Farmer Ridge Fire Road, Santa Monica Mountains, CA

Hectic Trail Loop (Marvin Braude Mulholland Gateway Park)

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Hectic Trail Loop (Marvin Braude Mulholland Gateway Park)

  • Location: South end of Reseda Blvd., Santa Monica Mountains. From the 101 Freeway, take the Reseda Blvd. exit (23) and head south for 2.2 miles. The trail head is on the left side of the road, just before Country Club Place. Park by the curb where available.
  • Agency: Marvin Braude Mulholland Gateway Park/Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority
  • Distance: 2.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,000 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
  • Best season: October – June
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles sun hat
  • Dogs: Allowed on leash
  • Cell phone reception: Good
  • Water: None
  • Restrooms: None
  • Camping/backpacking: None (nearest is at Topanga State Park)
  • More information: Everytrail report here; video of a mountain bike ride down the Lower Hectic Trail here
  • Rating: 7

This short but challenging loop has a little bit of everything: panoramic mountain and city views, pockets of scrub oak woodland, steep ascents and descents and even springtime wildflowers. It feels surprisingly adventurous considering how close it is to the San Fernando Valley. Like other hikes in the Marvin Braude area, it can be easily extended south into Topanga State Park or east or west along Dirt Mulholland.

How the Hectic trail got its name is not certain; possibly from the mountain bikers who frequent it. It is not as well known as the Caballero Canyon Trail but offers a similar palette of views. The loop described here uses the Lower and Upper Hectic Trails for its descent and an unnamed but easy to follow trail for the ascent. Though both trails are steep, the unnamed trail offers slightly more shade, making it a good choice for the climb.

Start by heading downhill into Caballero Canyon. Just past the information board, the Lower Hectic Trail splits off to the left. Continue along the Caballero Canyon Trail for 0.2 mile to another unsigned junction and bear left. The trail climbs steeply through some tall oak chaparral, briefly levels out and continues its ascent. One mile from the start, you reach Mulholland. Turn left and almost immediately, look for an obscure single-track continuing uphill. The trail is steep and loose in spots but not too difficult to follow. In 0.2 mile, you reach the Farmer Ridge Fire Road. Now your efforts will have paid off as you are treated to outstanding vistas in all directions.

Head east (left) on the fire road, enjoying views that include the San Gabriel Mountains to the north and east and Sullivan Canyon to the south. Even if the marine layer has rolled in, you may be able to see the Palos Verdes Peninsula and peaks of Catalina poking up above. The trail forks a few times but soon rejoins.

After 0.3 mile, bear left and follow the trail to the top of a knob where you can sit and enjoy some more great views before resting yourself for the steep descent. The Upper Hectic Trail, somewhat faint but not too hard to find, drops down from the north side of the knob. In 0.2 mile it crosses Mulholland and continues as the Lower Hectic Trail. The Lower Hectic Trail drops more than 800 feet in the next 0.8 mile, crossing the bottom of Caballero Canyon and returning you back to your starting point.

Photo Gallery (click thumbnails to see full sized versions)

Cabalerro Canyon, Topanga, CA
Leaving the Caballero Canyon Trail
Santa Monica Mountains, Topanga, CA
Steep ascent toward Mulholland
Santa Monica Mountains, Topanga, CA
Oaks just below Farmer Ridge Fire Road
Farmer Ridge Fire Road, Santa Monica Mountains, CA
Heading east, Farmer Ridge Fire Road
Santa Monica Mountains, Los Angeles, CA
Looking south from the vista point
View from Farmer Ridge Fire Road, Santa Monica Mountains, CA
Looking north from the view point
Lower Hectic Trail, Santa Monica Mountains, CA
Descending the Lower Hectic Trail
Lower Hectic Trail, Santa Monica Mountains, CA
Bottom stretch of the Lower Hectic Trail










Text and photography copyright 2017 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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