Malibu Creek State Park is a sprawling, magical landscape; complete with massive jagged mountains, cliffs, and vast gorges that were formed over two million years ago.
Just 25 miles from downtown Los Angeles, the park has over 4,000 acres, featuring hiking, fishing, bird watching and horseback riding opportunities. There are 15 miles of streamside trail through oak and sycamore woodlands and chaparral-covered slopes.
Culturally, this area was the center of Chumash Native American life for centuries. One of the park’s most significant points of interest is the Sepulveda Adobe, which was constructed in 1863 on what had been part of an early Spanish land grant.
This historic structure was restored in 2003 and is now open to the public. In the early 1900’s Johnny Mott, a famous LA attorney, built another adobe along Malibu Creek. With only the dramatic stone fireplace left standing, it is known today as the Mott Adobe ruins.
During the 1950s, when Reagan hosted TV’s “Death Valley Days,” he wanted a more rural retreat than his home in Pacific Palisades. He bought the 305-acre ranch in the hills of Malibu as a place to raise thoroughbred horses. Today, the ranch makes up the northwest corner of Malibu Creek State Park. The Reagan barn still stands and is now used for offices and storage by state park employees.
Deeper inside Malibu Creek State Park, is a place where television history was made, where California became Korea, and where actors became doctors and nurses fighting to save lives.
Fans of the television series “M*A*S*H” would recognize the rugged terrain. In the show’s standard opening, two helicopters swooped over craggy peaks to land on a dusty plateau, where military doctors rushed to save the wounded soldiers aboard. Few signs remain of the “M*A*S*H” set — only a rusty, burned-out Jeep, a 1940s ambulance and iron bars that once held the stairway to the helipad.
Malibu Creek State Park offers more than just the chance to visit a piece of television history. Although, the park is still used for movie making, it is now primarily a haven for day hikers and picnickers. The park has some of the best hiking trails in the Los Angeles area, with lakes and creeks; the Rock Pool; a forest; wildlife, the spectacular Santa Monica Mountains scenery, and lots of side-trails make this an excellent area for a day hike or overnight.
The Rock Pool Trail is a beautiful walk down Sycamore and Oak-shaded trails, which leads to a stunning rock pool with high walls of volcanic rock, and a breath-taking lake view that is beautiful enough for a postcard. Rock Lake is a hike with lots of variety and nature to take in. At the Rock Lake Pool, rock climbers often attempt to scale the legendary Planet of the Apes wall.
The trails are pretty well marked. I explored all around – the M.A.S.H. set, Century Lake, the rock pool and Reagan Ranch. The hike is pretty moderate, though there is some good terrain to do hill sprints. I went on a weekday, so there wasn’t much of a crowd. I was alone on most of the trail, but ran into enough hikers that I felt safe. I did have a run-in with an interesting pair, and I watched as the elderly man held his wife’s hand, as they stepped on stones to cross the creek. They were having the time of their lives. I can only hope I’m still crossing creeks at that age!
This tranquil park seems a world removed from the bustling freeways and congestion of nearby communities.
The Park is located on Los Virgenes and Malibu Canyon Road, four miles south of Highway 101. Park hours are from 5 am to 6 pm, Monday through Sunday.
After you pay to park drive as far back as you can to the second lot. This lot is closest to the trailhead. After you park, make your way back to the road you drove in on. There you will find a marked entrance leading you down to the backcountry trails. You’ll immediately come to a bridge that crosses the Malibu Creek. Follow the signs from there and enjoy the views!