Malibu’s Leo Carrillo State Park reopens after devastating Woolsey fire

A kite surfer rides a gust of wind along the coastline at Leo Carrillo State Park in Malibu in 2016.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Campers and beachgoers flocked to the coast this weekend as Leo Carrillo State Park in Malibu reopened following a massive cleanup from the Woolsey fire.

The park began taking campground reservations Wednesday after work crews spent seven months sweeping up and removing debris from the site, a popular destination for 50 years.

“By reopening this park, people can experience a sense of normalcy again,” said Jerry West, acting deputy district superintendent for the Angeles District of California State Parks. “They can return to camping traditions they’ve been carrying on for generations.”


In November, the Woolsey fire, the most destructive in Los Angeles and Ventura counties’ history, destroyed more than 1,500 structures from Oak Park to Malibu, burning almost 97,000 acres and killing three people.

At Leo Carrillo State Park, the blaze burned down the visitor center, restrooms and staging facilities used by park workers. It also charred to a crisp the brush on the surrounding hills.

The campgrounds, located in the mouth of the canyon, were left surprisingly untouched. That included the Beach Store, a small concession stand run by the same owner for decades.

The challenge for cleanup workers came long after the fire was defeated and rain began to the pound the hillsides, triggering mudslides that overwhelmed campsites down below.

“We had crews working week after week to clean it all up,” West said.

On Saturday, many of the sites were occupied and families were back at the park enjoying the shade of sycamore trees and panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean.