Calabasas Peak via Calabasas Peak Motorway from Old Topanga Canyon Road in the Santa Monica Mountains
Also known as Calabasas Peak Trail, Calabasas Peak Motorway is a 3.8-mile long dirt fire road that passes below the summit of Calabasas Peak. Hikers on the trail can examine interesting sandstone rock formations on and around Calabasas Peak and enjoy broad views over a scenic part of the Santa Monica Mountains between Topanga and Agoura Hills. One way to reach the summit of Calabasas Peak is to hike from the northeast end of Calabasas Peak Motorway where the fire road meets Old Topanga Canyon Road at the top of the valley west of Topanga. From Old Topanga Canyon Road to Calabasas Peak is a 4.2-mile round trip hike with 635 feet of elevation change.
Several routes lead to Calabasas Peak. From the south, you can hike up Calabasas Peak Motorway to Calabasas Peak from Stunt Road. From the southeast, begin from Red Rock Canyon Park to join Calabasas Peak Motorway on the ascent up the south side of the mountain. From the northwest, take Calabasas – Cold Creek Trail from Mulholland Highway up to Calabasas Peak Motorway, joining the trail up the north side of Calabasas Peak described below.
The northeast approach to Calabasas Peak starts from the high point of Old Topanga Canyon Road at the top of the valley that runs northwest from Topanga. This elevated start means that you’ll be treated to big views even as the hike is getting underway. Only 635 vertical feet separate the trailhead from the summit, less than the other routes to Calabasas Peak, but extra climbs over crests on Calabasas Peak Motorway mean that this is not one smooth ascent.
From the trailhead on Old Topanga Canyon Road, walk south up a paved road (Summit to Summit Motorway is across from Calabasas Peak Motorway on the north side of the road). At the beginning, Calabasas Peak Motorway looks like a pair of drives. Bear left at a split in the road, following signs for the trail. Just after that, and about 250 feet from the start, take the dirt single track that breaks off the right side of the paved road, marked with another trail sign.
The narrow trail wraps around an east-facing slope, providing a broad early view over Topanga and the surrounding green mountains of the Santa Monicas. At 0.2 miles from the start, the narrow track meets a wide dirt road, Calabasas Peak Motorway, having successfully bypassed the short piece of the road that doubles as a driveway. The trail is wide and unpaved from this point on.
Continue southwest up Calabasas Peak Motorway, looking down on the western end of Old Topanga Canyon Road and north toward Calabasas and the west end of the San Fernando Valley. The road casually ascends a small rise over the next two tenths of a mile before dropping across a saddle. Leaving this saddle, half a mile from the start, the ascent becomes serious and the road climbs a larger crest in the ridgeline, picking up about 250 feet of elevation over the next 0.55 miles.
As the trail ascends, there are broad over-the-shoulder views looking north over the San Fernando Valley. At 0.9 miles from Old Topanga Canyon Road, nearing the top of the crest, continue past a path on the right that descends to the north.
Calabasas Peak Motorway tapers out, and reaches a 1,950-foot crest at 1.05 miles from the start. This mini-summit along the trail offers sweeping and satisfying views. Look east over Topanga, where ranches are framed by green ridges and peaks. Look south up Calabasas Peak Motorway toward Calabasas Peak, which is backed by Saddle Peak, the sixth highest summit in the Santa Monica Mountains. Below Calabasas Peak to the southeast, you can see some of the rosy-colored rock formations in Red Rock Canyon Park. Continuing down Calabasas Peak Motorway, you’ll get a big perspective looking west, where Castro Peak towers over the Goat Buttes in Malibu Creek State Park.
Leave the crest and hike downhill over the next quarter mile to a saddle along the ridgeline where there is a junction with Calabasas – Cold Creek Trail. Just beyond the crest, a park sign on the right marks the top of a faint path that descends to the west. Stick with Calabasas Peak Motorway, which weaves like a snake on a gentle downhill grade.
At 1.3 miles from Old Topanga Canyon Road, Calabasas Peak Motorway passes the top of Calabasas – Cold Creek Trail, which is on the right, flanked by sandstone outcroppings. Calabasas – Cold Creek Trail, which was formerly called the Secret Trail, is marked by a sign that’s too rusted over to be read. Stay to the left through the junction to proceed toward the summit up Calabasas Peak Motorway.
Calabasas Peak Motorway rolls south along the ridge toward Calabasas Peak. Alternating views to the east and west motivate the ascent, and sometimes you can look off the ridge in both directions. At 0.4 miles past Calabasas – Cold Creek Trail, go through an open gate in a chain-link fence. The trail continues to ascend and, at 1.85 miles from Old Topanga Canyon Road, reaches a path that rises from the right side of the road up a ridge to the summit of Calabasas Peak. If you leave Calabasas Peak Motorway here and take the path to the summit, you are in for a steep climb. It is easier to continue a little farther up Calabasas Peak Motorway (maintaining a reasonable ascent) and approach the summit from the other side.
