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.
Eagle Rock Loop in Topanga State Park
- Location: Santa Monica Mountains, north of Malibu. From Santa Monica, take Pacific Coast Highway north for 6.1 miles and then take Topanga Canyon Boulevard north 4.7 miles to Entrada (just past the center of town), take a right and drive a mile. The park entrance is on the left. From the Valley, take the 101 freeway to Topanga Blvd. and go south for 7.8 miles, and take a hard left on Entrada. There is a $10 per day parking fee.
- Agency: Topanga State Park
- Distance: 4.7 miles
- Elevation gain: 950 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 2.5 hours
- Best season: September – June
- USGS topo map: “Topanga”
- Recommended gear: hiking poles
- More information: here; trip descriptions here and here; area trail map here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 8
Eagle Rock is probably the most famous landmark in Topanga State Park. I have always thought of this hike as “Sandstone Peak, Jr.” both for the great variety of scenery it offers and the similar elevation profile. However, this trail is a lot closer to Santa Monica and L.A. than Sandstone Peak, and it offers a surprising amount of isolation. If you still need to burn off a few Labor Day calories–and the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park didn’t do the trick–take yourself up to Topanga.
The loop can be hiked in either direction. Clockwise, the ascent is a little more moderate but if you have an early start and want to get the steeper section out of the way first, head counter-clockwise, as described below. Head uphill on the Eagle Rock Fire Road, staying right at the first junction and staying left at junctions with the East Topanga Fire Road and the Santa Ynez Trail. For the efforts of ascending a largely shadeless ridge, you soon get excellent views of the Trippet Ranch area to the left and the lower section of Topanga Canyon to the right; on clear days you can see the ocean. Soon, you also start seeing the trademark sandstone geology of the Santa Monica Mountains, including Eagle Rock itself in the distance.
At about 1.5 miles, you make a brief descent to a four-way intersection. Head straight (the left fork, the Musch Trail, is your return route). A steady half-mile climb brings you to Eagle Rock, arguably the most scenic spot in the entire park. Climbing out on the sandstone outcrop, you get an outstanding view in all directions, especially to the south.
After enjoying the vistas, retrace your steps half a mile back to the junction and turn right on the single-track Musch Trail. It descends steadily for two miles, heading in and out of a few pockets of oaks and passing a few other trails that split off to the right. A mile from the junction, you pass through the Musch Trail Camp where you can sit and enjoy the shade of some eucalyptus trees. The trail then descends to a meadow where it joins a service road that heads back to the parking lot, completing the loop.
You may be surprised to know that with all of its expansive vistas and wide variety of scenery, Topanga State Park is entirely located within the city limits of Los Angeles.