Peak 1,470ft P500
Peak 1,430ft P300
Peak 1,237ft P300
Goat Buttes East P300
Goat Buttes West

Fri, Mar 31, 2017
Goat Buttes East
Goat Buttes West
Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPXs: 1 2 3 Profiles: 1 2 3


After enjoying dinner the previous evening with my two sisters and niece, I drove south to the Santa Monica Mtns where I found a quiet place off Mullholland Hwy to spend the night. I planned to spend much of the day hiking around Malibu Creek State Park before heading to LAX to pick up my wife from the airport later that afternoon. The peaks were all clustered around the same area within a few miles of each other and surprisingly more interesting than I expected. Another peak in the same area, Peak 1,137ft, looks quite interesting as well but I had to leave that for a future visit.

Peak 1,470ft/Peak 1,430ft

Not far from where I'd spent the night, the Phantom Trail heads north from Mullholland Hwy and can be used to access both of these unnamed summits. The higher Peak 1,470ft is reached in less than a mile, though the trail skirts around the summit on the east side. A use trail can be found going directly over the summit south-north. The south side of this trail is much better defined than the north side where I got off-track a bit before finding my way back onto the maintained trail. Another mile further north, the trail goes over a local highpoint as it continues north towards Liberty Canyon fire road. At this point it is necessary to leave the trail and do a little mild bushwhacking down to a saddle and then up to Peak 1,430ft. I found the going surprisingly easy, partly because the grass was still freshly green and the thistles hadn't yet become an annoyance. It also appears that others have gone this way before, making for frequent breaks through the brush. It took 15min to cover the quarter mile distance. The rewards were dubious, however. I returned via much the same route, this time following the maintained trail around the first peak.

Peak 1,237ft

This peak off the south side of Mullholland Hwy was the only one of the five to show no ascents on LoJ or PB, which made me rather wary as to my chances. Without use trails, the chaparral can be all but impenetrable. I made a bit of a mess on this one, having fun in the process, but it can be done relatively easily by anyone taking the correct path. My starting point was off Lake Vista Dr outside the Reagan Ranch, part of the state park. A large parking lot is found shortly along the gravel road leading to Reagan Ranch. The ranch seems to be used by park personnel and though there were numerous cars and trucks there as I passed through, I saw not a soul and it felt like a small ghost town. The Yearling Trail is found at the east end of the ranch, leading southeast towards Malibu Creek and Crags Rd. Less than half a mile along it, the trail leaves the open meadow and enters a forested area where an unsigned junction with a picnic table is soon found. The right fork, heading west and uphill, is the Lake Vista Trail, leading to an overlook of Malibu Lake. Not knowing this ahead of time, I started up through the brush from the south at Reagan Ranch, eventually stumbling upon the Lake Vista Trail much higher up, after some not-so-trivial bushwhacking. Live and learn. Before reaching the overlook, one turns left upon reaching the crest for the 0.4mi effort to the summit. This was only made possible by the existence of a very old, overgrown use trail along the ridgeline. By taking one's time, there should be almost no need for real bushwhacking. I spent about 15min in reaching the summit from the Lake View Trail. I had intended to go back the way I'd come and finish the trail to the Malibu Lake overlook, but I was intrigued to see the Lake View Trail directly below me to the north and wondered if I could reach it more quickly in that direction. This led to a bonafide bushwhack, not the scratchy rough stuff found on the south-facing slopes, but the greener, way over head level stuff growing on the north slope. I was crawling, tunneling, getting my feet caught in vines and generally having a great time while wondering if I wasn't getting in over my head (figuratively, that is, I was already physically so). I spent about 20min on this effort, made much easier because it was steeply downhill. The reverse direction would have been much harder. I followed the trail down to the aforementioned unsigned junction and then back to Reagan Ranch on the Yearling Trail. I met a pair of park rangers on horseback here before returning to the van.

Goat Buttes

I next drove around Malibu Lake to Crags Dr and its end where the TH for Crags Rd leads into the park. The parking here in the residential area is all but nonexistent. I took a dirt spot in front of a lot with a For Sale sign, not really knowing if it was legal, but it didn't sport one of the many No Parking signs found immediately around the TH. Apparently we want to keep this entrance for the locals. The old ranch road then heads downhill to Malibu Creek, reaching the old M*A*S*H site in less than a mile. There are several old trucks left there from the set to give visitors something to look at besides an empty field. It appears to be a popular destination and they have some trailside signs with pictures from the location shots. Malibu Creeks runs by the site to the north, then flows between the Goat Buttes East and West, overlooking the site. Getting to either summit is far from trivial. I first tackled the east butte by hiking up the Lost Cabin Trail to a saddle. Leaving the trail, I tried heading directly up to the butte from the saddle but ran into horribly brushy conditions. I could see easier terrain ahead but could not reach it without taking an unreasonable thrashing. I then backtracked a bit to the west and found my way with easier effort (but still some bushwhacking) to the crest. The rocky ridge narrows and become class 3 on decent rock. A final knife-edged section heading west to the highpoint was both impressive and fun and well worth the effort. The summit provides a nice perch looking down on the creek, the M*A*S*H site and the lower west butte. Under a rock I found a register kept in a rusting movie film can - how appropriate. Most of the 25 pages since it was placed in 2000 were taken up by a pair of individuals that made it a ritualistic hike to repeatedly visit the summit. I found a much easier route by heading west off the summit rocks and then down to the southwest back to the Lost Cabin Trail with some medium bushwhacking. I returned to the M*A*S*H site and turned my attention to the west butte.

I followed a side trail down to the creek and then searched out a way to jump across without getting my feet wet. Once accomplished, it took more effort and bushwhacking to make my way uphill. There were vestiges of a use trail, perhaps deer trail, but there was some landslides from the heavy rains this season which left some of the slope rather messy and loose. I made my way up towards a gap in the rocky ridgeline just west of the summit. From there it looked like a terribly brushy affair to reach the top but a good use trail was found through it, steep but otherwise a piece of cake. There were a couple of closely-spaced rocks vying for the highpoint so I visited both but found no register at either. The west butte had a much better view of the M*A*S*H site below with the impressive summit rock of the east butte in profile to the east. Not wanting or needing to find an alternate route down, I mostly retraced my steps to return to Crags Rd, getting back to the TH around 2:20p.

I decided to call it a day early to ensure I would have plenty of time to pick up the wife at LAX around 5p. It would imprudent of me to be late for that appointment because I was tangled up in a brushy thicket somewhere...


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