Malibu is known for its miles of sandy beaches and dramatic coastline, but further inland there is even more to be discovered. Nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains is a network of beautiful trails and state parks surrounded by vast open spaces and accompanied with bird’s-eye views over the beaches below. It’s time to trade out your bathing suit for hiking boots, and discover these incredible hiking destinations.
Corral Canyon-Jim Morrison’s Cave
Named after the lead singer of The Doors who is said to have come here to write song lyrics and poems, Jim Morrison’s Cave is a secluded coastal hideaway illuminated with a rainbow of colorful graffiti art. Though finding it can be challenging, the hike is well worth it. Take the Backbone Trail accessible via Corral Canyon Road, leading you through coastal vegetation and majestic rock formations winding toward the Pacific. The entrance of the cave is marked with bright graffiti, where you’ll enter to a beautiful panorama of Aguora Hills. More detailed instructions here.
UPDATE: Due to cleanup efforts, this cave has been closed indefinitely until further notice.
Ray Miller Trail Loop
If an impeccable view over the Pacific coastline is what you’re after, look no further than the Ray Miller Trail in Point Mogu State Park. This 7.5-mile loop trail comes with an elevation gain of over 1,000 ft., but don’t let that discourage you: it’s still considered a moderate level hike. Grassy meadows and quaint waterfalls permeate this habitat, combining a Mediterranean-like landscape with postcard views over Malibu and the Pacific Ocean.
Zuma Ridge Trail
Imagine a dramatic canyon landscape surrounded by green shrubbery and grassy plains. Such is the backdrop along the picturesque Zuma Trail, a gravelly dirt service road taking hikers on a 5.4-mile round trip through lush hillside and dramatic peaks. On top of beautiful ocean and canyon views, keep a watchful eye out for local wildlife from deer to rabbits to coyotes.
The Grotto Trail
Lush trees and their canopies hang over the popular Grotto Trail, which stretches about 2.6 miles round-trip. While the forest hike is manageable, adventurers should expect some steep inclines there and back, including large boulders leading to the finish. The destination is a worthy reward, offering a beautiful grotto with picturesque pools and peaceful waterfalls.
Winding Way-Escondido Falls
Oak tree groves, coastal sage, and babbling creeks await hikers on this popular trek to Malibu’s tallest waterfall, the climactic 150-foot Escondido Falls. The trail stretches 3.8 miles round trip, beginning along the Winding Way Trail and continuing along a dirt path following Escondido Canyon State Park. Hikers can choose the waterfall’s easy-to-reach 50-foot lower tier or the more challenging 150-foot upper tier—either way, it’s easily one of LA’s most picturesque waterfalls.
In beautiful Malibu, even short and simple trails come with camera-worthy views. Exhibit A is Solstice Canyon, a 2.6-mile round-trip paved hike offering an easy stroll through lush greenery, rolling hills, and bustling waterfalls. Hikers will come across the well-preserved ruins from wildfires in the 1980’s, including the Roberts Ranch House and several other mansions.
* Confirm that your trail is open in light of California’s changing weather.
*Featured image courtesy of Edgar Alfonseca via Flickr