance: 10 miles
  • Elevation gain: 900 feet
  • Suggested time: 5 hours
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (distance)
  • Best season:  All year
  • USGS topo maps:  Monument Peak
  • Recommended gear: sun hat; sunblock
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield San Diego County
  • More information: Trip descriptions here and here
  • Rating: 8
Start of the Noble Canyon Trail in the Laguna Mountains, San Diego County

0:00 – Start of the hike at the Penny Pines Trail Head (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This long but moderately graded loop showcases the scenic variety of the Laguna Mountains, including meadows, pine woodlands and dramatic views of the Anza-Borrego Desert to the east. There are several possible starting points, but this post assumes you will hike from the Penny Pines trail head near mile marker 27.5 on the Sunrise Scenic Highway and go clockwise. This saves the best views for last and allows you to warm up with four virtually flat miles; advantageous for hikers sensitive to altitude (the trail head is a mile above sea level.) The Big Laguna Trail is actually a network of trails and the route described here (6 miles on the Big Laguna and 4 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail) doesn’t have to be followed exactly for an enjoyable experience; do as much or as little as your time and energy allow.

Junction on the Big Laguna Trail, San Diego County

0:24 – Junction at the top of Big Laguna Meadow (times are approximate)

From the Penny Pines trail head, pick up the Noble Canyon Trail on the west side of the highway. Go through a gate and pass by an information board and soon reach a junction where you’ll turn left on the Big Laguna Trail and follow it through a pleasant woodland of Jeffrey pines and black oaks.

Black oaks and pines on the Big Laguna Trail, Laguna Mountains, San Diego County

0:50 – Black oaks and pines, Big Laguna Trail (stay straight at the junction)

Just under a mile from the start, you enter the upper end of Big Laguna Meadow and reach a junction.  Both trails are part of the Big Laguna system but the quickest route is to stay straight, following the eastern side of the meadow (it will be on your right).

Little Laguna Meadow, Cleveland National Forest, eastern San Diego County

1:03 – Bear left at the junction in Little Laguna Meadow

After entering the woods again, stay right at the next junction, a spur leading to a campground. At about 2.5 miles, you reach a T-junction where you’ll head left and walk through a smaller meadow. If there have been recent rains, Little Laguna Lake will come to life. The trail splits but both forks soon reconnect. At 2.8 miles, you reach a fence where you will turn right and cross over a boardwalk (on the opposite side of the fence, the trail continues toward the Laguna Campground.)

Boardwalk on the Big Laguna Trail leading through a meadow, Cleveland Natinonal Forest

1:10 – Take a walk on the boardwalk

Follow the trail with the fence on the left to a service road under a telephone line. Bear left, go a short distance and make a hard left on the Big Laguna Trail which now travels through an attractive grove of tall pines. At about 4 miles from the start, you make another hard left and begin the first significant climbing of the entire route, crossing dirt Los Huecos Road in half a mile. Beyond, the trail passes a primitive campsite and follows a road bed through pines and oaks; when the trail bends north you may get a glimpse of the Cuyamaca Mountains to the west. After a little while the trail splits off to the left and descends toward the Sunrise Scenic Highway.

Service road, Cleveland National Forest, eastern San Diego County

1:27 – Bear left at the junction with the service road

At 5.5 miles you cross the road and ascend for another half mile to meet the Pacific Crest Trail. This is an alternative starting point. Turn left and follow the P.C.T. out of the woods and up to a ridge, where you will get good views of the Cuyamaca Mountains. If visibility is good you may even get a glimpse of the ocean. The rocky outline of Garnet Peak dominates to the north.

Big Laguna Trail heads through pines, Cleveland National Forest, San Diego County

1:41 – Up hill through the pines

Soon you reach a saddle where you get some excellent views of Storm Canyon and the desert below. The P.C.T. meanders through the meadow, dropping into a ravine and climbing to a spot where you can observe the view either from a bench or a wooden deck (8.8 miles from the start). This is also an optional trail head.

