Point Mugu State Park
|Sycamore Canyon, Point Mugu State Park, California (ZakVTA via Flickr)|
Consider Point Mugu State Park a Southern California highlight reel. This 15,000-acre park sits 60 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, covering the western flank of the Santa Monica Mountains as they tumble into the Pacific Ocean. The park boasts five miles of coastline, rocky bluffs, sand dunes, steep mountains, two river canyons, expansive grasslands, its own wilderness area, and high peaks formed by volcanic eruptions. Once the home of a thriving Chumash Indian community, today Point Mugu is a wild oasis for hikers, mountain bikers, and campers. The park is arguably the biggest star of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, a collection of public lands that protects 155,000 acres near Los Angeles.
Point Mugu is home to more than 70 miles of hiking trails, but most hikers flock to La Jolla Canyon ($8 day-use fee), where mountain bike and equestrian use is limited. La Jolla Canyon’s trails are located off the Pacific Coast Highway across from Thornhill Broome Campground.
Hike the 1.2-mile La Jolla Canyon Trail as it climbs 600 feet through the heart of the canyon, hugging the edge of the steep gorge wall. During high water, you’ll get up close and personal with La Jolla Falls, a two-tiered falls dropping 30 feet. Mugu Peak Trail offers some of the best coastal views in Southern California as it climbs its namesake 1,266-foot mountain. From the crest of the peak, you can see the rest of the Santa Monica Mountains rise from the Pacific Ocean like an expansive green wall. The 360-degree views include the Boney Mountains to the east and the Channel Islands to the west.
Boney Mountain State Wilderness Area, on the eastern edge of Point Mugu State Park, offers more isolation. The 6.7-mile Old Boney Trail traverses the western flank of Boney Mountain’s long ridgeline, which is packed with volcanic rock. To reach the summit of Boney Mountain, climb the Western Ridge Trail, accessible from the north end of Old Boney Trail. You’ll scramble over rocks, squeeze through brush, and skirt cliffs on your way to the summit, but the views are worth the effort. On clear days, you can see the ocean from the higher elevations.
Sycamore Canyon ($12 day-use fee) is the hub of mountain biking, with fire roads and singletrack that climb and descend the rolling hills surrounding a deep river gorge. The Sycamore Canyon Fire Road is the main thoroughfare, following a creek as it climbs for nine miles through a canyon laden with massive sycamores. The broad, gently climbing trail is popular with everyone from beginner mountain bikers to stroller pushers. More advanced riders should explore Hell Hill, the steepest fire road climbing out of Sycamore Canyon. It’s a .75-mile-long brutal granny-gear climb or a heart-pumping downhill, depending on which direction you’re heading. Wood Canyon Fire Road is a 4.7-mile-long former fire road offering seasonal creek crossings and whoop-de-dos when the creeks are dry.
Sycamore Canyon Campground ($35) offers 58 developed sites, half a mile inland from the Pacific Coast Highway. Thornhill Broom Beach Campground ($25) is more primitive, occupying almost two miles of coast with 69 primitive campsites. Point Mugu also has designated backcountry sites that are hike-in only in La Jolla Canyon ($7) and Sycamore Canyon ($7).
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication