Malibu Creek State Park, in the Calabasas area north of Los Angeles, is a great hiking hangout, replete with sunny hillsides, shady valleys and hidden streams and lakes. But it’s so popular that parking, especially on the weekend, is a nightmare. (It could be even more crowded while Runyon Canyon is shut down for repairs.) To get the benefit of Malibu Creek park without the hassles, try this northern entrance.
1 Leave your car in the parking area behind the “Reagan Ranch” sign, off Lake Vista Drive, just south of Mulholland Highway. Begin walking into the park along a straight paved driveway lined with tall eucalyptus trees.
3 Stay left on the same trail, avoiding spurs off to the right. At the bottom of a ravine, continue straight ahead — and up a steep slope — as Yearling Trail becomes Lookout Trail.
4 Lookout Trail will wind and climb in and out of shady spots and emerge finally at a flat section with trails heading in several directions. Avoid those marked Mulholland Highway and Cistern Trail. Instead, stay on Lookout as it bends left and starts to descend — presenting fine views of the southern end of the park, the distant Hindu Temple and Century Reservoir.
6 For the more difficult walk, turn right from Lookout onto Crags Road, and walk into a narrowing valley, toward Forest Trail. You’ll see the upper reaches of the reservoir on your left and if you were to continue much farther up the valley, a filming site for the TV show “MASH.”
7 A quarter-mile up from the reservoir, on your right, catch the marked Cage Creek Trail as it leaves Crags Road and begins to climb — quite steeply — up a crumbly hillside. Follow this narrow trail as it rises up and over the ridge, and then descends back to the grassy valley where you started your walk. At the T-intersection with Yearling Trail, turn left and return to the parking lot.
Distance: 4.5 miles (or 4 miles for the harder walk)
Difficulty: 3, on a scale of 1 to 5 (or 5 for the harder walk)
Duration: 2 hours
Details: Free parking. Dogs not allowed.
Fleming is the author of “Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles” and “Secret Walks: A Walking Guide to the Hidden Trails of Los Angeles.” To join his free monthly walks in and around Los Angeles, visit the Secret Stairs Facebook page.