Pines on the Big Laguna Trail, Cleveland National Forest

2:02 – Leave Los Huercos Road and follow the Big Laguna Trail to the highway

Past the bench, the P.C.T. continues, switch backing once again down into a canyon and continuing north before finally reaching a spur that leads back to the Penny Pines trail head.

View of the Cuyamaca Mountains from the Pacific Crest Trail

2:45 – View of the Cuyamaca Mountains from the Pacific Crest Trail

Text and photography copyright 2014 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

View of the Anza-Borrego Desert from the Pacific Crest Trail, Cleveland National Forest, San Diego County

3:50 – View from the bench, just over a mile from the end

 

About these ads

Upper Franklin Canyon Reservoir

Leave a comment

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

View of Upper Franklin Canyon Reservoir, Hollywood Hills

Upper Franklin Canyon Reservoir

Upper Franklin Canyon Reservoir

  • Location: Hollywood Hills.  From the San Fernando Valley, take the 101 freeway to Coldwater Canyon.  Head south on Coldwater for 2.5 miles and take a hard right on Franklin Canyon Drive.  Drive 0.7 miles into the park and take a left into the parking lot for the William O. Douglas Outdoor Classroom. Note that there is a camera-enforced stop sign at the intersection.  From Sunset Blvd., head north on Beverly Drive for 0.4 miles.  Take a left to stay on Beverly, and then another left 0.2 miles later.  In 0.9 miles, take a right on Franklin Canyon Drive.  Follow Franklin Canyon Drive for 1.8 miles, around the reservoir, to a T-junction. Turn right and pull into the parking lot.
  • Agency: Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
  • Distance: 0.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: Level
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 30 minutes
  • Best season: Year round
  • USGS topo map: Beverly Hills
  • Recommended guidebook: Day Hikes In the Santa Monica Mountains
  • Recommended gear: insect repellent
  • More information: here; trip descriptions (slightly different route) here and here; Franklin Canyon Park Yelp page here
  • Rating: 4
Start of the Upper Franklin Canyon Reservoir hike

0:00 – Start of the hike at the Douglas Outdoor Classroom (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

Franklin Canyon Park feels a little more like wilderness than most of the other parks in the Hollywood Hills. You’ll still see power lines overhead and hear traffic nearby but if you don’t have time to make it to Malibu Creek or the Angeles National Forest, the park is a nice little spot for an escape into nature. The short but enjoyable walk around the upper reservoir, the smaller of the two in the park, is well worth a visit if you live or work in the area, or perhaps have friends visiting from out of town who want more out of the Hollywood experience than spotting celebrities.

Trail leading toward Upper Franklin Canyon Reservoir

0:06 – Leaving the main road toward the lake (times are approximate)

Several trails branch away from the lake, making it easy to extend your hike should you want to; you can also visit the Hastain Trail at the southern end of the park. This post, however, will focus on the short loop around the lake, which can be done with a combination of single-track trails and paved roads. It can be done in either direction, but since the paved road is one-way counter clockwise to traffic, try hiking clockwise so you can always see oncoming cars.

Upper Franklin Canyon Reservoir as seen from the picnic area

0:10 – View of the lake from the picnic area

Leave the parking lot and turn left, immediately arriving at a junction. Turn left again and follow the paved road through a pleasant woodland of pines, sycamores and oaks. At 0.2 miles, cross over the concrete barrier on a wooden staircase and descend toward the lake. Make a hard left and follow the trail (listed as the Chernoff Trail on some maps) to a picnic area where you get a nice view of the reservoir from a bench.

Oak tree on the Wodoc Nature Trail, Franklin Canyon Park

0:20 – Oak on the Wodoc Nature Trail

Continuing through the woods, you reach a staircase leading to a dam at the reservoir’s southern end. Cross it, passing by a private residence and arriving at the Wodoc Nature Trail. This short paved path circles a small pool known as Heavenly Pond, popular with ducks (although feeding is not allowed).

When the nature trail rejoins the road, continue north toward the start of the hike and into a dirt parking lot. You can close the loop out on the paved road but to make it more interesting, take either of the two dirt paths leading out of the lot, both of which rejoin at another picnic area. Follow the trail past the picnic tables, under a large oak and back up to the road where you retrace your steps to the parking lot.

