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.
Rising Sun & Sostomo Loop (Solstice Canyon)
- 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: 6.7 miles
- Elevation gain: 2,000 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG13 (Distance, elevation gain, steepness)
- Suggested time: 3.5 hours
- Best season: October – May
- USGS topo map: “Malibu Beach”
- Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat; sun screen
- Recommended guidebook: Afoot & Afield Los Angeles County
- More information: here; trip report here; Everytrail report here; video of the Tropical Terrace here
- Rating: 9
If you enjoyed the short trip through lower Solstice Canyon to the Tropical Terrace and are up for a little more of a challenge, this excellent hike is well worth doing, especially now that the weather is cooler. Basically, it’s a 2.8 mile loop connected to a 1.2 mile loop with a 1.3 mile stretch in between (totaling 6.7 miles). Either loop can be hiked in either direction, but on the route described here, the first will be done counter-clockwise and the second clockwise.
From the parking lot, pick up the TRW trail, named for the futuristic looking buildings perched on top of the hillside. Many have pointed out the resemblance between the buildings and Darth Vader; these installations actually predate the Star Wars arch-villain, as they were completed in 1973. The trail wastes no time in ascending, but your efforts are quickly rewarded with nice views of the ocean as you switchback up the hill. You cross a service road and head stay right at a T-junction, following the signs to the Rising Sun Trail. At 0.3 miles, you reach a parking lot and pick up the Rising Sun Trail on the opposite side.
Your work continues for another 0.4 miles before the trail levels out and you’re treated to a great view of Solstice Canyon. There is some interesting geology here, including “Lisa’s Rock”, a tall, skinny outcrop. (No, I don’t know who Lisa was). Soon, the trail switchbacks down into the canyon, providing nice aerial views of the Tropical Terrace ruins. A new interpretive plaque shows pictures of the original house and describes the 1982 fire that consumed it.
After visiting the Tropical Terrace, head south along the Solstice Canyon Trail, and almost immediately take a right onto the Sostomo Trail. This trail rises steeply, gaining about 800 feet in a mile and a half. On the way back up the hill, look for a tall chimney standing by itself in the middle of a field and the ruins of a small stone house. Shortly after crossing Solstice Canyon (a great place for a picnic, with shade and a trickling stream), you reach the Deer Valley loop trail. You can hike the loop in either direction, but by going clockwise, you can take a break from the ascent.
The Deer Valley trail heads through a meadow and reaches a sharp right turn at a small clearing where you get probably the best view of the hike, including the Santa Monica Bay and Point Dume, as well as an aerial view of Solstice Canyon far below (look for the Rising Sun Trail on the opposite side.) The loop continues, passing a spur leading to private property, and drops back down to meet the Sostomo Trail.
Follow the Sostomo back down into the canyon and take a right on the Solstice Canyon trail, and walk the last mile back to the parking lot. Enjoyable any time of year (even the summer given a cooler than average day and an early start), this trail is especially good in the spring, when the wildflowers are in bloom. There aren’t many trails that can give you mountain views, ocean views, creeks, trees and even ruined buildings, but that’s just what this grand tour of Solstice Canyon does.
Thank you for the directions to make this a more challenging hike. Not having ever done this trail, I ended up doing TRW to Solstice to Rising Sun which was beautiful, but too easy. I was looking for a way to get more miles out of this hike and found it in your post.
Thanks for reading. Yeah, the shorter loop is cool too, that’s what I did the first time, but adding the extra bit really makes the hike great. Glad you enjoyed it.
One more question: it looks like you did this trail counter-clockwise. Is that correct? Once you get past the two burned out homes and head RIGHT up Sostomo Trail, did you take Deer Valley Loop also? I love the Santa Monica mountains for all the different trails, but I don’t want to get lost. I’m taking some non-hikers with me and don’t want to get us lost out there.
Thank you again.