King Gillette Ranch
Formerly owned by King C. Gillette of razor blade fame and by MGM director Clarence Brown, this parcel of land in the heart of the Santa Monica Mountains features several miles of trails that provide some excellent views of the area. The new (2012) Anthony C. Beilenson Visitor Center is a state of the art facility featuring a variety of engaging exhibits, including an impressively detailed relief map of the Santa Monicas. The only downside to this hike is the traffic noise from Mulholland Highway and Las Virgenes Road.
You can park for free for two hours at the Visitor Center, which should be ample time for solo hikers or groups that keep a steady pace. Families with small kids who may take longer can park farther up in a day use lot for $7 per vehicle. (Dogs are not allowed on this hike.) From the Visitor Center, follow the paved road southeast a few dozen yards to a junction. The loop is enjoyable in either direction but by hiking counter-clockwise, as described here, you can split the climbing into two segments.
Head right and follow the paved road through a grove of trees to the park’s operation center buildings. On the west (right) end of building, the trail begins, crossing a dirt service road and beginning the first ascent up an oak-dotted slope. Steady climbing brings you to a flat spot with a view to the west including Malibu Creek State Park’s characteristic Goat Buttes. Soon after you reach a “Y” junction (0.5 miles from the start). The left fork heads back down to the ranch for those who want a shorter hike. To do the complete loop, bear right and follow the trail along a ridge, now heading east with commanding views of Saddle Peak. A few side trails lead to vista points or toward the edge of the property but the main route is obvious.
At 1.2 miles, you reach the highest point on the loop, a flat clearing where you can enjoy a view down Malibu Canyon and an aerial perspective on the ranch. Continue by following a trail that descends from this spot to the southeast, curving along the side of the ridge. You pass a junction with a spur that leads to Mulholland Highway and at 1.5 miles, you are deposited on a service road. Turn right and follow it a short distance past an attractive, oak-lined meadow to another junction (1.7 miles) where you’ll turn left and head back toward the main ranch.
After passing the lower end of the trail descending from the ridge that you saw earlier, you reach another junction (1.9 miles). Here you can go left and complete the loop at the operations buildings just before the start of the trail, retracing your steps back to the Visitor Center, or you can go straight, passing by the mansion and through the paid parking lot.
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.