After another quarter mile, and 2.1 miles from the north end of Calabasas Peak Motorway, the trail comes to an outcropping of rocks on the left. Leave Calabasas Peak Motorway here or you will begin to descend off the mountain toward the south end of Calabasas Peak Motorway at Stunt Road. Walk out to a boulder, have a seat, and enjoy one of the prime views on Calabasas Peak. Look east over Red Rock Canyon Park, which is filled with colorful and cleverly formed sandstone formations. Topanga Lookout and Saddle Peak rise to the south, and a sliver of the Pacific Ocean is visible to the southeast. The pointed and pocketed rock formations below this viewpoint are quite interesting and not as visible from the actual summit, so take a good look before continuing to the mountaintop.
To reach the top of Calabasas Peak, backtrack north up Calabasas Peak Motorway for under a tenth of a mile until you see a path on the left (west) heading up the ridge to the summit. Take the path for a tenth of a mile up to a T-junction. The path to the right goes down the north side of the mountain to Calabasas Peak Motorway (this is the steep route back). Turn left and hike the last 50 yards to the summit of Calabasas Peak. There is a register at the top of the small summit. Waist-high brush allows for open panoramic views. Look east toward Topanga, south toward Saddle Peak, west toward Castro Peak, and north over the San Fernando Valley where downtown Calabasas is marked by a cluster of tall dark buildings. The seasonally snowcapped San Gabriel Mountains are visible across the valley. Calabasas Peak Motorway looks impressive below the summit to the east, passing through a garden of exposed sandstone beneath the summit of Calabasas Peak.
After enjoying the views, you can return down the path you took up or bear left at the split near the summit and follow the path that heads north down to the ridge, which gets very steep as it drops down the ridge to reconnect with Calabasas Peak Motorway.
Hike back along Calabasas Peak Motorway to complete this 4.2-mile round trip hike with 635 feet of elevation change. Calabasas Peak can also be reached by hiking up the south end of Calabasas Peak Motorway from Stunt Road or Red Rock Canyon Park and from the northwest via Calabasas – Cold Creek Trail. Dogs and mountain bikes are welcome on Calabasas Peak Motorway. No fee or permit is required for this hike, so get out and enjoy!
To get to the trailhead: From the 101 Freeway, take exit 29 for Valley Circle Boulevard/Mulholland Drive. At the end of the ramp, turn south on Mulholland Drive (which is called Valley Circle Boulevard north of the freeway). Drive south for 0.6 miles and turn right on Valmar Road. Valmar Road becomes Old Topanga Canyon Road after 0.4 miles. Stay on Old Topanga Canyon Road for an additional 0.8 miles and turn right at an intersection with Mulholland Highway. Drive less than a quarter mile and turn left up Old Topanga Canyon Road. Drive 1.6 miles and cross the top of Old Topanga Canyon Road to reach the start of Calabasas Peak Motorway, which is on the right. Roadside parking is available just past Calabasas Peak Motorway.
Trailhead address: Old Topanga Canyon Road & Calabasas Peak Motorway, Topanga, CA 90290
Trailhead coordinates: 34.124945, -118.63486 (34° 07′ 29.80″N 118° 38′ 05.49″W)
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|Summit to Summit Motorway |
This mostly unpaved road along the ridge between the tops of Old Topanga Canyon Road and Topanga Canyon Boulevard provides a 6 to 6.6-mile hike with panoramic views over the Santa Monica Mountains and the San Fernando Valley (with the potential for shorter and longer hikes).
|Calabasas Peak via Calabasas - Cold Creek Trail |
This 4.5-mile round trip hike starts up a scenic single track formerly know as the Secret Trail and ascends 750 feet to the summit of Calabasas Peak.
|Stunt Road to Calabasas Peak |
This 3.6-mile hike travels an easy-to-follow fire road, climbing 900 feet to panoramic views of the Santa Monica Mountains and San Fernando Valley.
|Red Rock Canyon |
The trails in the beautifully sculpted Red Rock Canyon are 2.5 and 5.2 miles in length.
|Stunt High Trail to Saddle Peak |
This 7.5-mile hike combines Stunt High Trail and a section of the Backbone Trail to visit the 6th tallest summit in the Santa Monica Mountains.
|Backbone Trail to Saddle Peak |
This 2-mile hike approaches Saddle Peak from the east.
|Topanga Lookout |
This 2-mile visits the site of an old fire tower that still offers great views of the surrounding mountains.
| More trails in the Santa Monica Mountains |
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