Difficulty PG13 Distance 5.1 to 10 miles Hikes with free parking Rating: 7-8 Santa Monica Mountains (East) Season: Fall/Early Winter Season: Late Winter/Spring

South Topanga Loop: Santa Ynez Canyon, Hub Junction, Temescal Ridge and Trailer Canyon


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      • Location: Pacific Palisades, south of Topanga State Park.  From the western end of I-10 in Santa Monica, continue on Pacific Coast Highway for 4.4 miles to Sunset Blvd. Turn right on Sunset, go 0.5 miles and turn left on Palisades.  Go 2.4 miles and turn left on Vereda de la Montura. Park on the corner of Vereda de la Montura and Michael Lane, noting posted restrictions.
      • Agency: Topanga State Park
      • Distance: 9.5 miles
      • Elevation gain: 1,550 feet
      • Suggested time: 4.5 hours
      • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (distance, elevation gain)
      • Best season: October – June
      • Dogs: Not allowed
      • Cell phone reception: Good near the trail head, weak to none for most of the route
      • Water: None
      • Restrooms: Vault style toilet at Hub Junction (see description)
      • Camping/backpacking: Musch Trail Camp offers 8 hike-in sites on a first come, first serve basis for $7 per night. Adding the trail camp to this loop would require a 3 mile round trip with about 400 feet of elevation gain.
      • Recommended gear: sun hat; hiking poles; sunblock
      • More information: Area trail map here; All Trails report (Santa Ynez Canyon to Hub Junction and back) here
      • Rating: 7

This loop explores most of Topanga State Park’s southern half, using primarily fire roads with about two miles on single track and half a mile on city streets. Highlights include panoramic ocean and mountain views, secluded canyons and sandstone caves. You can easily extend the hike to include any of three popular sites: Santa Ynez Falls, Eagle Rock and Temescal Peak.

The loop is enjoyable and challenging in either direction. Since the western half of the loop has a little bit of shade and the eastern side is completely exposed, you might want to hike clockwise, as described below (this also breaks up the ascent). Begin by heading downhill on Vereda de la Montura to the signed entrance to the Santa Ynez Canyon Trail. Head into the canyon, keeping an eye out for large amounts of poison oak. After half a mile, the trail to Santa Ynez Falls branches off and this loop heads left, deeper into the canyon. After a pleasant jaunt among the oaks and sycamores, including a few stream crossings, the trail leaves the canyon and makes a steep climb up a ridge. Your efforts are rewarded with views in both directions. The trail climbs to the side of a large outcrop, resembling the more famous Eagle Rock which you will see later in the hike.

About two miles from the start, the trail reaches a junction. Take a hard right and follow the trail – enjoying a mercifully level stretch – to the Eagle Springs Fire Road. Here you join the popular Eagle Rock Loop. Head uphill for a mile, enjoying more excellent views (on clear days, the ocean is visible to the right and the majority of the Santa Monica Mountains can be seen to the left) to a spot known as Eagle Junction. Here, the Musch Trail descends to the left and the Eagle Rock Fire Road goes straight, heading toward the rock. The Eagle Rock Fire Road is a good route to take if you want to see Eagle Rock from above; it reaches Hub Junction in about the same distance as the Eagle Springs Fire Road, with slightly more elevation gain. However if you want to avoid the Eagle Rock crowds, head right on the next leg of the Eagle Springs Fire Road. It drops briefly, crossing under Eagle Rock (you will likely see the ant-like shapes of climbers) before making a climb to Hub Junction, joining the Eagle Rock Fire Road and the Temescal Ridge Fire Road. By this point you have done almost all of the climbing, so the bench beneath the shade structure is a perfect place to rest for a little bit while enjoying views of the “Big Wild” to the east and the Trippet area, your route so far, to the west.

Continue south along the Temescal Ridge Fire Road, passing an interesting formation known as Cathedral Rock. A few use trails allow up-close exploration of some shallow caves. You reach a junction with the Backbone Trail on the left, heading southeast toward its terminus at Will Rogers State Historic Park. At another junction soon after, you can take a detour to Temescal Peak.

To finish the loop, continue south along the Temescal Ridge Fire Road. You will be sharing this leg of the hike with power lines and likely mountain bikers, but the next 1.4 miles passes easily enough and there are views on both sides (downtown L.A. and the Palos Verdes Peninsula to the left; the rugged interior of Topanga State Park to the right) and before long you reach the upper end of the Trailer Canyon Fire Road.

Bear right and begin a long, winding descent, losing 1,000 vertical feet over the next 2.3 miles. The Trailer Canyon Fire Road deposits you on Michael Lane, a residential street. Turn right and follow Michael Lane half a mile back to your starting point.

Santa Ynez Canyon, Santa Monica Mountains
Santa Ynez Canyon trail head
Santa Ynez Canyon, Santa Monica Mountains
Santa Ynez Trail, past the junction with the waterfall trail
Topanga State Park
Ascending the ridge on the Santa Ynez Trail
Topanga State Park, CA
Eagle Junction
Topanga State Park, CA
Eagle Rock from the Eagle Springs Fire Road
Topanga State Park, CA
Cave at Cathedral Rock
Temescal Ridge Fire Road, Topanga, CA
View of downtown L.A. from the Temescal Ridge Fire Road
Trailer Canyon Fire Road, Topanga State Park
Descending the Trailer Canyon Fire Road

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.

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