Traversing the gorge between Rock Pool and Century Lake in Malibu Creek State Park
Between Rock Pool and Century Lake in Malibu Creek State Park lies a large C-shaped gorge that can be traversed by experienced hikers who are willing to get wet and engage in a bit of rock climbing. Dangerous conditions may occur and this hike is not recommended for most hikers. Your safety is your responsibility.
To get to Rock Pool, leave the main trailhead parking area and begin hiking west on Crags Road, the principal trail through the park. At 0.3 miles from the start, and just past a junction with Grassland Trail, leave the wide dirt road (High Trail) and take the footpath to the left across the creek. Some rock hopping is required when the water is high. The trail widens as Crags Road turns to the right, passing through a couple junction. Continue another 0.4 miles, walk past the visitor center, and cross a bridge over Malibu Creek (with a great perspective up the gorge you’re going to explore. Across the bridge, take an immediate left on another wide path. After a few hundred feet, when the trail curves to the right, continue straight on the path for another 0.2 miles to Rock Pool.
Rock Pool is situated at the outlet of a picturesque gorge. Sycamores and bays provide great shade, making 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. However, the LA Times warns that rangers may issue tickets to those jumping into Rock Pool:
Diving injuries at the park’s Rock Pool are a weekly occurrence. Sprained ankles, concussions and dislocated shoulders are common … That’s why the park prohibits jumping and diving at the pool.
WARNING: Jumping off rocks into dark murky water is dangerous. Unseen rocks may lurk under the water, so even if one person jumps safely, it could still be perilous. Anyone jumping into Rock Pool does so at their own risk and to your own detriment. Jumping into Rock Pool is a bad idea, and while that type of thrill cannot be endorsed, the photos below offer an illustration of what not to do.
The gorge between Rock Pool and Century Lake is a paradise for rock climbers. The steep but porous walls practically beg to be scaled. However, those interested in a serious adventure hike may traverse the gorge without climbing gear.
The route up the floor of the gorge is difficult at several points. Passage requires griping to holds in the rock and maneuvering across vertical walls that plunge straight into the creek. These tenuous positions will have you feeling like Dr. Emmett Brown on the clock tower in Back To The Future.
To attempt this hike, cross the creek beneath Rock Pool and access the gorge from the left bank. You will see there is no trail here, but the rock levels out a few feet from the water, making it possible to pass along the side of Rock Pool. If this is difficult or frightening for you, turn back here because there are more challenging points ahead.
Above Rock Pool, climb over the large boulders and continue up the left bank until this is no longer an option. Hop the rocks to the right bank as the gorge narrows. Stay close to the creek and scale across the rock wall. This may appear impossible, but it can be done. There is a decent chance you will end up in the water trying to cross this or another point, so be prepared for that.
Continue up the creek, crossing the water as needed. At a grand bend in the gorge to the right, it will be necessary to cross halfway up the bank. There is no trail, so you will need to find your own way. When you see the dam below Century Lake, you are almost at the top of the traverse. Scramble up the left side of the creek, before crossing below the dam and climbing up through a short cave to come out on the right side of Century Lake. At this point, you may need to turn around and hike back the way you came. The park continues to add barbed wire to railing of the dam to dissuade people from venturing through the gorge. If unobstructed (and at your own risk), take the steal walkway across the dam, passing a sign that reads “structure unsafe – keep off” before climbing over or around the barrier fence.
Above the dam is Century Lake. Walk through the picnic area and up the hill to Crags Road. Turn right to return to the park entrance for what is roughly a 4-mile loop. Alternatively, turn left and hike another 1.1 miles to the site where the television show MASH was filmed.
Woolsey Fire Update: Malibu Creek State Park has 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: The entrance to Malibu Creek State Park is located on the west side of Las Virgenes/Malibu Canyon Road between the 101 and PCH, 6.1 miles from the coast (just south of Mulholland Highway). There is a $12 entrance fee to park inside the park and there is also parking available outside the park.
Trailhead address: 1925 Las Virgenes Road, Malibu Creek State Park, Calabasas, CA 91302
Trailhead coordinates: 34.0964, -118.71673 (34° 05′ 47″N 118° 43′ 00.2″W)
Use the map below to view the trail and get directions:
Or view Los Angeles trails and campgrounds in a larger map
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.
|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.
This 4.75-mile hike climbs 500 feet over a scenic mountain between Liberty Canyon and Las Virgenes Canyon on the north end of Malibu Creek State Park.
|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.
|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.
This 4.8-mile round trip hike crosses a panoramic ridge on the north side of Malibu Creek State Park.
|More trails in the Santa Monica Mountains|
Explore other destinations in the range.
|Zuma Canyon Narrows – Zuma Ridge Loop|
This off-trail trek crosses the narrow canyon between Zuma Canyon Trail and Zuma Ridge Trail to form a challenging 8-mile loop.
|Fish Canyon Narrows|
This hike of ten miles or more explores an enchanting narrow canyon on the east side of the Angeles National Forest in the Sierra Pelona Mountains north of Santa Clarita.
|Malibu Creek State Park|
The year-round campground has 63 sites with picnic tables, fire rings, flush toilets, coin showers, and a dump station.
This is known to locals as “Running the Gauntlet”.
Malibu creeks best hiking is off the main trails, follow the creek !
Also, next time go up from the damn to the top of the mountain…known as The Crows Nest.
I am interested in doing the “running the gauntlet” hike as well as continuing up to crow’s nest. Can you give me any guidance on getting from the dam to the top of the mountain?
send me an email Lignatowicz@Yahoo.com
Is this trail dog friendly? I know some trails that don’t allow or are not recommended for dogs
Dogs are not allowed on any trails in Malibu Creek State Park.
Is the rock pool too shallow to jump in now? ..considering the drought and everything
I was just there a couple weeks ago and it was deep enough from the lower 25 foot jump. I did hit the bottom one time when I jumped a little too far out though.
Hi! I hiked this trail and had a blast.
I wanted to know if you know any other rocky trails like this. Rock climbing w/o gear is what I’m looking for mostly.
You might enjoy Cave of Munits or Rocky Peak. Canyons in the San Gabriels like Rubio Canyon are fun to explore too.
Looking to go tomorrow; anyone been recently to know if the water is deep enough to jump from the cliffs?
Was the water deep enough?
Anyone know if this hike can still be done with all the recent rain??
It is important to note that as of a week or so ago the access ladder descending Century dam down to the George Traverse trail has been locked off with padlocked iron bars, and the surrounding fence has been repaired so that it is more difficult to access the entrance/exit to the hike. It is still doable, but slightly trickier and more dangerous because of this.
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