Picnic table, Franklin Canyon Park

0:24 – Picnic area

Text and photography copyright 2014 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Michael Antonovich Regional Park at Joughin Ranch

Leave a comment

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

View of the Santa Susana Mountains from Michael Antonovich Regional Park, San Fernando Valley, CA

Looking west from the fire road, Michael Antonovich Regional Park

Oak woodlands, Michael Antonovich Regional Park

Oaks in a tributary of Brown’s Canyon, Michael Antonovich Regional Park

Michael Antonovich Regional Park at Joughin Ranch

  • Location: Santa Susana Mountains north of Chatsworth.  From the 118 Freeway, take the DeSoto Ave. exit.  Head north (turn left if you’re coming from the west, right if from the east) a short distance to the end of DeSoto and turn right on Browns Canyon Road, following the signs for Michael Antonovich Regional Park (not to be confused with nearby Michael Antonovich Open Space or the Michael Antonovich Recreational Trail in San Dimas.)  Follow Browns Canyon Road for 1.2 miles to a small turnout on the left side of the road, marked with a green Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy sign.
  • Agency: Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy/Michael Antonovich Regional Park
  • Distance: 3.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 500 feet
  • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG
  • Best season:  September – May
  • USGS topo map: “Oat Mountain”
  • Recommended gear: sun hat; sunblock
  • More information: Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 5
Michael Antonovich Regional Park trail head

0:00 – Trail head on Brown’s Canyon Road (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This park’s name may be a mouthful, but it helps distinguish it from the nearby Michael Antonovich Open Space and the Michael Antonovich Trail of San Dimas. This loop explores the lower area of the regional park, which is also home to Oat Mountain.

Trail junction, Michael Antonovich Regional Park

0:10 – Hard left at the four-way junction (times are approximate)

From the parking area, follow the paved road uphill for about 0.4 miles to a four-way junction. This is the start of the loop, which can be hiked in either direction. Hiking it clockwise, as described below, allows you to visit the most scenic part last. The trail on your right leads to a dead end; the vague looking path straight ahead is your return route. Take a hard left and continue climbing uphill. The trail soon becomes a single-track and arrives at a flat.

Single track trail leading into a canyon, Michael Antonovich Regional Park

0:16 – Follow the single track at the junction

Look for a narrow path heading straight ahead into the canyon. You climb for about 0.3 miles more up the steep and sometimes claustrophobic trail, finally reaching a fire road, listed on some maps as the Curacao Trail, about a mile from the start.

View from the hills above Michael Antonovich Regional Park

0:25 – View from the fire road at the top of the ascent (head right)

Turn right and follow the trail along a ridge. The landscape is dominated by Rocky Peak to the west and Oat Mountain to the north; on the way you get aerial views of Browns Canyon and Ybarra Canyon.

After an undulating mile along the ridge, look for a narrow single-track on the right, heading back into the canyon. (Shortly beyond this point, the fire road is blocked by private property). The trail drops, steeply at first, into the tributary of Brown’s Canyon, leveling out at the bottom, making its way in and out of pockets of oaks. At about 2.6 miles, note the curious presence of a solitary pine tree.

Descending into the canyon, Michael Antonovich Regional Park

0:50 – Right turn to descend into the canyon

Shortly beyond the pine, the trail widens into a semblance of a fire road before returning to the intersection, completing the loop. Retrace your steps down the hill back to the parking area on Browns Canyon Road.

Pine tree, Michael Antonovich Regional Park

1:05 – Lone pine in the canyon

Text and photography copyright 2014 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

McDermont and Sycamore Trails (Chino Hills State Park)

Leave a comment

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Panoramic view of Chino Hills State Park from the North Ridge Trail

View from the North Ridge Trail shortly before the junction with the Sycamore Trail

Oaks in Telegraph Canyon, Chino Hills State Park

Oaks in Telegraph Canyon

McDermont and Sycamore Trails (Chino Hills State Park)

