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Malibu Creek State Park, California, United States

Malibu Creek

Some of the highlights along Malibu Creek, in central Malibu Creek State Park.

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Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 7.9 miles / 12.7 km
Duration: Half day
Family Friendly
Overview: Malibu Creek State Park is a sprawling 10,000 acre park that protects 25-mile long Malibu Creek, the largest watershed in the Santa Monica Mountains. The creek itself is somewhat unusual in that it has cut a path through hard volcanic rock instead of the softer sedimentary rocks north of the Goat Buttes, which makes for some spectacular scenery during any time of the year.

More than 30 miles of trails and fire roads are available throughout the park for hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians. There are also a few areas to swim and fish, and many rock climbers also practice their craft here.

The area used to be a country club, and some of the buildings and landscaping from that era remains to this day - including the Visitor Center and Century Lake - originally built as a recreational lake and now a unique freshwater marsh that provides a stop-over for migratory birds in the winter.

The park has also been home to filmmakers over the years. Movies like "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "The Planet of the Apes," and the television show "M*A*S*H" were all shot here - and several setpieces from M*A*S*H are still here.

This route follows the namesake of the park as it meanders through several areas of spectacular scenery. This is an outstanding example of Southern California terrain that's definitely not to be missed.

Tips: This park is probably most comfortable in the winter and spring, when temperatures are reasonable. It can get pretty hot in the summer here, and there are long stretches where there isn't any shade to cool you off.

Be aware of ticks during the warm months, especially if you're hiking in the grassy areas in the northern sections of the park.

There is a parking fee if you park at the lot near the trailhead. At the time of writing, it's $12.

Points of Interest


Dirt Road

After parking , head to the western end of the parking lot and look for the High Road Trail - a dirt path heading into the park. The path is relatively wide and level, and is located near the restrooms.

Grasslands Trail

Stay on the now dirt-path High Road and ignore the Grasslands Trail, which veers sharply to the right.

In the spring, after winter rains, the grassland here will become a lush, verdant green. For most of the rest of the year, though, it's a rough, dried-out beige.

If you'd like, you can take a short side-trip onto this trail to get a taste of the grassland. Keep left at the trail junctions, and you'll come back to High Road. As in all such trails in the warm months, be sure to be tick-safe - tuck in your pants and be sure to check for ticks during your hike and after you exit the grassy areas.

Side Road

Ignore the side road that crosses Malibu Creek and continue on the High Road on the north side of the creek.

Shaded Stretch

As you continue on High Road, enjoy this rare stretch of shade, provided by sycamore and oak trees. This area also provides some first-rate views of the Santa Monica Mountains to your south. The combination of jagged mountains and rough, grassy meadows are exquisite SoCal scenery.

Visitor Center Junction

At the junction, keep right to stay on the High Road to the north of Malibu Creek.

Here, the road makes a sharp turn toward the north and takes a moderate incline before continuing to the west, where you will soon have views of the remnants of Century Lake.

If you'd like to, take a short side trip across the bridge to the visitor's center, housed in a building originally built in 1926 to house residents of the Crags Country Club. The center is staffed by docents and offers information, video screenings, and a small bookstore.

Lookout Trail

Ignore the Lookout Trail on your right and continue on what is now called Crags Road.

Here, the trail descends from the small pass and enters a long flat valley. This area was formerly Century Lake - an artificial lake built by the owners of the Crags Country Club for fishing, duck hunting, and casual sailing. Over time, the lake silted up, and now it's more of a small pond with a long marsh, which is now home to migratory birds in the winter months. You don't really get a good view of the marsh from the north side, but the trail will take you closer on the return trip.

For an additional bit of distance and elevation gain, you can take a side trip on the Lookout Trail here instead. The trail climbs north toward the Mulholland Highway through the rolling grasslands, then turns back down southward as the Cage Creek Trail - POI 7 on the map. This trail is pretty exposed, and should probably be passed over on hot, sunny days.

Cage Creek Trail Jct.

If you've taken the side trip up the Lookout Trail, you'll come back to Crags Road here. Otherwise, ignore the trail on your right and continue on Crags Road heading west.

After passing the junction with the Forest Trail, the Crags Road trail narrows and becomes much rockier as it makes a turn toward the southwest. Here, you're hiking through a narrow canyon in an area of volcanic rock known as the Goat Buttes. The jagged rocks provide one of the most beautiful views along the entire trail.

