Lake Vista Trail
in Malibu Creek State Park
The scenic vista point at the top of Lake View Trail provides a beautiful view overlooking Malibu Lake and the surrounding mountains. The network of trails through Malibu Creek State Park offer several routes to the overlook, including a short 2.1-mile loop from a trailhead off Lake Vista Drive and a longer 4.1-mile out and back trek that begins down Cistern Trail from Mulholland Highway.
The 4.1-mile hike goes downhill and then ascends to the to the top of Lake Vista Trail with 350 feet of elevation between the high and low points of the hike. A 4.2-mile loop is also an option. Turn-by-turn directions for all of these routes are provided below.
Cistern Trail to Lake Vista
Park along Mulholland Highway and hike down the quarter mile long Cistern Trail to a T-junction with Lookout Trail. There are scenic views over the park along the way, including a great perspective of the Goat Buttes. Turn right at the junction and head west for 0.43 miles to a junction with Cage Creek Trail.
Continue straight ahead on a grassland-crossing single track named Yearling Trail. Just past the marked junction with Cage Creek Trail is an unmarked junction with Deer Leg Trail. Turn left here (or make the left at the next junction on a connection trail to Deer Leg Trail) and follow this trail to the base of Lake Vista Trail. Deer Leg Trail heads uphill into the trees for a short distance before turning sharply to the right. A footpath continues straight ahead down a slope toward Crags Road at the bottom of Cage Creek Trail, but this is not the way to Lake Vista Trail. If you miss the sharp right turn and begin a steep descent, it is time to backtrack.
Saplings arch over Deer Leg Trail to provide pleasant shade. Pass through a junction with the connection path coming up from Yearling Trail, and progress westward to the second of two picnic tables. Take the split to the left on Lake Vista Trail. The junction is unmarked and easy to bypass. Look for stone steps at the bottom of the trail to verify that you are on the right track. If Deer Leg Trail exits the forest and returns to grasslands toward a junction with Yearling Trail, you have missed it.
Ascend the wooded ridge, gaining 275 feet over 0.72 miles. There are limited views through the trees until you reach the top of the ridge and are presented with a sublime view to the west over Malibu Lake. The lake looks seductive from this perch, a gleaming gem of water hidden by tall green mountains.
The trail continues for 0.1 miles descending to a junction with an Edison service road. To the left, the road continues another 0.1 miles to a dead end that provides the greatest view of the slender Y-shaped lake. Short but impressive Sugarloaf Peak rises behind the lake, backed by row after row of mountains.
Backtrack a tenth of a mile to the end of Lake Vista Trail. If you are returning to the Cistern Trailhead, it is best (most picturesque) to hike back via Lake Vista Trail. Straight ahead, the Edison Service Road descends 170 feet over a third of a mile to a trailhead off Lake Vista Drive. The steep road has loose rutted soil and is not the best for hiking. The Edison Service Road can be used to add a loop to the hike to Lake Vista.
Lake Vista Drive to Lake Vista
For a short loop to Lake Vista, start hiking from the nearby trailhead off Lake Vista Drive, which also provides access to Paramount Ranch. East of the end of the Edison Service Road, begin on an asphalt road, going east for 0.37 miles to Reagan Ranch (once owned by the former president) at the west end of Yearling Trail. Buildings at Reagan Ranch were burned by the 2018 Woolsey Fire.
Take that horse-trodden single track for 0.13 miles to a V with the west end of Deer Leg Trail. Turn right and hike a quarter mile up to the picnic table. Make a sharp right onto Lake Vista Trail. Ascend to the great views of Malibu Lake. From the end of Lake Vista Trail, descend via the sEdison Service Road back to the trailhead off Lake Vista Drive for a 2.1-mile loop.
The basic directions starting from Lake Vista Trailhead are:
- Set out east on an asphalt road (0 miles)
- Proceed onto Yearling Trail (0.37 miles)
- Bear right up Deer Leg Trail (0.5 miles)
- Turn right up Lake Vista Trail (0.75 miles)
- Cross the top of Lake Vista Trail (1.47 miles)
- Come to the end of Lake Vista Trail and turn left down the Edison Service Road (1.57 miles)
- Reach the end of the service road and turn around (1.67 miles)
- Pass the end of Lake Vista Trail (1.77 miles)
- Follow the Edison Service Road down to the Lake Vista Trailhead (2.1 miles)
From Cistern Trail to Lake Vista Overlook is 4.1 miles out and back with 350 feet of elevation between the low and high points of the trail. The elevation profile of this hike is bowl-shaped with uphill hiking at both ends. Tack on Century Lake or the M*A*S*H set to extend this outing to 4.85 or 6.35 miles. Exceptional views along Cistern Trail and from the end of Lake Vista Trail make for a worthwhile hike.
