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Malibu Creek State Park

Malibu Creek Trail
To Rock Pool is 3.5 miles round trip with 150-foot elevation gain;
to Century Lake is 4.5 miles round trip with 200-foot elevation gain

Before land for Malibu Creek State Park was acquired in 1974, it was divided into three parcels belonging to Bob Hope, Ronald Reagan, and 20th Century Fox. Although the park is still used for moviemaking, it’s primarily a haven for day hikers and picnickers.

Today the state park preserves more than 7,000 acres of rugged country in the middle of the Santa Monica Mountains. Malibu Creek winds through the park. The creek was dammed at the turn of the century to form little Century Lake.

The trail along Malibu Creek explores the heart of the state park. It’s an easy, nearly level walk that visits a dramatic rock gorge, Century Lake and several locales popular with moviemakers.

Directions to trailhead: From Pacific Coast Highway, turn inland on Malibu Canyon Road and proceed 6.5 miles to the park entrance, 0.25 mile south of Mulholland Highway. If you’re coming from the San Fernando Valley, exit the Ventura Freeway (101) on Las Virgenes Road and continue four miles to the park entrance.

The hike: From the parking area, follow the wide fire road. You’ll cross the all-but-dry creek. The road soon forks into a high road and a low road. Go right and walk along the oak-shaded high road, which makes a long, lazy left arc as it follows the north bank of Malibu Creek. You’ll reach an intersection and turn left on a short road that crosses a bridge over Malibu Creek.

You’ll spot the Gorge Trail and follow it upstream a short distance to the gorge, one of the most dramatic sights in the Santa Monica Mountains. Malibu Creek makes a hairpin turn through 400-foot volcanic rock cliffs and cascades into aptly named Rock Pool. The “Swiss Family Robinson” television series and some Tarzan movies were filmed here.

Return to the trailhead or retrace your steps back to the high road and bear left toward Century Lake. As the road ascends you’ll be treated to a fine view of Las Virgenes Valley. When you gain the crest of the hill, you’ll look down on Century Lake. Near the lake are hills of porous lava and topsy-turvy sedimentary rock layers that tell of the violent geologic upheaval that formed Malibu Canyon. The lake was scooped out by members of Crag’s Country Club, a group of wealthy, turn of-the-century businessmen who had a nearby lodge.

You can call it a day here, or continue on the fire road past Century Lake. You’ll pass the location of the now-removed set for the “M*A*S*H” television series. The prominent Goat Buttes that tower above Malibu Creek were featured in the opening shot of each episode.

© 2012 The Trailmaster, Inc.
From John McKinney’s
Day Hiker’s Guide to California’s State Parks
Trail descriptions and maps have been reproduced with the permission of the author.  To learn more about The Trailmaster and other related publications please visit their website at