Lost Cabin Trail

Ignore the short side trip on the Lost Cabin Trail here. It's a short, overgrown, flat trail ... and the real highlight of the area is just down the Crags Road ...

M*A*S*H Set

Here there are several remnants of the M*A*S*H set - the popular Korean War dramedy that taped here in the 70's and 80's. You can still see the remnants of a military jeep and old ambulance - burned in a brush fire in 1982 that was actually written into the show's finale.

The two car husks and a flattened area that served as the camp's helicopter pad are all that really remain of the set, but if you're a fan of the show it will likely bring back memories.

Most people turn around here, but there are some nice, shaded spots for lunch just down the road near Malibu Lake. Either turn around here and advance to POI 13 or continue west on Crags Road.

Bulldog Road

Bulldog Road is a winding, meandering fire road that will take you from the Malibu Creek canyon up into the more mountainous landscape in the southern part of the park. It's a 4.2 mile (one-way) trip from Crags Road to the Castro Peak Fire Road, where you can tackle the summit of 2824' Castro Peak if you're up for a more strenuous hike.

If all you're looking for is a nice spot to have a picnic, continue on Crags Road.

Junction to Malibu Lake Dam

Keep right at the 3-way junction to continue on Crags Road toward Malibu Lake.

End Of Trail at Malibu Lake

Here, the trail ends at the southern shores of Malibu Lake - another artificial body of water formed by a dam.

The park's boundaries end here, and the land is fenced off. While you cannot reach the lake's shores, the creekside has several very nice spots for a picnic lunch. Relax, then head back east on Crags Road.

Forest Trail

On your way back out, keep right at the 3-way junction with the Forest Trail.

This trail is a lightly-traveled path on the south shores of Century Lake. It's a lovely shaded route that features several seemingly out-of-place coast redwood trees planted by the Country Club.


The Forest Trail ends at the old dam at Century Lake. While it may be tempting to climb across to get to the other side - don't. The drop is very, very steep on the other side. Just enjoy the view, don't hurt yourself.

Return back on the Forest Trail and take a right at the junction with Crags Road to head back out of the park.

At POI 5, veer right to cross the bridge to the Rock Pool.

Rock Pool

The Rock Pool is an easily accessible area swimming hole that also doubles as a popular climbing area.

While diving and jumping are prohibited here, you'll often find a large number of people swimming or fishing. Water levels can vary, and the swimming hole is most impressive after a rain. During a dry summer, the pools can completely dry up.

When you're done, return back to the parking area the way you came in.
Pictures in this guide taken by: modernhiker, cmodesign, dougway, losangeleshiking
fabulous place.... awesome just awesome

by inqueba on Jun 05, 2015
A very nice hike through foothills, grassy areas, like-side trails and the filming location of M.A.S.H. The hike on the everytrail Guide involves three spur trails, none of which are marked on the trails themselves. So, it's useful to have a map of Malibu Creek Park trails, or download the Guide to your phone. The main trail is "Crags Road." The trail head is across the street from the parking lot. It begins as a paved road and becomes a dirt road, a shaded trail, then small a dirt road from the MASH set to Malibu Lake. The Rock Pool spur trail, which is approximately 1 from trail head, provides some opportunities for rock climbing, as well as the very nice swimming hole at the end of the spur trail. The swimming hole can become quite crowded by the afternoon during the summer.

I track the trail and the distance tracked was 10.0 miles. I did take one spur trail not included on the Guide, which added approximately .5 miles total. The Guide gives a distance 7.9 miles, but my best guess is that the distance is closer to 9.0 miles. That said, it's an easy hike without much elevation change. My tracking of the trail is here:

Visited on Jun 17, 2013

by bwisialo on Jun 18, 2013
Had an incredible time hiking, rock climbing, swimming and picnic-ing here. An absolutely beautiful place :) And it's where they filmed the classic Planet of the Apes and M.A.S.H.! Made some notes about where to find free parking and and created some awesome trails maps to share with you all on our blog! Check it out, I hope it helps! Have a wonderful time!!

Visited on Apr 20, 2013

by brittybr on Apr 22, 2013
Had an incredible time hiking, rock climbing, swimming and picnic-ing here. An absolutely beautiful place :) And it's where they filmed the classic Planet of the Apes and M.A.S.H.! Made some notes about where to find free parking and and created some awesome trails maps to share with you all on our blog! Check it out, I hope it helps! Have a wonderful time!!

Visited on Apr 20, 2013

by brittybr on Apr 22, 2013

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