Text and photography copyright 2016 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.
Ray Miller Trailhead to Overlook Trail in Point Mugu State Park
- Location: Point Mugu State Park between Malibu and Oxnard. From Oxnard, take highway 1 south for 15 miles. The Miller trailhead is on the left (if you reach the Sycamore Canyon Campground, you’ve come too far.) The daily parking fee is $8. From Santa Monica, take highway 1 north for 34 miles. The Miller trailhead will be on the right, about two miles past the Sycamore Canyon campground. From the San Fernando Valley, take highway 101 to highway 23 and head south to P.C.H.
- Agency: Point Mugu State Park
- Distance: 5.4 miles
- Elevation gain: 1,200 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain)
- Suggested time: 2.5 hours
- Best season: Year round (hot in summer)
- USGS topo maps: “Point Mugu”
- Recommended gear: hiking poles; sunblock; sun hat
- More information: Trip description here; area trail map here; Backbone Trail information here.
- Rating: 7
This hike visits the westernmost section of the Backbone trail, “Segment A.” The Backbone Trail crosses the Santa Monica Mountains, from Will Rogers State Historic Park to 16,000-acre Point Mugu State Park. Point Mugu is one of the more isolated parts of the Santa Monica Mountains, due to its northern location and most of the visitors go to the more popular Sycamore Canyon area. A few miles north on P.C.H. is the secluded Ray Miller trailhead.
From the parking lot, follow the signed Backbone Trail and begin your ascent. The trail climbs at a steady rate of about 350 feet per mile, first passing over the La Jolla Group Campground and continuing to switchback up the ridge, providing wider and wider ocean views. The area is well on its way to recovering from the 2013 Spring Fire and in the spring, the slopes are dotted with golden poppies and other wildflowers.
The majority of the route is exposed and prone to high winds, especially farther up. At about 2.5 miles from the start, the trail makes a hairpin left turn and levels out before reaching the Overlook Fire Road. With views of both the ocean and Sycamore Canyon, with Sandstone/Boney to the east, this is a good turnaround point. A popular route for a longer hike is to continue north on the Overlook Fire Road to La Jolla Valley and loop back via the canyon (7.5 miles total) but as of March 2016 this is not an option due to the closure of the lower La Jolla Canyon Trail.
In case you were wondering, Ray Miller was a former campground host at Point Mugu; in fact, when he was appointed in 1979 he was the first campground host in the California state parks system.