South Grassland Trail enters Malibu Creek State Park from Mulholland Highway, providing a scenic stroll over rolling hills. The trail ends at Crags Road, the major hiking artery through the park. If you are familiar with hiking out of the main parking lot, starting on the Grassland Trail will add about 0.8 miles to your hike. By entering on Grassland Trail, you also avoid driving into the park and paying the $12 vehicle fee. (California doesn’t really need the money anyway, right?) For a pleasant 3-mile hike through Malibu Creek State Park with just 125 feet of elevation gain, consider this lollipop loop from South Grassland Trail to Rock Pool.
South Grassland Trail
The gradual undulating fire road heads south through open fields of grain, gaining 100 feet of elevation, or just enough to offer far-stretching views of the Santa Monica Mountains. After 2/3 of a mile, Grassland Trail drops to Crags Road and comes to an end. To the left, it is 0.2 miles back to the large parking area near the park entrance. This is the more common and more expensive trailhead for hikes to Rock Pool and elsewhere. In the other direction, Crags Road heads deeper into Malibu Creek State Park.
Turn right at the bottom of Grassland Trail, heading northwest on Crags Road. Stroll along the level creek-side fire road and enjoy the shade of overhanging oaks. Malibu Creek dries out completely in the fall, but the views of the mountain range remain pleasant year round.
Looking across a dry Malibu Creek toward the Goat Buttes towering over Rock Pool
After another 2/3 of a mile, come to a signed junction. Straight ahead, Crags Road continues toward Century Lake and the old MASH set. For Rock Pool, turn left in the direction of the visitor center. Just before reaching a bridge that crosses Malibu Creek, make a right on another wide trail. After a short distance, this trail turns to the right, but you should continue straight ahead on the unmarked but well-worn path to Rock Pool. The path follows the creek that flows out the bottom of Rock Pool, passing a popular climbing rock called Planet of the Apes Wall (because Planet of the Apes was filmed here). The sound of delighted children splashing around the inviting waters will likely guide your ears over the last 0.2 miles to Rock Pool.
Rock Pool is situated at the outlet of a picturesque gorge. Sycamores and bays provide excellent shade and make this a perfect spot to have a picnic and relax by the reflective waters. Despite its name, you may see some people cliff jumping into Rock Pool. The LA Times warns that rangers may issue tickets to those who do so. Upstream lies a steep gorge with porous rock walls that make it a playground for rock climbers and adventurous hikers. If you are in the mode for a challenging trek that traverses the gorge between Rock Pool and Century Lake, or just want to see photos of cliff jumping into Rock Pool, read more here.
To get back to Grassland Trail, you may return the way you came, or cross over the bridge toward the visitor center and add a loop in the middle of the hike. This return route is a quarter-mile shorter, but a bit less scenic.
Pass over the bridge and head to the left through a level field in the direction of the park entrance. After 0.4 miles, take the footpath across the creek to rejoin Crags Road. Rock hopping is required here in the spring, but the creek dries out completely during the fall, despite being the largest watershed in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Turn right on Crags Road and walk a short distance back to Grassland Trail. In this direction, the start of Grassland Trail is somewhat steep, but things tapers out as the trail crosses scenic grasslands and descends to Mulholland Highway. This level 3-mile loop offers a great introduction to Malibu Creek State Park. No fee or permit is required to hike in on the Grassland Trail, so get out and enjoy.
On the north side of Mulholland Highway, Grassland Trail continues, offering another popular hike, Talepop Loop.
To get to the trailhead: Take Las Virgenes/Malibu Canyon Road to the intersection with Mulholland Highway, 6.3 miles from the coast and 3.3 miles from the 101 freeway in Lost Hills. Turn west at the light on Mulhollad Highway and drive 0.15 mile to the trailhead on the left. There is street parking on the both sides of the road.
Trailhead address: 27000 Mulholland Highway, Agoura Hills, CA 91301
Trailhead coordinates: 34.103394, -118.713806 (34° 06′ 12.21″N 118° 42′ 49.70″W)
Use the map below to view the trail and get directions:
Or view Los Angeles trails and campgrounds in a larger map
This 4.75-mile hike climbs 500 feet over a scenic mountain between Liberty Canyon and Las Virgenes Canyon.
|Cistern, Lookout, and Cage Creek Trails|
This team of single tracks make a scenic descent to Century Lake in Malibu Creek State Park, providing a short loop or longer hikes to other destinations.
|Malibu Creek Traverse|
This adventure hike explores the C-shaped gorge between Rock Pool and Century Lake in Malibu Creek State Park.
This hike visits the site where the exteriors of the television show MASH were filmed, a 4.75-mile trek from the park entrance.
|Lost Cabin Trail|
This 1.5-mile round trip extension to the MASH set hike dead-ends in a mountain canyon at the site of a now nonexistent cabin.
|Lake Vista Trail|
This 4.1-mile hike crosses the west end of Malibu Creek State Park and climbs to a scenic view over Malibu Lake.
|More trails in the Santa Monica Mountains|
Explore other destinations in the range.
This easy and level 2.6-mile out and back hike visits the ruins of a burned down ranch and a small waterfall.
|Zuma Canyon Trail|
This 2.8-mile hike leaves a coastal Malibu neighborhood to explore rustic Zuma Canyon.
This 7.4-mile hike ascends from Santa Ynez Canyon to a sandstone summit in Topanga State Park with panoramic views of the Santa Monica Mountains.
|Eaton Canyon Falls|
This 3.5-mile hike goes up Eaton Wash to a narrow stretch of Eaton Canyon containing a pleasant 40-foot waterfall.
|Malibu Creek State Park|
The year-round campground has 63 sites with picnic tables, fire rings, flush toilets, coin showers, and a dump station.