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.
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.
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, inventor 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.
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.
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.
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, CA90272
Trailhead coordinates: 34.061, -118.5037 (34° 03′ 39.59″N 118° 30′ 13.31″W)
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