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Malibu Creek State Park, California, United States

Bulldog Road / Castro Crest

Rock scrambling and a great workout hike in the southwestern part of Malibu Creek State Park / Castro Crest.

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Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 7.6 miles / 12.2 km
Duration: Half day
Overview: Malibu Creek State Park sits in 10,000 acres of rugged terrain near the Malibu coast, protecting flowing creeks, man-made lakes, historic structures, and prominent cliffs.

This route explores the southern and western areas of the park, far away from the creek that gives it its name. The landscape here is similar to other areas of the Santa Monica Mountains like Sandstone Peak, but has a unique geography all its own. Indeed, at some parts of this trail, you might feel more like you're in the canyons of Utah than Southern California ... at least until you look south to see the Pacific Ocean and Channel Islands before you.

Here, you'll have the opportunity to do some easy to moderate rock scrambling in a gorgeous setting, then top off the trip with a leg-busting descent into and ascent out of the central canyon area of the park.

Whether you're hiking, scrambling, horseback riding or mountain biking, this section of the park offers something wonderful for you.

Tips: Unlike other parking areas in Malibu Creek State Park, parking at this trailhead is free.

On Red Flag Days during fire season, parking is prohibited along a vast stretch of Corral Canyon Road - so while the park itself may be open, you may not be allowed to park at this marked trailhead.

Points of Interest



Drive on Corral Canyon Road. It will become a dirt road and end at a small dirt parking lot in the southwest corner of Malibu Creek State Park. Unlike other lots in the park, there is no fee to leave your car here - although overnight parking is prohibited.

This is a big trail junction, with several roads, fire roads, and trails making their way through the parking lot. To start toward the rock scrambling, look for an unmarked path cut on the rock heading toward some pinnacles, to the right of the trash cans and near a "no alcohol" sign. Start hiking eastward on this ridge above the road you just drove in on.

Old Car Ruins

After a short scramble up some granite formations, the trail dips down into a shaded area of low brush for a short distance. If you look to the north side of the trail, you'll see the wreck of an old car buried in the ground.

While it looks like the car has been there for quite some time, a lot of the body is still visible and easy to make out.

Continue east up a short scramble. You'll pass a water tank and appear on a ridge just above the Mesa Peak Motorway.

First Scrambling Area

Here, you'll reach the first scrambling area, where granite and heavily folded sedimentary rock have formed a whimsical area for low-impact rock scrambling. There are several fun folds to explore, and an easily-reachable small rock arch that's perfect for photo-ops.

From here, you'll also get some outstanding views of the Malibu Bowl to your south. If the day is clear, you can see south to the Palos Verdes peninsula and Santa Catalina, Santa Barbara, and San Nicolas Islands.

When you're done exploring, look for the moderate decline heading east and walk down.

Mesa Peak Motorway Jct

Stay left at the 3-way junction with the Mesa Peak Fire Road, which in this area is also part of the Backbone Trail.

Rock Spiral / Second Scrambling Area

On the north side of the trail, you'll spot another large granite and sedimentary rock formation and a piece of local hiker art - a rock spiral.

This rock spiral is apparently getting larger as hikers continue to stretch out the design. Feel free to add a few rocks to the end to participate, or just walk along the path to the center.

After you're done getting dizzy, the nearby rock formations offer some excellent easy to moderate rock scrambling opportunities. There are several small caves and crannies to explore, and it's possible to reach the summit of this formation without any technical gear.

You'll most likely spend more time here than you think you will - but when you're done, turn back the way you came and head west on Mesa Peak Motorway, keeping left at POI 4 to stay on the fire road.

OPTION: You can also continue east on the Mesa Peak Fire Road for 2.6 miles, where you can reach Mesa Peak (1844 ft) just outside the park's boundaries. In this case, the peak is actually lower than the fire road you're on right now, but it does have a nice view of the Malibu Bowl and Pacific Coast.

Corral Canyon Rd

Here, the Mesa Peak Motorway ends at Corral Canyon Road. Take a right on the road to return to the parking area where you started.

From here, you'll also be able to see the ruins of a burned down house just south of the Fire Road. All that's left is the foundation, a few remnants of what appears to be a water tank, and some out-of-place trees.

Castro Motorway

At the parking area, head to the north end of the lot and look for the sign for the Castro Peak Motorway. Pass the gate and start climbing up this rough fire road heading to the west.

Use Trail Jct

There are many use trails and maintenance roads branching off of both the Castro Peak Motorway and Bulldog Road. Many of them are not marked on maps, and most aren't signed either - so it can be easy to take a wrong turn.

At this use-trail, keep to the right to stay on the Castro Peak Motorway. Continue climbing in elevation, and the road will keep heading west, eventually finding its way to the north side of the crest itself.

North Views

When the Castro Peak Motorway turns to the north side of the Crest, you'll start to see some of the real highlights of this route - the deep, wide-ranging views into Malibu Creek State Park.

Most of what you're seeing from this angle is in the Kaslow Natural Preserve, and the landscape is drastically different from what you'd encounter along the Malibu Creek canyon floor.

Bulldog Motorway Jct

At 2410 ft, this junction with Bulldog Road is the highest point on this route.

At the junction, take a sharp right to head onto Bulldog Road - continuing straight on Castro Peak Motorway will dead-end at a private property boundary.

From here, you'll be descending to 1150 ft (or lower if you choose). Bulldog Road is a fire road, but it's full of hairpin turns and a surprisingly steep grade - on a hot day, it's pretty relentless in both directions - but it's a great workout and conditioning hike with more great views of the area - so give it a go!

More Views

From vantage points along Bulldog Road, you'll have commanding views of the entire Malibu Creek State Park and beyond. From here, you'll get a full appreciation of the strange topography in the area, as well as great views of Malibu Lake, the Peter Strauss Ranch, and Paramount Ranch to the north.

Keep Right at Maintenance Road

There is a small dirt maintenance road for the high tension wire towers here. Keep right at the junction to stay on Bulldog Road.

Stay Left on Bulldog Rd

Here, keep left to stay on Bulldog Road, avoiding another maintenance road. By now, the road has entered into an area of thicker vegetation, and there is some sporadic shade - but this route is still mostly exposed. Be sure you're saving some water for the trip back up!

Keep Left at Junction

Keep left at the junction with another short maintenance road to stay on Bulldog Road.

Dry Creek

The trail crosses a creekbed here. The area is shaded and the air is noticeably cooler than the rest of the canyon.

This creek is seasonal, and only flows during the wet months.

Junction / Turnaround

This junction at 1300 ft is a good place to turn around if you're doing an out-and-back - but you can continue to the floor of Triunfo Canyon in 1.2 miles by keeping right at the next two junctions. This will drop you to an elevation of 695 ft and give you a bit more of a climb on your way out.

Otherwise, you can turn this into an epic loop of Malibu Creek State Park by continuing through the center of the park, then looping south through Tapia Park and rejoining the Backbone Trail. From this area of Bulldog Road, this route will take you about 11.3 miles to return to your car.

Otherwise, it's 3.3 miles back to the trailhead via Bulldog Road.
Pictures in this guide taken by: modernhiker
I've been many times. i love this hike! right up to the top of the santa monica mountain range with an incredible view in all directions!

by SSgtShore on Mar 14, 2013

Bulldog Road / Castro Crest Trail Map

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