Difficulty PG13 Distance more than 10 miles Rating: 7-8 Santa Monica Mountains (West) Season: Fall/Early Winter Season: Late Winter/Spring

Guadalasca Trail via La Jolla Canyon (Point Mugu State Park)


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Note: As of March 2016 the La Jolla Canyon Trail is closed due to flood damage. Contact the park for more information and updates.

Old Boney Mountain from near the top of the Guadalasca Trail
Old Boney Mountain from near the top of the Guadalasca Trail
Old and new growth in Wood Canyon
Old and new growth in Wood Canyon

Guadalasca Trail via La Jolla Canyon (Point Mugu State Park)

  • Location: Ray Miller Trailhead in Point Mugu State Park between Malibu and Oxnard.  From Highway 101 in Oxnard, take Highway 1 south for 13 miles.  The Ray Miller/La Jolla Canyon trailhead parking lot will be on your left, about two miles past the Chumash Trailhead.  From Santa Monica, take highway 1 north for 34 miles.  The trailhead parking lot will be on the right, about two miles past the Sycamore Canyon Campground.  From the San Fernando Valley, take Highway 101 to Highway 23 and head south to P.C.H.  Parking is $8.  Automated machines accept exact cash payments, MasterCard and Visa.
  • Agency: Point Mugu State Park
  • Distance: 10.1 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,800 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (distance, elevation gain)
  • Suggested time: 5 hours
  • Best season: October – May
  • Recommended gear:  sunblock; sun hat; insect repellent
  • USGS topo maps: “Point Mugu”
  • More information: Trail map here; Everytrail report here; video shot by a mountain biker on the Guadalasca Trail (opposite direction from description below) here;  Point Mugu State Park Yelp page here
  • Rating: 8
0:00 - Start of the hike, La Jolla Canyon Trailhead (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)
0:00 – Start of the hike, La Jolla Canyon Trailhead (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

The long but easily graded Guadalasca Trail is one of Point Mugu State Park’s more enjoyable routes. It’s popular with mountain bikers (expect to see a few on the trail) but due to its remote location within the park, it can be tricky to do as a day hike. The easiest way to hike the Guadalasca Trail is the trip described here; a “balloon” type hike consisting of a 2.6-mile out and back segment and a 4.9-mile loop.

0:18 - Steps by the seasonal waterfall (times are approximate)
0:18 – Steps by the seasonal waterfall (times are approximate)

Starting at the Ray Miller Trailhead, take the La Jolla Canyon Trail north. As of this writing the park is still recovering from the effects of the 2013 Spring Fire. New growth is starting to take place but the area is still largely dry and burned.

0:30 - Keep right at the fork
0:30 – Keep right at the fork

At about 0.7 miles, you pass by a small, two-tiered seasonal waterfall. Unless there have been recent heavy rains, don’t expect much from the waterfall, although at this point, where a tributary joins La Jolla Canyon, the trail starts to feel more rugged and remote. You climb into the narrow canyon, clinging to the east wall. A few burned stumps of coreopsis plants can be seen poking up through the rocks; hopefully future wet seasons will help bring them back into bloom. Sadly, graffiti and trash take away from the appeal of this section of the trail; while most people come to Point Mugu and other parks to enjoy nature, keep an eye out for those who might not have such a worthwhile reason for being here.

0:41 - View of La Jolla Valley
0:41 – View of La Jolla Valley

At 1.2 miles (and almost 600 feet of elevation gain) you reach a Y-shaped split. The left fork heads toward Mugu Peak, but our route heads right, toward La Jolla Valley. Things get a little easier here as the trail grade levels out considerably and chaparral and scrub oaks provide shade. At about 1.7 miles, you get a nice view of La Jolla Valley to the left, pleasantly green with spring rains, contrasting the burnt hills around it.

1:02 - Descending Hell Hill with Boney Mountain in the distance
1:02 – Descending Hell Hill with Boney Mountain in the distance

Soon after you reach another split where you stay right. At 2.4 miles, turn right on the La Jolla Fire Road and follow it uphill 0.2 miles to a four-way junction; the start of the loop. Hiking the loop counter-clockwise, as described here, will spare you having to ascend the appropriately nick-named Hell Hill (650 feet elevation change in 0.8 miles.)

1:10 - Turn left on to the Wood Canyon Fire Road at the bottom of Hell Hill
1:12 – Turn left on to the Wood Canyon Fire Road at the bottom of Hell Hill

As you descend Hell Hill, you’ll get a nice view of Boney Mountain and the northern end of Sycamore Canyon. At the bottom of the steep road, turn left on the Wood Canyon Fire Road and head north for a pleasant 0.3 miles beneath the shade of some oaks to the lower end of the Guadalasca Trail.

1:20 - Start of the Guadalasaca Trail
1:23 – Start of the Guadalasaca Trail

The first part of the Guadalasca Trail follows a wooded tributary of Wood Canyon; then it climbs into an open area. At 4.5 miles from the start, bear left at a fork. You cross the shallow canyon and start a long, gradual ascent. A solitary oak marks the approximate halfway point of the hike and makes a good rest spot.

Past the oak, the trail makes a few long switchbacks, providing good views of Boney Mountain, the Ventura coastal plain and the northern end of the park. If visibility is good, you may be able to see Ojai’s Topatopa Mountains.

1:50 - Bear left to stay on the Guadalasca Trail
1:50 – Bear left to stay on the Guadalasca Trail

At 6.2 miles, the trail becomes an abandoned fire road. Bear left and continue ascending briefly to a vista point (the high point of the hike) at 6.5 miles, where you can get a nice aerial view of La Jolla Canyon and a little slice of ocean. From here, the trail gradually descends a mile back to the junction with the Overlook Fire Road. Turn right and retrace your steps back to the Ray Miller Trailhead.

2:10 - Loan oak on the Guadalasca Trail
2:10 – Lone oak on the Guadalasca Trail

Text and photography copyright 2014 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.

2:36 - Ocean view from the high point of the Guadalasca Trail
2:45 – Ocean view from the high point of the Guadalasca Trail
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