Leo Carillo State Park Ocean Vista

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Pacific Coast Highway from the ocean vista point, Leo Carillo State Park
On the Willow Creek Trail

Leo Carillo State Park Ocean Vista

    • Location: Leo Carillo State Park, 35000 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu.  From the end of I-10 in Santa Monica, take Pacific Coast Highway northwest for 27.3 miles.  The park will be on the right, shortly past the intersection with Decker Road (Highway 23) and before Mulholland.  From the Valley, take Highway 101 to Kanan Road.  Go south on Kanan for 6.5 miles and turn right on Mulholland.  Go 0.9 miles and bear left on Encinal Canyon Road.  Follow Encinal Canyon for a total of 8.5 miles to Pacific Coast Highway (taking a sharp left after 3.5 miles.)  Turn right on P.C.H. and drive three miles to the park.  Day use is $12 per vehicle.
    • Agency: Leo Carillo State Park
    • Distance: 2 miles
    • Elevation gain: 600 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG
    • Suggested time: 1 hour
    • Best season: All year
    • USGS topo map: “Truinfo Pass”
    • Recommended guidebook: Afoot & Afield Los Angeles County
    • More information: here; Everytrail report here
    • Rating: 6

Leo Carillo State Park is the westernmost state park in the Santa Monica Mountains before the Ventura County Line. It offers beach access, camping, and quite a few good trails for hiking. One of the most popular is the short but steep loop hike to Ocean Vista. It can be hiked in either direction. If you’re starting early, consider going clockwise, as described here, so the hill blocks out the rising sun. If you’re off to a late start, however, counter-clockwise is recommended. There is no shade on the trail, but the loop is short enough, and close enough to the coast, that unless it’s a very hot day, it can be easily done during the summer. For L.A. hikers, it’s a bit of a drive, and the park’s entrance fee is higher than most regional parks, but this loop can easily be extended, and it offers some of the best ocean views in the western Santa Monica Mountains.

From the day parking area, head back toward the entrance station and turn left on a trail signed for Campsite 13. Soon you’ll come to an intersection, where you bear right on the Nicholas Flat Trail. (The Willow Creek Trail is your return route). You head up at a steady grade, rewarded with nice views of the Arroyo Sequit and the western end of the Santa Monica Mountains. Eventually you start to get away from the noise of traffic on Pacific Coast Highway.

Soon you come to a four-way intersection. To the left, the Nicholas Flat trail continues uphill–over one thousand feet in less than two miles. This is an option if you want to extend your hike (which you might, given the park’s high entrance fee). However, to get to the ocean vista, head right and make a short climb. From this 612-foot hill, you get nice coastal views down to Point Dume, and if the weather is clear, you can see several Channel Islands. In back of you, you get a great view of the mountains.

To complete the route, head back down to the intersection and turn right on the Willow Creek Trail, which heads downhill into a quiet canyon. After making a few switchbacks, the trail emerges on the south side of the hill, heading through a field to rejoin the Nicholas Flat Trail. Head left and retrace your steps back to the day use area. If you want to take a swim, you can get to the beach by going under Pacific Coast Highway via a walkway at the north end of the parking lot.

Text and photography copyright 2012 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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