Difficulty PG13 Distance more than 10 miles General information: Dogs allowed General information: Hikes with free parking Rating: 7-8 Santa Monica Mountains (East) Season: Fall/Early Winter Season: Late Winter/Spring

Sullivan Canyon Loop


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Oaks and sycamores in Sullivan Canyon
West Mandeville Fire Road
  • Location: Brentwood, on the corner of Bayliss and Queensferry.  From I-405, take the Sunset Blvd. exit west for 2.4 miles.  Turn right on Mandeville Canyon Road and make a quick left on Westridge.  Go 1.2 miles (the road is curvy and narrow, so be careful) and turn left on Bayliss.  Park on the corner of Bayliss and Queensferry (there are “no parking” signs but they do not appear to be enforced; on a recent visit there no tickets were seen on windshields.  If you are concerned about getting a ticket you can drive to the end of Westridge and park in a small lot.)
  • Agency: Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy
  • Distance: 11 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,600 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Distance, elevation gain)
  • Suggested time: 4.5 hours
  • Best season: October – May
  • Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat; insect repellent
  • USGS topo maps: “Canoga Park”; “Topanga”
  • More information:  Trip reports here and here (shorter routes); Everytrail report here; map of the Westridge Canyonback portion of the hike here
  • Rating: 7
Sullivan Canyon Loop

It may seem hard to believe that only a few miles from UCLA, the Getty Museum and Sunset Boulevard, one can take a 10-mile hike, much of which escapes the sights and sounds of civilization, but the Sullivan Canyon Loop provides just such an experience. This long loop is one of the more challenging trips in the eastern Santa Monicas. The whole loop is quite an undertaking, but if you’re short for time, going just a little ways in the canyon is an enjoyable little excursion.

From Queensferry, head downhill past the gate and into the canyon. For three and a half miles, you make your way up a gentle grade, under the cover of sycamores and oaks. The walls of the canyon block out virtually all of the noise from the city nearby. From time to time, you may get glimpses of the hills above the canyon between the trees. Some veteran hikers may find this three-mile-plus stretch a little monotonous toward the end, but soon, the grade gets a little steeper as the road climbs out of the canyon. At the junction, take a hairpin turn to the left and continue your climb, with nice views of the canyon to the south.

In less than a mile, you arrive at the Sullivan Fire Road. Head right and follow the backbone, with nice views of the Santa Monica Mountains on the left. This brings you to the dirt section of Mulholland. Head right, enjoying views that on clear days include the San Fernando Valley and San Gabriel Mountains, and in 0.7 miles, you arrive at San Vicente Mountain Park. This is the former missile site (you can still see some of the old buildings and walk up the watchtower) that is now a popular hiking destination. Head right and into the park; some picnic tables under a shelter make a nice place for a stop.

From the park, head south on the West Mandeville Fire Road. Stay right as another road branches off to the left. You’re in an area known as the Big Wild, and as Westridge Canyonback Wilderness Park. There are a few short uphill stretches, but for the most part your work is done. You get nice views of Sullivan Canyon to the right and Mandeville Canyon to the left. On clear days, you can see the ocean.

After 3.5 fairly easy miles, the fire road ends in a residential area at Westridge Road. Follow Westridge half a mile to Bayliss. Turn right and head downhill another half mile to your car.

Text and photography copyright 2011 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.

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2 comments

  1. We’ll be doing this hike in a couple of Sundays. In scoping this hike out using the satellite view in Google Maps, it appears that, instead of taking the hairpin turn from the top of Sullivan Canyon Trail up to the Sullivan Fire Road on the ridge, a hiker can just continue hiking straight north to Mulholland. Is that true?

  2. Possibly, I’m not sure. Unless you particularly enjoy “off trail” hiking, I’d recommend sticking to the roads, because you’ll probably end up taking about the same amount of time due to the unpredictable nature of the terrain in the canyon.

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