Temescal Canyon Loop offers a good workout along with ocean and canyon views. Temescal Gateway Park is situated just off Sunset Blvd in the Pacific Palisades, and this convenient urban location makes Temescal Canyon Loop a very popular hike. The basic dimensions of the loop is 2.6 miles with 860 feet of elevation gain, but the hike can be expanded to four miles or longer thanks to a variety of extensions. If the elevation seems too extreme, skip the Ridge Trail and enjoy a relaxing out-and-back along Canyon Trail instead, a level trail along the bottom of the canyon that makes up half of the loop.
To reach the main trailhead: Cross the string of parking lots at the base of Temescal Gateway Park. Just past the bathrooms and general store, take the mulch road to the left following signs for Ridge Trail. After a few hundred feet, turn up the stars on the left next to the mileage sign for Ridge Trail and begin the loop.
To avoid walking through so many parking lots: Head to the lot on the southwest end of Temescal Gateway Park along Sunset Boulevard. If you park along Sunset (for free) this lot is east to walk to. Behind a metal gate and a stone pillar, a wide dirt trail heads down to a metal flood control structure. A single track continues along the creek charting a course parallel to the park road to the base of Temescal Ridge Trail. This 0.4-mile trail adds a little more nature to the start of the hike.
From the four-way junction between Temescal Ridge Trail and Temescal Canyon Trail, head up the ridge and begin the 860-foot climb. After less than a quarter mile, the trail enters Topanga State Park where dogs are prohibited.
Chaparral arches over much of the trail, not eliminating the nice views of the Palisades and the Pacific Ocean beyond. The sustain climb leads to a junction with Leacock Trail after 0.8 miles. This is the first of two connection trails that can be used to access Temescal Ridge from Bienveneda Avenue. For those already on the ridge, these trails can be used to extend the hike by 2/3 of a mile, avoiding the last 100 feet of elevation gain and the crowds on Temescal Ridge.
To expand the loop: Turn left on Leacock Trail hiking west toward wide ocean views. Make a right with a meeting with a footpath traveling down a small ridge. Turn right again, 1/4 mile from Temescal Ridge Trail on to Bienveneda Trail, avoiding dropping down to the road itself. The next 3/4 of a mile of less-traveled single track brings you back up to Temescal Ridge Trail just a short distance from the junction with Temescal Canyon Trail.
To stick to the main loop: Hike another 0.4 miles up Temescal Ridge, climbing to greater heights before descending past the Bienveneda Trail junction down to the junction with Temescal Canyon Trail.
Temescal Ridge Trail extends to the left going deeper into the Santa Monica Mountains toward Temescal Peak. The ridge trail passes Skull Rock, a sandstone formation with cranial resemblance, 0.6 miles from the junction (with 250 feet of elevation gain). This outcropping provides sweeping views over Santa Monica Bay and is a fun side trail.
To continue on the loop, turn right and descend into Temescal Canyon. Temescal Canyon Trail drops through chaparral and heavier vegetation, reaching the canyon floor after 0.4 miles at a white footbridge. Cross the wooden bridge just downstream of a small seasonal cascade described on maps as a waterfall.
A larger cascade just below the bridge can be reached by venturing briefly off trail. This is worth checking out in the spring, but is not very impressive when the creek is dry.
After another half mile of gradual descent, the trail tapers our, transforming into an easy stroll through pleasant groves. When the trail reaches an abandoned brick building at the top of the developed region of the canyon, you may continue down the wide road, or head to the right following the single track behind the cabins along the wall of the canyon. The wide trail to the left is less interesting, following the creek past several cabins on the way back to the parking lot. Near the bottom of this trail, you will pass Rivas Canyon Trail, which heads east over the ridge to Will Rogers State Historic Park.
The parallel single trail on the right side of the canyon aims back to the junction at the start of the loop. From here one can hike 0.4 miles down Temescal Canyon Trail to Sunset Boulevard, or get off at the start of the loop to head down toward the bathrooms and parking lots.
Options and distances:
- The basic loop – 2.6 miles
- The loop beginning from Temescal Canyon Trail at Sunset Boulevard – 3.4 miles
- The loop with the Bienveneda Trail extension – 3.25 miles
- The loop beginning from Temescal Canyon Trail at Sunset Boulevard with the Bienveneda Trail extension – 4.05 miles
- The loop with the Skull Rock Extension – 3.8 miles
- The loop beginning from Temescal Canyon Trail at Sunset Boulevard with the Skull Rock extension – 4.6 miles
- The loop beginning from Temescal Canyon Trail at Sunset Boulevard with the Bienveneda Trail extension and the Skull Rock extension – 5.25 miles
Of course, you could also hike farther up Temescal Ridge beyond Skull Rock or take Rivas Canyon Trail over to Will Rogers State Park, but that would create too many options to list.
Enjoy your hike in Temescal Gateway Park. Dogs are not welcome on Temescal Ridge Trail, only along the bottom of the canyon. Parking is free along Sunset Boulevard, but there is a charge to park inside the park.
To get to the trailhead: Temescal Gateway Park is located at the top of Temescal Canyon Road at an intersection with Sunset Blvd, one mile from PCH. Free parking can be found along Temescal Canyon Road and Sunset Blvd. Parking inside the park is $7. Those who park in the lot should exercise caution passing through the intersection with the camera that issues tickets to drivers who do not come to a full stop.
Trailhead address: Sunset Boulevard & Temescal Canyon Road, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
Trailhead coordinates: 34.0502, -118.5291 (34° 03′ 00.7″N 118° 31′ 44.8″W)
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