Santa Ynez Canyon

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As seen in the Nobody Hikes in L.A. Guidebook!

Butterfly in Santa Ynez Canyon
Swallowtail Butterfly in Santa Ynez Canyon
Spider web in Santa Ynez Canyon
Spider web in Santa Ynez Canyon

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.

Santa Ynez Canyon

  • Location: Topanga State Park, between Malibu and Santa Monica.  From Santa Monica, take the Pacific Coast Highway and turn right on Sunset Boulevard.  Go half a mile on Sunset, take a left on Palisades and go 2.4 miles and take a left on Vereda de la Montura.   Park at the end of Vereda de la Montura and enter the trail through the gate.
  • Agency: Topanga State Park
  • Distance: 2.5 miles (out and back)
  • Elevation gain: 250 feet
  • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Best season: Year round (waterfall is best after recent rains)
  • USGS topo map: “Topanga”
  • More information: here
  • Rating: 6

If you don’t let some graffiti at the beginning and end of this hike bother you, the trail to Santa Ynez Canyon gives you a lot of isolation without a long drive.   Even though the 18-foot waterfall at the hike’s end may only be a trickle–and must be reached by some tricky bouldering–this hike offers a lot to enjoy, whether you just make the 2.4 mile trip to the falls or use the trail as an access point for other areas in Topanga State Park.

From the street, the trail dips into Santa Ynez Canyon, beneath the cover of live oaks and sycamores.  At 0.5 miles, you reach a junction.  To the left, the trail continues to Topanga State Park; your route takes the right fork which heads deeper into the canyon.  There may be some bushwhacking involved at this point as this part of the trail is not very well maintained.

The trail dips in and out of the stream, goes through a meadow.  If you lose the trail, walk through the canyon itself; water levels will usually be low.  At about 0.7 miles from the split, the trail arrives at a small sandstone canyon.  The geology here is interesting, very different from the scenery you have come through to get to this point.   Here, it is necessary to climb up and over some rocks (be careful!), and you can see the waterfall at the back of the canyon.  Don’t be too disappointed if the water flow is minimal (or by the graffiti).  The convenience of this hike makes it a quick and easy getaway from the busy pace of L.A. life.

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