Difficulty PG Distance 0 to 2 miles General information: Cellular Service General information: Hikes with free parking Rating: 4-6 Santa Monica Mountains (West) Season: All year

Lake Vista Loop (Malibu Creek State Park)


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Malibou Lake, Santa Monica Mountains, CA
Malibou Lake as seen from the fire road near the Lake Vista Trail
Picnic table, Malibu Creek State Park, CA
Picnic table at the junction of the Deer Leg and Lake Vista Trails

Lake Vista 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: 1.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 400 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Best season: Year round but hot during the summer
  • USGS topo maps: Malibu Beach
  • More information: Trip description (including alternate route) here; area trail map here; LA County Trails page here
  • Rating: 6
Reagan Ranch, Malibu Creek State Park, CA
0:00 – Trail head at Reagan Ranch (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This enjoyable loop in the northwestern corner of Malibu Creek State Park provides, as its name promises, views of Malibou Lake, a body of water created in 1922 by the damming of nearby Medea Creek. It can be easily combined with the Lookout Loop, with which it shares a trail head, for a longer and more challenging hike.

Deer Leg Trail, Malibu Creek State Park, CA
0:13 – Start of the Deer Leg Trail (times are approximate)
The loop can be hiked in either direction but by going clockwise, you can save the best views for last. Head southeast on the paved service road (note the unsigned single-track trail through the meadow on the right and the steep fire road descending the ridge beyond it; these are both part of the return route). After 1/3 of a mile, you’ll pass by some buildings and pick up the Yearling Trail in back of one of the sheds. Continue through the meadow, with Calabasas Peak and its neighboring summits in the distance, to a Y-junction (1/2 a mile from the start). Bear right onto the signed Yearling Trail, following it in and out of oak woodlands, to a clearing (0.7 miles) with picnic tables.
Lake Vista Trail, Malibu Creek State Park, CA
0:20 – “Stairs” at the start of the Lake Vista Trail

Here, take a hard right onto the unsigned Lake Vista Trail. Almost immediately, you ascend a crude “staircase” and climb the north side of the ridge, weaving in and out of the shade, taking in a nice panorama of the meadow below; on the west-facing stretches of the trail you’ll get a good look at Sugarloaf, Ladyface and some of the other western summits.

Panorama of the Santa Monica Mountains from Malibu Creek State Park, CA
0:40 – View of Ladyface (left) from the top of the ridge

A stiff climb brings you to the top of the ridge (1.4 miles.) Here you can enjoy a view of the lake, with antenna-covered Castro Peak dominating to the south. From this vantage point, the lake and the hills surrounding it give the landscape an exotic look; it’s no surprise that the lake has been featured in many TV and film productions, often standing in for a distant locale.

Fire road, Malibu Creek State Park, CA
0:43 – Starting the descent on the fire road

Continue along the ridge, descending to a T-junction with a service road (1.5 miles.) Here, you can take an optional detour by turning left, following the road 0.1 miles to a dead end above the lake, enabling for some more good views. The right fork descends steeply back down to the park, passing by a few private homes before reaching the meadow. Follow an unsigned single-track trail, keeping the wooden fence on your left, completing the loop at the parking area.

Reagan Ranch, Malibu Creek State Park, CA
0:48 – Following the trail along the fence, back to the parking area
Text and photography copyright 2015 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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