Sullivan Ridge Hike

Sullivan Ridge rises between Rustic Canyon and Sullivan Canyon east of Will Rogers State Park in a region of the Santa Monica Mountains aptly named the Big Wild. A 6.3-mile long fire road runs along the ridge, accompanied by a single-track trail that diverges from the road to explore more of Sullivan Ridge. A prominent lone-standing live oak along the road makes a natural turnaround point and a 7.5 to 8.3 mile round trip hike (depending on your course).

A gate operated by Josepho Boy Scout Camp controls traffic along Sullivan Fire Road. Only permitted vehicles may pass the gate, so traffic is light. For hikers, find parking at the top of Capri Drive in the Pacific Palisades and begin walking up Sullivan Fire Road past a few houses. After 0.4 miles, cross the gate and have a look out over Rustic Canyon toward Santa Monica Bay.

Sullivan Ridge Trail
Looking east over sunflowers toward Century City and downtown Los Angeles

A quarter mile past the gate, a path to right leads up to the trail running across the top of the ridge. This narrow trail offers a great perspective to the east across Sullivan Canyon toward downtown Los Angeles. The trail rejoins the still-paved fire road one mile later, shaving 0.4 miles from the distance on the fire road, and adding a few fun ups and downs.

What the singe-track bypasses is a crumbling stone wall and iron gate at the entrance of what was once Murphy Ranch, a compound run by Nazi sympathizers in the 1930s. The ranch was raided and shut down shortly after Pearl Harbor, but ruins of the ranch remain and this bizarre piece of LA history can be visited below the fire road in Rustic Canyon.

Sullivan Ridge Trail
The gate to Murphy Ranch

From the spot where the ridge trail rejoins the fire road, it is 0.7 miles to the entrance to Camp Josepho. The boy scout camp takes its name from Anatol Josepho, inverter of the photo booth and friend of Will Rogers. Beyond the camp entrance, the unpaved fire road continues, now closed to vehicle traffic (and dog traffic), and the single-track trail resumes its exploration of the top of the ridge. The trail climbs high above the fire road to offer the finest views of the hike. Indeed, these are spectacular views of the Santa Monica Mountains.

Sullivan Ridge Trail
A mountain biker on Sullivan Ridge

After just over a mile, the trail rejoins the fire road. Continue a third of a mile across a saddle in the ridge to the bold Coastal Live Oak standing along the road. This is one of the only sources of shade, so stop and catch your breath. The landmark tree makes a natural turn-around point for hikers, and the landscape ahead remains fairly similar. To the tree and back is 7.5 to 8.3 miles.

Sullivan Ridge Trail
Looking back on the prominent tree

For those continuing on, not far past the tree the ridge trail breaks off again to climb another crest in the ridge. The two paths rejoin ahead of a junction with the fire road ascending from Sullivan Canyon (1.5 miles beyond the tree). Sullivan Ridge Fire Road continues for another 0.6 mile until it comes to a T at unpaved Mulholland Drive. For those who have made it this far, San Vicente Mountain is one mile to the right (a 13.5 to 14.3 round trip hike).

Sullivan Ridge is very popular with mountain bikers, but hikers will enjoy the ridge’s beautiful vistas as well. Like the nearby Westridge hike, there are two paths that you can go down. This being an out and back hike, feel free to explore them both. Dogs are allowed on leash along the paved road as far as the entrance to Camp Josepho, but not on the single track or dirt fire road beyond. No fee or permit is required, so get out and enjoy.

Sullivan Ridge Trail
Lupines above Sullivan Canyon

To get to the trailhead: From Sunset Boulevard, 3 miles west of the 405, turn north at the light onto Capri Drive. After 1/3 mile continue through the traffic circle, remaining on Capri Drive for another 1/3 mile until it comes to and end at Casale Road. Sullivan Ridge Fire road begins to the left. Find street parking to the right or on an adjacent road.

Trailhead address: Capri Drive & Casale Road, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
Trailhead coordinates: 34.061097, -118.504121 (34° 03′ 39.94″N 118° 30′ 14.83″W)

Use the map below to create your own directions:

View Sullivan Ridge GPS in a larger map
Or view Los Angeles Hikes in a larger map
Photos

Rustic CanyonSullivan Ridge TrailSullivan Ridge TrailSullivan RidgeSullivan Ridge TrailSullivan Ridge TrailSullivan Ridge TrailSullivan Ridge TrailSullivan Ridge TrailSullivan Ridge TrailSullivan RidgeSullivan Ridge TrailSullivan Ridge TrailSullivan Ridge TrailSullivan Ridge TrailSullivan Ridge TrailSullivan Ridge TrailSullivan Ridge TrailSullivan Ridge TrailSullivan Ridge TrailSullivan Ridge TrailSullivan Ridge TrailSullivan Ridge TrailSullivan Ridge TrailSullivan Ridge TrailSullivan Ridge TrailSullivan Ridge TrailSullivan Ridge TrailSullivan Ridge TrailSullivan Ridge Trail

