Lookout Loop (Malibu Creek State Park)

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Century Lake, Malibu Creek State Park
Goat Buttes in Malibu Creek State Park (click picture to purchase from the N.H.L.A. Gallery)

Lookout Loop (Malibu Creek State Park)

  • Location: Malibu, near Cornell.  From highway 101, take the Kanan Road exit and head south for 0.5 miles.  Bear left onto Cornell Way.  Go 2.3 miles, and just past Mulholland Highway, turn left into the parking area.  (The road is called Lake Vista on this side of Mulholland).  From Pacific Coast Highway, take Malibu Canyon north for a total of 6.3 miles (it becomes Las Virgenes on the way) and turn left on Mulholland.  Go 3.2 miles and turn left on Lake Vista.  Take the first left into the parking lot.
  • Agency:  Malibu Creek State Park
  • Distance: 3.8 miles
  • Elevation gain:  500 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time:  2 hours
  • Best season: October – June
  • USGS topo maps: Malibu Beach
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot & Afield Los Angeles County
  • More information: here (similar route); Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 7

This scenic loop explores some of Malibu Creek State Park’s back country, starting with the area known as the Reagan Ranch. From the dirt lot, head east into the park on a fire road. After passing some ranch buildings, you arrive at the Yearling Trail, a single-track. As you make your way along, you get nice views of the hills to the north.

In 0.4 miles, bear right at a split, onto the Deer Leg trail. This brings you through a pleasant oak woodland (you can stop for a picnic at a table here). You make a few switchbacks, keeping right at the junction, and then you arrive at a crest, where you get great views of the Goat Buttes before making a steep descent on the Cage Creek trail.

Head right, following the trail (it can be tricky at this point, as it tends to be overgrown, so look for footprints). The Cage Creek trail makes a steep descent – 250 feet in less than a quarter mile, so be careful. (This is where your poles will serve you well.)

At the bottom, you arrive at Crags Road, Malibu Creek State Park’s main drag. Head left on this fire road, and take a detour to see beautiful Century Lake, where you can have a second picnic at a conveniently provided table.

Back at Crags, bear left on the Lookout Trail and begin your ascent. You get nice aerial views of Century Lake and the western end of the park, plus other nearby summits such as Sugarloaf and Ladyface.  The ascent is steep, but fairly short, and soon you arrive at a junction.  The Cistern Trail branches off to the right, reaching Mulholland Highway, but your route continues straight, through another pleasant woodland.  The Lookout Trail continues through a field, soon rejoining the Yearling Trail. From here, you retrace your steps back to the ranch buildings and your car. Reagan Ranch was in fact named after the former president, who owned the property before he became California’s governor.

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.


  1. Really enjoying your site! Just an FYI that dogs are not allowed on the hiking trails in this park, only in the “day use areas”. Seems silly to make the distinction and given that it’s part of the Santa Monica Mountains which is supposed to have a dog friendly policy…

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