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.
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.
I next drove around Malibu Lake to Crags Dr and its end where the TH
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...