Big Sycamore and Serrano Canyon Loop in Point Mugu State Park


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Ocean view from Serrano Valley, Point Mugu State Park
On the Serrano Trail, Point Mugu State Park

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.

Big Sycamore and Serrano Canyon Loop in Point Mugu State Park

  • Location: Point Mugu State Park between Malibu and Oxnard.  From Oxnard, take highway 1 south for 17 miles.  The Sycamore Canyon trailhead is on the left (if you reach the Sycamore Canyon Campground,  you’ve come too far.)  The daily parking fee is $12.  From Santa Monica, take highway 1 north for 32 miles.  The Sycamore trailhead will be on the right, about a mile and a half past Deer Creek Road.  From the San Fernando Valley, take highway 101 to highway 23 and head south to P.C.H.
  • Agency: Point Mugu State Park
  • Distance: 9.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,250 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (distance)
  • Suggested time: 5 hours
  • Best season: October – June
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sunblock; sun hat
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot & Afield Los Angeles County
  • USGS topo maps: “Point Mugu”; “Triunfo Pass”
  • More information: here; trip report (8-mile round trip to Serrano Valley) here.
  • Rating: 8

This big, looping hike through Point Mugu State Park is really like six little hikes one after another.  Even if you don’t have the time or energy for the whole thing, there is a lot to see by just going part way.

From the parking lot, take the Big Sycamore Canyon trail, which is a fire-road heading north into the valley.  The first mile-plus is virtually flat, making it a great warm-up.  You get nice views of the hills and of the huge sycamore trees that give the canyon its name.

After a little over a mile, look for the Serrano Trail branching off to the right.  The progress becomes a little more challenging here, as the trail is over-grown in places and dips in and out of Serrano Canyon. There is a lot of interesting geology here, and the area is lightly traveled.

At about three miles from the start, the trail rises to a big meadow, with great views of the western end of Boney Mountain.  Stay left at each of the junctures you come to as you make your way across the meadow.  At the second split, look for some abandoned farm equipment.

There are a couple of steep ascents, followed by flat stretches, and eventually you end up on a ridge where you get nice ocean views to the south and can see Thousand Oaks and farther up the coast toward Ventura.  From here, you start heading down hill, passing an intersection with the Backbone Trail.  A small grove of trees makes a nice stop for a picnic.  The trail descends rapidly, hooking up with Big Sycamore Canyon a several miles north of where you left it.  On the way down, you get great aerial views of the park’s northern valleys.

When you finally get to the dirt road, the hard part is over, and you can coast down the last 3.5 miles back to the trail head.  As with the lower part of the road, look for some great sycamore trees that will give you some shade.  If the route sounds a little complicated, just think of it kind of like a giant “P”, and remember to stay left at each junction (except the first).  Point Mugu State Park is, granted, the farthest (from everywhere except Ventura) part of the Santa Monica Mountains, but there’s a reason people make the extra effort to get there.

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