This demanding 8-mile loop includes two miles off-trail, trekking through a lush untamed canyon. Begin the loop on Zuma Canyon Trail. The sandy single track traverses a brushy open space, crossing and following a stony creek bed. After 1.4 miles, Zuma Canyon narrows and the trail dissolves. The true challenge begins!
From the end of Zuma Canyon Trail, it is two miles to the next maintained path, an Edison Fire Road. In between lies an arduous, two to three hour crossing. There is thick brush to push through, boulders to climb over, and pools of water to navigate around (or wade through in the wet season). The canyon floor is a mere hundred feet across for much of the duration, leaving few options when plotting a course. Occasionally there is a thin deer trail to follow, but for the most part, hiker-explorers must make their own way. Tall cattails, ferns, and other shrubs add to the challenge, while well-watered willows, oaks, bays, and sycamores stretch skyward, further entrapping hikers and limiting views.
Plot ahead up the overgrown canyon as it twists and turns, remaining on the look out for deep mud and poison oak. Standing in the dense vegetation, breathing in the canyon-trapped humidity, can make a hiker wish they had a machete (not that you should). Progress is slow going and judging distances traveled is difficult.
The sandstone boulders increase in mass and the canyon levels out and approaches the Edison Fire Road. The intersection is impossible to miss, and will come as a relief after such a long struggle.
Those eager to spend more time in the thick of things can venture up Zuma Canyon as far as the 25-foot tall Newton Canyon Falls beneath Kanan Dune Road.
To return, turn left on the road toward Zuma Ridge. Free from the jungle in the Canyon, the 1,085-foot climb up the wide dirt road may not seem so bad. The sun-exposed Edison Road snakes its way up the ridge offering expending views over Zuma Canyon.
At the top, turn left on Zuma Ridge Road. It is all down hill from here, so enjoy the ocean views over this 2.7-mile descent. At the bottom, take the marked Ridge-Canyon Access Trail for 0.6 miles to return to Bonsall Trailhead.
To get to the trailhead: Take PCH to Malibu and make a right on Bonsall Drive, one mile west of Kanan Dune Road (If you pass Zuma Beach, you have gone too far). Drive north on Bonsall Drive for one more mile to the dirt parking lot at the end of the road. The trail leaves from the northwest corner of the lot.
Trailhead address: 5875 Bonsall Drive, Malibu, CA 90265
Trailhead coordinates: 34.031492, -118.81214 (34° 01′ 53.37″N 118° 48′ 43.70″W)
|Zuma Canyon Trail|
This 2.8-mile hike leaves a coastal Malibu neighborhood to explore rustic Zuma Canyon.
|Zuma Ridge Trail|
This wide dirt service road which weaves northwest up the back of the ridge west of Zuma Canyon offering access to several trails in the area.
|Ocean View Trail – Canyon View Trail Loop|
This 3.1-mile loop demands more effort than Zuma Canyon Trail and provides great ocean and canyon views.
| More trails in the Santa Monica Mountains|
Explore other destinations in the range.
|Malibu Creek Traverse|
This adventure hike explores the C-shaped gorge between Rock Pool and Century Lake in Malibu Creek State Park.
|Rustic Canyon’s Murphy Ranch from Will Rogers State Historic Park|
This 4 to 5-mile adventure visits the ruins of a commune built by Nazi sympathizers in a canyon east of the park.
|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.
|Bridge to Nowhere|
This adventurous 10-mile hike in the San Gabriel Mountains reaches an abandoned and out-of-place bridge with a unique history.