There aren’t many places where you can visit the beach, stroll through a wooded canyon, climb to a scenic vista point, camp near a green meadow and perhaps see a seasonal waterfall…all in the same weekend. Point Mugu State Park, however, is one such place. The 13,000-plus acre park is situated at the western most end of the Santa Monica Mountains, about midway between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. While the park suffered considerable damage during the 2013 Springs Fire, it is slowly recovering. New growth is coming in and volunteers have diligently worked to restore and maintain the nearly 100 miles of trails in the park.
There are almost literally endless possible hiking routes at Point Mugu State Park; it’s possible to visit many times without taking the exact same trip. Here are ten hikes, ranging from easy to challenging, that explore all that this park offers. There are five different entrances to the park, so the hikes are organized by starting point.
Pacific Coast Highway – Big Sycamore Canyon Trailhead
This is the “main” entrance to the park. Day use is $12 per vehicle. The Big Sycamore/Serrano Loop is a 9.8 mile route that explores scenic Serrano Canyon, Serrano Valley and tackles a rugged section of the Backbone Trail, providing great aerial views of Big Sycamore Canyon and wide ocean vistas. The Big Sycamore/Overlook Loop is like a mirror image of that hike, featuring a gentle ascent through Big Sycamore Canyon and a climb to the Overlook Fire Road which straddles a ridge with good views to the east, south and west.
Pacific Coast Highway – La Jolla Canyon/Ray Miller Trailhead
Farther along P.C.H. is this smaller, unattended lot, where day use is $8. The La Jolla Canyon area is home to the Ray Miller Trailhead, the western terminus of the Backbone Trail. The 2.7 mile climb to the Overlook Fire Road is a good workout with great ocean views. In the opposite direction, you can head up La Jolla Canyon to Mugu Peak, strategically located to provide a nearly aerial view of the ocean and Pacific Coast Highway. You can also continue to the Guadalasca Trail in a 10-mile hike that also passes by scenic La Jolla Valley.
Pacific Coast Highway – Chumash Trailhead
The Chumash is the westernmost of the three P.C.H. access points and the only one with free parking. If you can handle an extremely steep ascent – the trail climbs over 800 feet in less than 3/4 of a mile – you can enjoy a tranquil stroll around the perimeter of La Jolla Valley and through some pleasant woodlands.
This little known access point can be reached from Yerba Buena Road, the route to Sandstone Peak and the Circle X Ranch. A fairly easy 2-mile hike through Serrano Valley brings you to the ruins of the Serrano Homestead Site, where abandoned furniture and farm equipment adds to the feeling of desolation brought on by the Springs Fire.
Rancho Sierra Vista
The north side of Point Mugu State Park is bordered by Rancho Sierra Vista, a National Park Service property. Rancho Sierra Vista, also known as Satwiwa, features a network of trails that connect with those of the Point Mugu, including the upper end of Big Sycamore Canyon. The hike to seasonal Big Sycamore Canyon Falls starts here. You can also do two longer trips: the Hidden Pond Loop, a 9-plus mile route which passes through the park’s secluded western corner, taking in some nice ocean and mountain views (although the “pond” is usually dry). The 10-mile Old Boney Loop explores the rugged Boney Mountain Wilderness, providing some good looks at the mountain’s trademark geology.