Walk Distance: 3.44km including the diversion to the rock pool, 2.7km for just the main loop.
Walk Duration: 1hr 50 at pre-schooler pace (the toddler was in the backpack for most of it). Included a short time at the rock pool. Warm autumn conditions.
Tom Harrison Maps – Malibu Creek State Park 1:31,680 ; National Geographic Maps -Santa Monica Mountains, USGS – Malibu Beach (also the USGS Los Angeles Map)
Suitable for: Babies in shaded carriers (though not in very hot weather), good little walkers, cross-country pushchairs (on the main loop), all the family.
Walk Features: Creek-side walking, mountain views, shaded in part, rock pool with option to paddle/swim, option to extend to Century Lake, information centre and basic toilets, water fountains in main car park.
“The Malibu Creek State Park Rock Pool Loop Walk was our first Baby Route in the USA and a perfect gentle introduction to hiking around Los Angeles. Despite being arid and dusty after a drought ridden summer, the park scenery was impressive. The paths on the main loop are wide and flat, with much of the the first half dipping in and out of dappled shade – on a hot day I’d be tempted to return on this same shady stretch if hiking with tiny tots.
For older families who fancy cooling off with a quick dip the diversion up to the rock pool is worth it. The path is narrow with the occasional boulder so pushchairs won’t get through. There is also the option to divert up to Century Lake although we didn’t take that route on this occasion.
As with all hikes in this region, read the information boards at the car park before setting off. You’re unlikely to meet a rattlesnake, mountain lion or find poison oak if you stay on the main trails but it pays to be aware all the same and keep small children from wandering off.”
The walk starts from opposite the second main car park after the Ranger Station Kiosk at the entrance to Malibu Creek State Park. From the toilet blocks to the south west of the car park walk down the steps and cross over the road, joining the hiking trail on the opposite side.
The trail leads over a small bridge over Las Virgenes Creek. There are a couple of nice spots for kids to check out the water and dabble their toes in the water down to the left of the bridge.
Continue up the paved road as it bends around the corner. Eventually this turns into a dust track. Continue straight on the main trail.
The wide dusty trail on the ‘High Road’ leads alongside the east side of Malibu Creek – a pretty dry and boulder ridden state of affairs when we hiked there in mid-October after a long drought ridden summer. The path passes low hills covered in grasses to the right and passes beneath a shady avenue of trees – a blessing when walking with young children in warm weather.
Ignore the smaller side trails leaving the route to the right and continue to walk on the wide, main track up above Malibu Creek as it curves around to the left.
Eventually you will come to a signpost for Century Lake and Crags Road leaving the hiking trail to the right. Unless you are up for an extra diversion then stick to the main path still, heading towards what have to be the most scenically placed portaloos I’ve come across in recent times. It’s a shame they don’t smell as good as their surroundings look!
For those wanting to walk the full route up to the rock pool, turn right at the portaloos turn right and head off on the hiking trail almost directly behind them (if not skip down two paragraphs). It is signposted for the Rock Pool Trail. From this point on the trail becomes narrower and climbs amongst the boulders as it weaves its way closely alongside Malibu Creek. It’s perfectly manageable for small walkers (Roo at just 4 galloped over most of it) but the rough ground means that strollers are a no-go and the very tiniest of toddling tots will most likely need to to be carried.
Keep on the trail until you get to the rock pool. On warm weekends you will know you are getting closer by the steady stream of people returning with wet towels around their necks and the sound of the occasional whoop up ahead on the trail! It’s a great place to rest or picnic with the option to cool off in the water if you fancy a dip. People jump off the rocks nearby but do be aware of the signs that warn you not to do this due to shallow water and underlying rocks. It is actually against state law to dive here.
When you are finished at the rock pool walk back along the hiking trail to ‘portaloo junction’. Turn right back to continue onwards on your original hiking trail. The hiking trail now passes over a bridge back over Malibu Creek. The visitor information centre is off up to the right although it was shut when we visited.
Continue along the main route of Crags Trail, passing some information boards on your left. They give some background on the Native American people who inhabited this land in the past – a reminder of the area’s rich history which is easy to overlook when in built up areas surrounded by its developed and modern trappings.
When the trail splits, keep to the left hand side for the most direct route back. Walk back along the dust track with beautiful views of the hills and mountains surrounding you, following the line of creek and your outward trail from the opposite bank.
The trail joins a larger track on the right. Turn left along this track, cross back over Malibu Creek once more and walk the short distance back to the junction that rejoins your original outward trail. Turn right and walk back retracing your steps to the car park.
Map of Route:
The entrance to Malibu Creek State Park is located on Las Virgenes Road. Head north off the Pacific Highway at Malibu Lagoon State Beach on Malibu Canyon Road and follow the signs for the park. If you reach the intersection with Mullholland Highway you have gone a little too far.
Parking is $12 for the day. There are also options to camp. According to the Malibu Creek State Park website, your parking ticket is also valid for any other California State Park or beach for the same day – something I wish I’d known before we visited as Malibu Lagoon Beach looked a lovely child-friendly chill-out spot to watch the sun go down after a day on the hiking trail.
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