    • Location: Yorba Linda.  From the 57 freeway, take Orangethorpe exit and head east for 4.2 miles.  Turn left on Kellogg, go 1.8 miles and turn right on Yorba Linda Blvd.  Go 0.3 miles and turn left on Fairmont.  Go 1.6 miles and turn left on Rim Crest.  Follow Rim Crest to its end and park on the corner of Blue Gum and Rim Crest.  From the Riverside area, take the 91 freeway to Yorba Linda Blvd.  Go northwest on Yorba Linda Blvd. for 2.4 miles, and turn right on Village Center.  Go a mile and turn left on Fairmont.  Go 0.3 miles and turn right on Rim Crest.
    • Agency:  Chino Hills State Park (home page here)
    • Distance: 8 miles
    • Elevation gain: 1,100 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (distance, elevation gain)
    • Suggested time: 3.5 hours
    • Best season: October – May
    • USGS topo map:  Yorba Linda
    • Recommended gear: sun hat; sunblock
    • More information: Trail map here; Yelp page here; Everytrail report here
    • Rating: 6
Trail head on Rim Crest Drive, Chino Hills State Park

0:00 – Rim Crest trailhead (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This loop explores some of the lightly traveled high country in the middle sector of Chino Hills State Park.  To be sure, the views and scenery aren’t as varied or attractive as they are on more popular destinations such as Gilman Peak or Water Canyon–expect power lines and barbed wire–but the hike still offers a solid workout from the conveniently located (and free) Rim Crest trailhead.  On clear days, the vistas from the North Ridge Trail include Old Saddleback, the Orange County coastal plains, the ocean, the San Gabriel Mountains and more.

Sycamore Trail and Telegraph Canyon, Chino HIlls State Park

0:40 – Junction with the Sycamore Trail (times are approximate)

From Rim Crest, follow the Easy Street trail half a mile as it drops into Telegraph Canyon.  Turn right and head east, gradually uphill on Telegraph Canyon, Chino Hills State Park’s main artery, passing the turnoffs for Gilman Peak and the Little Canyon Trail.  As you ascend, the terrain becomes more pleasantly shaded, both from oaks and sycamores.

Picnic table in Telegraph Canyon

0:57 – Picnic table in Telegraph Canyon

At 1.6 miles, you reach a Y-junction with the Sycamore Trail.  This is the start of the loop, which can be hiked in either direction.  By going counter-clockwise, as described here, you can continue your moderate ascent in the shade of the canyon.  At 2.3 miles, you pass by a picnic table; this is a nice place to rest for a few minutes before continuing east.

At 2.9 miles, you reach the McDermont Trail, a fire road which leaves the friendly confines of the canyon.  The next mile or so is the most thankless section of the hike, as the McDermont Trail heads sharply uphill on exposed terrain.  The grade levels out after about half a mile and the trail bends east, reaching a T-junction (3.8 miles from the start).  Turn left and make another steep but short climb on a connector trail, bringing you to North Ridge.  Here you get a panoramic view of Telegraph Canyon with San Juan Hill, the highest point in the park, to the south.

McDermont Trail, Chino Hills State Park

1:15 – Start of the McDermont Trail

Turn left and head west on North Ridge, following the trail through several ups and downs, taking in views on both sides.  At 5.2 miles, turn left on the Sycamore Trail, which heads back toward Telegraph Canyon.  A group of oak trees makes for a nice rest spot on the descent.  The trail makes an S-curve, passes by a rusted water tank and drops back into Telegraph Canyon, where it completes the loop at 6.4 miles.  Retrace your steps on the Telegraph Canyon and Easy Street Trails back to your starting point.

North Ridge Trail, Chino Hills State Park

1:45 – Left turn on the North Ridge Trail

As a variation, you can make the lower portion of this hike into a loop by using the South Ridge and Little Canyon Trails either on your way out or in.  This adds about 100 feet of elevation gain.

Oak tree on the Sycamore Trail, Chino Hills State Park

2:20 – Oak tree on the Sycamore Trail

Text and photography copyright 2014 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

15% off the Nobody Hikes in L.A. Guidebook – through Halloween!

