As seen in the Nobody Hikes in L.A. Guidebook!
Text and photography copyright 2010 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. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.
- Location: North of Malibu off Pacific Coast Highway. From Santa Monica, take P.C.H. for 15 miles. Take a right onto Corral Canyon (just past Pepperdine University, at the 76 gas station), and almost immediately take a left into Solstice Canyon Park. Drive to the main parking lot (parking is free). The trail to the Tropical Terrace leaves from the north side of the parking lot.
- Agency: Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area/Solstice Canyon Park
- Distance: 2.4 miles
- Elevation gain: 350 feet
- Difficulty Rating: G
- Suggested time: 1.5 hours
- Best season: All year
- Recommended gear: insect repellent
- USGS topo map: “Malibu Beach”
- More information: here; see trip reports and photos here; video of the Tropical Terrace here
- Rating: 7
This short but sweet hike visits the Tropical Terrace, the most famous landmark in Solstice Canyon, by way of a pleasant stroll along the stream. Besides the quick out-and-back trip to the house described here, there are several other loops possible, but this is the best one for a hot day as it is short, easy and almost entirely shaded by sycamores, live oaks and adlers.
The trail begins on a service road and climbs into the canyon, quickly leaving behind the highway noise. After half a mile, it passes by the ruins of the Keller House, said to be Malibu’s oldest, from 1865. As the trail continues, it takes in views of the higher walls of the canyon, including the Rising Sun trail, which is a possible return route.
Finally, we arrive at the ruins of the Tropical Terrace mansion, which burned in a wildfire. The foundations, some chimneys and staircases remain. There is something intriguing, almost ghostly, about the house, which seems to symbolize the excesses and consequences of life in Los Angeles. Some people will find these ruins to be a lot of fun to explore; others may find them creepy. Whichever camp you are on, the Solstice Canyon trail certainly gives a lot of food for thought.
Return as you came, or if the day is cool and you want more of a workout, consider following the Rising Sun trail up a steep grade from the other side of the house site. This trail gives some nice ocean views before dropping back down to the parking lot. Either way, before leaving the house, make sure you check out the waterfalls. Supposedly there’s a hidden statue somewhere too, although I haven’t seen it yet.