- Location: 1501 Will Rogers State Park Road, Pacific Palisades. Take I-10 to its end, where it becomes northbound Pacific Coast Highway. Go 2.1 miles to Chautauqua Blvd. and turn right. Go 0.9 miles and turn right on Sunset. Go 0.6 miles and turn left on to Will Rogers State Park Road. Drive a mile to the park entrance. Parking is $12 per day per vehicle. (Additional free parking may be available about 0.2 mile outside the park entrance on Will Rogers State Park Road; observe posted restrictions. You may also access this route via the Sunset/Evans stop (see below).
- Agency: Will Rogers State Historic Park
- Distance: 3.3 miles
- Elevation gain: 500 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 1.5 hours
- Best season: Year round
- Dogs: Allowed on leash
- Cell phone reception: Good
- Water: Fountains by the restrooms
- Restrooms: At the parking area
- Camping/backpacking: None
- Public transportation: Metro Bus 602 has a stop at the start of the Sunset Trail (see post).
- More information: Trip descriptions (Inspiration Point) here, here and here; area trail map here
- Rating: 5
Updated March 2018
For those who like a touch of history with their outdoor exercise, Will Rogers State Historic Park is an ideal destination. The park, situated on land once owned by the famous cowboy actor and humorist, is the closest state park in the Santa Monica Mountains to Los Angeles – and the only one which is dog friendly. It doesn’t offer the isolation to be found farther west in the Santa Monicas but it makes a nice introduction to the area. The loop described here circles the park, visiting popular Inspiration Point and also a few less frequently traveled trails.
Begin by heading uphill on the dirt road on the west side of the tennis courts. You pass a junction with a trail heading for Rivas Canyon and Temescal Gateway Park and then continue to another junction. Head left (the route ahead of you gets you to the same destination but the ascent via the Inspiration Loop/Backbone Trail is more gradual and scenic). After passing some benches with a nice view of the ocean, the trail rounds a corner and heads north, paralleling Rivas Canyon. You pass the upper end of the trail segment from earlier and then reach a junction. Head right on a single track and follow it to another junction where you’ll head left and head up a staircase, ducking under some low chaparral branches. This short but steep stretch feels surprisingly adventurous, especially when spring rains erode the trail, making footing challenging.
The trail emerges at Inspiration Point, where benches and picnic tables allow you to sit and enjoy a view of Santa Monica Bay, downtown Los Angeles, Catalina Island, the Palos Verdes Peninsula, Signal Hill and more. After soaking in the panorama, descend from the other side of Inspiration Point, reaching a junction with the Backbone Trail. If you don’t have dogs, you can explore farther along the Backbone Trail. To continue with this route however, descend via the Inspiration Point Trail which skirts the western rim of Rustic Canyon, passing through a eucalyptus grove before arriving back at the stables.
To extend the hike, head south toward the polo field and pick up Gate House Road. This paved but attractive service road heads downhill to Sunset Blvd. At the bus stop, turn right on the unsigned but obvious Sunset Trail which begins a short, pleasant climb, passing by a few live oaks and bunches of cacti before returning to the parking area.
Text and photography copyright 2018 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. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.