2 Comments

Happy Halloween! The Nobody Hikes in L.A. Guidebook, featuring write-ups of 100 So Cal hikes including haunted destinations such as the ruins of the Tropical Terrace, Skull Rock in Temescal Canyon Park and the mysterious Bridge to Nowhere, is on sale!  Enter the coupon code “HALLOWEEN” to receive 15% off, now until midnight, Friday, October 31st.  Click the picture for more information.

Warner Springs to Eagle Rock via Pacific Crest Trail

Leave a comment

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Eagle Rock, northeast San Diego County

Appropriately named Eagle Rock

Panorama from the Pacific Crest Trail, northeast San Diego County

Lone tree on the Pacific Crest Trail on the way back from Eagle Rock

Warner Springs to Eagle Rock via Pacific Crest Trail

  • Location: Across from Cal Fire Station 52, 31049 Highway 79, Warner Springs. The location is 38.7 miles east of Interstate 15, 6.8 miles north of Highway 76 and 13.8 miles north of Highway 78. Park in the narrow dirt turnout across from the fire station by the Pacific Crest Trail decal.
  • Agency: Cleveland National Forest/Palomar Ranger District
  • Distance: 6.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 700 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 3 hours
  • Best season: October – June
  • USGS topo map: Warner Springs
  • Recommended gear: sun hat; sunblock; insect repellent
  • More information: Trip descriptions here and here
  • Rating: 8
Pacific Crest Trail head on highway 79, San Diego County

0:00 – Trail head on Highway 79 (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

Everything enjoyable about inland San Diego County hiking can be found on this stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail. The destination is Eagle Rock, 3.3 miles from Warner Springs, but even just a short stroll is worthwhile. Scenic highlights include geology, open fields, shaded canyons and a who’s who of San Diego mountains.

Fence on the Pacific Crest Trail, San Diego County

0:10 – Gate before the junction with the CR&H Trail (Times are approximate)

From the turnout across from the fire station, carefully cross Highway 79 and enter the metal gate, signed as a Pacific Crest Trail access point. It drops down to a stream bed and heads east, passing the fire station and school before reaching another gate and a junction with the California Riding & Hiking Trail. The CR&H Trail heads left; the P.C.T. heads straight, entering an attractive canyon filled with oaks, sycamores and willows.

Oak woodlands, Pacific Crest Trail, San Diego County

0:27 – Woodlands on the Pacific Crest Trail

You follow the P.C.T. generally east for a very pleasant mile plus, weaving in and out of woodlands, before emerging at a meadow. Here, you can see Hot Springs Mountain, the tallest point in San Diego County, dominating the landscape to the north. You begin climbing, reaching the top of a ridge at about 2 miles from the start. On the way up, keep an eye out for the Palomar Mountain Observatory perched high on the hills to the west, resembling a golf ball.

Meadow and mountains on the Pacific Crest Trail, San Diego County, CA

0:37 – Meadow with distant mountains

On the opposite side of the ridge, the landscape becomes more desert-like, with manzanita trees and even a few cholla and prickly pear cacti. You gradually descend into a valley, taking in views of the Vulcan Mountains on the way and then make another climb to a saddle, where you can see Eagle Rock in the distance. The P.C.T. makes another descent before climbing gradually to a spur leading to the giant granite formation.

View from the top of a ridge on the Pacific Crest Trail, San Diego County

0:47- View from the top of the ridge

From the back side, Eagle Rock’s resemblance to its namesake is quite striking. In addition, the views in all directions are outstanding, making this a perfect spot to sit and enjoy some solitude before heading back.

Manzanita on the Pacific Crest Trail, San Diego County, CA

0:51 – Manzanita on the Pacific Crest Trail

Text and photography copyright 2014 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

View from Eagle Rock, San Diego County, CA

1:20 – View from Eagle Rock

Nicholas Ridge Motorway

Leave a comment

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Ocean view, Nicholas Ridge Motorway, Santa Monica Mountains

Ocean view, Nicholas Ridge Motorway (turnaround point is the hill in the center)

