Point Mugu State Park preserves a stunningly picturesque portion of the Santa Monica Mountains at the west end of Malibu. When you see park trails with names like Scenic Trail and Overlook Trail, you anticipate first class ocean views. Scenic and Overlook Trails Loop delivers the goods! This 2.7-mile hike climbs 450 feet to tremendous vistas atop a ridge west of Big Sycamore Canyon. The trek can (and should) be stretched to 3.5 miles by traveling down a ridge trail that parts from the loop to present ocean views typically reserved for exotic vacation destinations.
Begin the hike from the day use area at the bottom of Big Sycamore Canyon in Point Mugu State Park. Walk a quarter mile through Sycamore Canyon Campground to the start of a dirt service road named Big Sycamore Canyon Trail. Pass through the gate and shuffle forward about fifty steps to a dirt single track departing on the left dubbed Scenic Trail. Turn here and make your way across Big Sycamore Creek (which is typically dry) to the west wall of the canyon where the climb begins. Occasional wooden steeps assist the ascent up a slope dominated by coastal sage. The thigh-high vegetation allows for open views both up Big Sycamore Canyon and down on the blue waters beyond the mouth of the canyon.
Looking down Scenic Trail into Big Sycamore Canyon
Two-thirds of a mile from the start, you will reach the top of Scenic Trail in a saddle on a bluff 450 feet above the surf. There is a sign at the junction offering an arrow to the right toward the connector to Overlook Trail. There are several other paths branching off from the top of Scenic Trail, and before you continue the loop, you owe it to yourself to explore at least a couple.
Straight head, a rugged track climbs approximately half a mile up the ridge to Ray Miller Trail. The shortest extension brings you to a viewpoint on the bluff where you will find a hitching post and a sweeping panorama along the coast toward Point Mugu. Beneath the bluff, PCH can be seen cutting across a sandy beach. Reach the landing by hiking straight from the junction for a few hundred feet, curving to the left down to the overlook.
Viewpoints off the end of Scenic Trail
For a bit more exercise and overwhelming ocean views, make a hard left at the top of Scenic Trail on a path that traverses the ridge framing the west side of the bottom of Big Sycamore Canyon. This 0.4-mile long bonus track gains another 100 feet and is easy to follow as it crosses the spine of a rugged undulating ridge bordered by dramatic drop-offs. To the west there is a dangerously steep drop to a sandy beach running between the ridge and the rocky point that gives the state park its name. To the east, there is a slightly less steep slope giving way to Big Sycamore Canyon.
Looking down on Big Sycamore Canyon Campground from the end of the ridge trail
The trail ends atop a prominence at the end of the ridge. The towering terminus offers striking sea breezes and views to see. You have a bird’s eye perspective of the campground to the left, shaded by hearty sycamores. To the right, beneath a 400-foot bluff, there is a slope of sand feeding into the Pacific. Point Mugu juts into the blue water on the horizon to the west. It is a rare and stunning vista. Even if you only made a short trip to the park from Los Angeles, this trail will have you feeling like you took a vacation to a faraway paradise.
Looking back down the ridge trail extending from the top of Scenic Trail
From the top of Scenic Trail, is it less than a tenth of a mile on the connector to Overlook Trail. Turn right on this wide fire road and begin hiking downhill. With the ocean views behind you, the back half of the loop serves up scintillating inland views of Big Sycamore Canyon. To the northeast, the highest peaks in the range, the Boney Mountains, make a brief appearance.
Looking up Big Sycamore Canyon from Overlook Trail
After 0.9 miles of canyon views, Overlook Trail comes to an end. Turn right on Big Sycamore Canyon Trail and hike 0.45 level miles back to the gate at the bottom of the trail to close out the loop. If you aren’t spending the night at Sycamore Canyon Campground, hike a quarter mile back to the day use parking area. If you would like a closer view of the ocean, take the path beneath the bridge and enjoy a relaxing moment on the beach.
There is a $10 fee to park in the Big Sycamore Canyon Day Use Area, and there is free parking along PCH outside the entrance. Dogs are not allowed on the trails. Mountain bikes are allowed on Overlook Trail and Big Sycamore Canyon Trail, but not on Scenic Trail. No permit is required to hike Scenic and Overlook Trails Loop, so get out and enjoy.
To get to the trailhead: From Los Angeles, take the 10 Freeway west through Santa Monica and follow PCH northwest for 32 miles through Malibu to Point Mugu State Park. Drive 3.2 miles past Yerba Buena Road, and turn right into Sycamore Canyon Campground. Just past the park entrance station, turn left into the day use parking area.
From Oxnard, head southeast on PCH for twelve miles and turn left into Sycamore Canyon Campground.
Trailhead address: Sycamore Canyon Road, Malibu, CA 90265
Trailhead coordinates: 34.071305, -119.012668 (34° 04′ 16.69″N 119° 00′ 45.60″W)
Use the map below to create your own directions:
|La Jolla Canyon Loop|
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|La Jolla Canyon Falls|
This 1.5-mile hike visits a short seasonal waterfall in Point Mugu State Park.
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|Sycamore Canyon Campground|
This 58-site campground in Point Mugu State Park sits at the mouth of a beachfront canyon and has access to trails through the west end of the Santa Monica Mountains.