The basic directions for the hike starting from Cistern Trail are:
- Set out down Cistern Trail from Mulholland Highway (0 miles)
- At the bottom of Cistern Trail, turn right on Lookout Trail (0.25 miles)
- Stay to the right past the top of Cage Creek Trail (0.68 miles)
- Turn left up Deer Leg Trail (0.75 miles)
- Stay to the left past a connector trail going down to Yearling Trail (1.03 miles)
- Turn left up Lake Vista Trail (1.13 miles)
- Cross the top of Lake Vista Trail (1.85 miles)
- Come to the end of Lake Vista Trail and turn left down an Edison Service Road (1.95 miles)
- Reach the end of the Edison Service Road and turn around (2.05 miles)
Returning loop option:
- Start back from the end of Edison Service Road (2.05 miles)
- Stay left past the end of Lake Vista Trail (2.15 miles)
- Come to the Lake Vista Trailhead and turn right on an asphalt road (2.48 miles)
- Continue onto Yearling Trail (2.85 miles)
- Bear right past the west end of Deer Leg Trail (2.98 miles)
- Stay to the left past a connector trail up to Deer Leg Trail (3.31 miles)
- Stay left past the east end of Deer Leg Trail (3.45 miles)
- Stay to the left past the top of Cage Creek Trail on Lookout Trail (3.52 miles)
- Turn left up Cistern Trail (3.95 miles)
- Return to Mulholland Highway (4.2 miles)
Woolsey Fire Update: Lake Vista Trail and most of Malibu Creek State Park have reopened following the November 2018 Woolsey Fire, which burned through the park. Check the Malibu Creek State Park page for more information.
To get to the trailhead: From Las Virgenes Canyon Road near the main entrance of Malibu Creek State Park, head west on Mulholland Highway for 1.8 miles. The trailhead is on the south side of the road, just east of a dirt turnout. The trail sign is set back from the road, making it difficult to spot. Just west of Cistern Trail is another trailhead on the north side of the road for Phantom Trail. This trail sign is easier to spot. Turn around when you see it, and the start of Cistern Trail will be apparent on the south side of the road.
Trailhead address: 27800 Mulholland Highway, Agoura Hills, CA 91301
Trailhead coordinates: 34.1052, -118.7318 (34° 06′ 19″N 118° 43′ 54.5″W)
View Santa Monica Mountains in a larger map
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|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.
|Phantom Trail |
This 4.8-mile round trip hike crosses a panoramic ridge on the north side of Malibu Creek State Park.
|Grassland Trail to Crags Road and Rock Pool |
This easy 3-mile hike enters Malibu Creek State Park on South Grassland Trail, then forms a loop around Crags Road to visit Rock Pool, a popular park retreat.
|M*A*S*H Set |
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.
|Talepop Loop |
This 4.75-mile hike climbs 500 feet over a scenic mountain between Liberty Canyon and Las Virgenes Canyon.
|Malibu Creek Traverse |
This adventure hike explores the C-shaped gorge between Rock Pool and Century Lake in Malibu Creek State Park.
|Paramount Ranch |
This segment of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area includes Western Town, an outdoor set cast as frontier towns in TV and film since the 1950s. There are also several miles of hiking trails to explore.
|More trails in the Santa Monica Mountains |
Explore other destinations in the range.
|Malibu Creek State Park |
The year-round campground has 63 sites with picnic tables, fire rings, flush toilets, coin showers, and a dump station.
I run that Lake Vista trail often when I am in Malibu Creek Park but I didn’t realize that what it was called.
That would be a perfect trail if it wasn’t for the noise of the motorbikes buzzing up and down Mulholland.
We made a turn somewhere and was never able to find the Edison tower. Will have to try this again.
[…] More information: Trip description (including alternate route) here […]