View from the Nicholas Ridge Motorway, Santa Monica Mountains, western Malibu

Looking west toward Nicholas Flat

Nicholas Ridge Motorway

    • Location: Northwest of Malibu. From Pacific Coast Highway, 21 miles south of Ventura and 25 miles north of Santa Monica, take Decker Canyon Road (Highway 23) north for 2.4 miles to Decker School Road (a Y-intersection that is easy to miss). Bear left onto Decker School Road and follow it 1.5 miles to its end, where there are a few parking spots in a small lot shaded by oaks. From Highway 101, take the Westlake Blvd/Highway 23 exit and head south for 9.3 miles. Take a hard right on Decker School Road and follow it 1.5 miles to its end. (Note: if you’re coming from the north, don’t turn on Decker School Lane; you want Decker School Road which is about a mile farther south.)
    • Agency: Leo Carillo State Park; Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
    • Distance: 4 miles
    • Elevation gain: 900 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG
    • Suggested time: 2 hours
    • Best season: All year but hot during the summer
    • USGS topo map: “Truinfo Pass”
    • Recommended gear: sun hat; sunblock
    • More information: Trail map from Go Breadcrumbs here (stops at the “official” ending point of the motorway); map of parcels of land adjacent to Leo Carillo State Park that the NPS hopes to acquire, including the lower end of the Motorway (in black) here
    • Rating: 6
Nicholas Pond Trail Head, Leo Carillo State Park, Malibu CA

0:00 – Start of the hike, Nicholas Pond Trail (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

The Nicholas Ridge Motorway is a fire road running down the eastern edge of Leo Carillo State Park, following a ridge between Nicholas Canyon and Decker Canyon. The road runs, in one form or another, all the way from the Pacific Coast Highway to the Nicholas Flat area of Leo Carillo State Park but the lower section of the trail is steep, loose, rocky, overgrown and not all that enjoyable, except for diehards. The 4-mile hike described here, which descends to an overlook and climbs steeply back up the exposed fire road, is the most sensible way to explore the Nicholas Ridge Motorway. This lightly traveled trail is a good destination for hikers who feel as if they’ve seen it all when it comes to the Santa Monica Mountains.

0:10 - Start of the Nicholas Ridge Motorway (times are approximate)

0:10 – Start of the Nicholas Ridge Motorway (times are approximate)

From the parking area, follow the Nicholas Pond Trail through an attractive grove of oaks. Enjoy the shade; it’s the last of it you’ll see. At about a third of a mile, you meet a T-junction. The right fork heads toward the cattle pond and the interior of Leo Carillo State Park’s high country; the Nicholas Ridge Motorway heads left. Follow it through a meadow where it climbs through a thicket of chaparral to a saddle, dips briefly and climbs to a second bump.

Nicholas Ridge Motorway, Santa Monica Mountains, Malibu CA

0:17 – Beginning the descent on the Nicholas Ridge Motorway

Here, you can enjoy a nearly 360-degree view including the ocean, the Boney Mountain complex, Nicholas Flat and more, before beginning the descent. Head right (the left fork leads to private land) and follow the ridge, gradually at first, then steeply. After passing by an abandoned trail branching to the left, the motorway skirts the edge of Decker Canyon, providing some dramatic views.

Ocean view from the Nicholas Ridge Motorway, Santa Monica Mountains, Malibu, CA

0:28 – Looking west from the Nicholas Ridge Motorway near the first turn-off

A second trail (1.5 miles from the start) branches off to the right, but again you stay straight. A sign marks the end of the motorway but the trail continues downhill, bending southeast, passing by a fence marking off the Malibu Riding & Tennis Club’s property. (Some maps show the motorway descending to the west, but as of this writing, that leg is clearly off limits.)

Nicholas Ridge Motorway, Santa Monica Mountains, Malibu, CA

0:38 – Note the pole on the right marking the “official” end of the trail past the second turn off, about 1.5 miles from the start

Your descent continues to a knoll about 800 feet above sea level. Here, you can an enjoy a 180-degree view before making the steep climb back to the Nicholas Pond Trail.

Text and photography copyright 2014 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Ocean view from the end of the Nicholas Ridge Motorway, Santa Monica Mountains, Malibu, CA

0:48 – Ocean view from the turnaround point