These photos were taken in March of 2010. Click to enlarge.
Nearby Trails
Murphy Ranch Rustic Canyon TrailMurphy Ranch
This 3.85-mile loop descending from Sullivan Ridge Fire Road into Rustic Canyon, where hikers can visit abandoned buildings once occupied by Nazi sympathizers.
Sullivan Canyon TrailSullivan Canyon
This 8.5-mile round trip hike follows a wide trail up the center of a sycamore-filled canyon.
Caballero Canyon TrailCaballero Canyon Trail
This 3.4-mile round trip hike ascends a canyon on the north side of the Santa Monica Mountains with views over the San Fernando Valley.
Westridge TrailWestridge Trail to San Vicente Mountain
This 7.4-mile hike travels a scenic ridge between a Brentwood neighborhood and a summit that was once used as a Nike Missile site.
Mandeville Canyon hikeMandeville Canyon to San Vicente Mountain Loop
This 5-mile hike incorporating a few trails, taking a DWP road up to Westridge to visit San Vicente Mountain, before crossing Mulholland Drive and Canyonback Ridge to return to Mandeville Canyon via Hollyhock Fire Road.
Temescal Canyon TrailTemescal Canyon
This 2.6-mile loop offers a variety of scenery and decent exercise, despite its relative brevity.
Parker Mesa Overlook TrailParker Mesa Overlook
This steep out-and-back hike rewards the effort with excellent views of the Pacific Ocean.
Santa Monica Mountains hikesMore trails in the Santa Monica Mountains
Explore other destinations in the range.
Similar Trail
Zuma Ridge TrailZuma Ridge Trail
This wide dirt service road which weaves northwest up the back of the ridge west of Zuma Canyon offering access to several trails in the area.
Calabasas Peak TrailCalabasas Peak
This 3.6-mile hike travels an easy-to-follow fire road, climbing 1000 feet to panoramic views of the Santa Monica Mountains and San Fernando Valley.
Verdugo mountain trailHostetter Fire Road to Verdugo Peak
This 7.5-mile round-trip hike starts on the north side of the range and ascends La Tuna Canyon to reach the highest summit in the Verdugo Mountains.
Sullivan Ridge Trail Sullivan Ridge Trail Sullivan Ridge Trail Sullivan Ridge Trail Sullivan Ridge Trail Sullivan Ridge Trail Sullivan Ridge Trail Sullivan Ridge Trail Sullivan Ridge Trail Sullivan Ridge Trail Sullivan Ridge Trail Sullivan Ridge Trail Sullivan Ridge Trail Sullivan Ridge Trail Sullivan Ridge Trail Sullivan Ridge Trail Sullivan Ridge Trail Sullivan Ridge Trail Sullivan Ridge Trail Sullivan Ridge Trail Sullivan Ridge Trail Sullivan Ridge Trail Sullivan Ridge Trail Sullivan Ridge Trail Sullivan Ridge Trail Sullivan Ridge Trail Sullivan Ridge Trail

12 Comments on Sullivan Ridge in the Santa Monica Mountains

  1. Jennifer Cirillo says:

    I found an old Boy Scout patch and i was trying to get some history on it. My son is a Eagle scout an a OA Vigil honor recipient and he is 16 as a result we tend to collect patches. The patch is a pocket flap Sullivan trail Scout-a-rama 1955. Do you have any info on its history? Thank you for any help you can give me.

    • hikespeak says:

      Hi Jennifer, I suspect this may have a patch from the early days of Camp Josepho. Beyond that, I do not know.

  2. mary says:

    Dogs allowed?

    • hikespeak says:

      Hi Mary,

      Dogs are allowed, on leash of course. In Topanga State Park you can take dogs on most major fire roads, just not on smaller trails. Enjoy your hike!

  3. Mary Ann Frericks says:

    Two comments: dogs are not allowed anywhere in Topanga State Park. That includes dogs on leash. Rangers freely issue $75 tickets to those bringing dogs into the State Park. On a lighter note, Anatol Josepho was the inventor of the photo booth. He also invented the one knob shower handle. What a guy!

    • hikespeak says:

      Hi Mary,

      Great info on Antol Josepho! Dogs are actually allowed on leash on the paved road along Sullivan Ridge (according to the sign anyway). You are correct in that dogs are allowed almost nowhere else in the park and not on any dirt trails. Nearby Westridge Trail is a great hike for dog owners.

  4. Donna Garrone says:

    Are bicycles allowd on this trail?

  5. victoria says:

    can i ride a road bike on the course?

  6. nora says:

    How difficult is the trail to mountain bike. Is it appropriate for children? Are there many inclines and are they steep?

Ask a question or share your experience

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *