For thousands of years, people have cherished the Malibu Creek State Park. The Chumash people, who lived in coastal Southern California for millennia, built the village of Talepop here. That village may have been the area’s first permanent settlement. Later, movie studios, most notably 20th Century Fox, used the area as a backlot. Filmmakers shot almost all of the original Planet of the Apes in Malibu Creek State Park. The former M*A*S*H set filmed here, as well. A few years later, the late, great Bob Hope donated many of the park’s lands to the state.
Today, Malibu Creek State Park preserves the scenic Malibu Creek Canyon. Some people call this park the Yosemite of Southern California, but that moniker may be a bit overclaimed. The park is also part of the larger Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, beginning just under Lake Malibu and extending to the Pacific coast. The park contains three nature preserves that cover 3,000 acres of the park, and the year-round stream is home to several species of endangered animals. Most of the 300,000 annual visitors enjoy hiking, fishing, picnicking, birding, and other outdoor activities. Self-guided and ranger-led excursions are also available. Whatever your outdoor favorites, you’ll find what you’re looking for at Malibu Creek State Park. Visit with your RV and be free to explore it all.
It is hard to believe that Malibu Creek State Park is less than 30 miles away from downtown Los Angeles. RVers traveling from Los Angeles can use either Ventura Freeway or the Pacific Coast Highway to connect with Las Virgenes/Malibu Canyon Road, the road that leads you into the main entrance to the park. The park is also close to other large cities in California, making it a quick weekend getaway for those who want to escape the city for a day or two. The park is about 70 miles northwest of Irvine, via 1-405, and 37 miles southwest of Santa Clarita via US-101.
Roads in this park are tarred, and RVers will have no problem driving through the park and parking along the roadside to do hikes. The Mulholland Highway winds through much of the park, so there is considerable parking. There is also a lot of parking around the park entrance area and camping site. One day fee guarantees access to all California state parks and beaches.
A separate campground for groups can be reserved at the Malibu Creek State Park for groups of up to 50 people. The parking lot for this site is a quarter-mile from the actual camping area and can accommodate up to 16 vehicles. There are a couple of restroom buildings with hot-water showers and ample space for larger groups to enjoy the outdoors together.
This 63-site campground includes showers and restrooms. The campsite is a little rough. It’s also very close to hiking trails and the major park sites and has a handful of wheelchair-accessible sites. Perhaps more importantly, it’s quite lovely and is considered by many as an unexpected oasis. Many of the sites are wheelchair-accessible. RVs up to 30 feet are welcome, and generators are allowed during certain hours. A dump station is available onsite if you need to clean your tanks. Dogs are permitted in the campground and must be kept in your RV or tent overnight, but they are not allowed outside the campground or on any of the trails.
The main campground is designated as reservations-only. However, many state parks in the California system still set aside first-come, first-served camping or allow walk-ups if capacity permits. If you didn’t make a reservation, be sure to call ahead to see if spots are available. There are 63 campsites to choose from with two wheelchair-accessible central restrooms with showers.
Some visitors come to Paramount Ranch to see Western Town. Beginning with Bob Hope’s Caught in the Draft (1941), moviemakers have shot miles of footage from this spot. Hollywood history is still made here, despite the end of the studio system and a tragic car crash at the Paramount Raceway in the 1950s. Other visitors come for the natural beauty; several hiking trails crisscross this area, including the tracks from the raceway. Keep an eye out for rare valley oak and coast live oak trees while you meander the vicinity.
Ronald and Nancy Reagan owned this ranch between 1957 to 1967 until Ronald Regan became governor in California. It was one of the first publicly-accessible equestrian parks in Southern California, and the ranch has some 700 miles of horseback trails. The original stables and barn at Reagan Ranch still serve as the ranch headquarters. Since the property is located along a rolling meadow, there is plenty of room for private equestrian trailers as well. There are also lovely loops to hike across this ranch with breathtaking views of the surroundings.
The park has a variety of hiking trails on offer that will challenge avid and amateur hikers alike. This hike up Backbone Trail along a fire road is quite steep and one of the more strenuous hikes in the park. The relatively flat summit offers many viewing opportunities, especially since Mesa Peak is just north of Pepperdine University. The Piuma Trailhead on Castro Motorway, where the path begins, has parking and restroom facilities. Mountain bikes and horses are also welcome on this trail.
One of the most successful ranches in the area was located near the junction of the region’s five major streams. Large mammals and birds often move through this area, which is the home of smaller wildlife and abundant plant life. A restored Spanish Colonial-style mansion serves as the ranch’s centerpiece. This is a great place to enjoy a picnic and enjoy a hike or cycle. There’s a short and steep trail that branches off from the main house and leads to a 360-degree knoll. There, visitors can see most of the park, including its rare rock formations.
For a behind-the-scenes look at how California state parks really work, take a little time out and stop by this office. After they see all the work that goes into park preservation, most people enjoy the sites and sounds of places like Malibu Creek State Park even more. This building served as the dream house in Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, the 1948 movie classic.
Surfrider Beach is a premier surfing beach not technically in Malibu Creek State Park. But as mentioned, one parking fee gives visitors access to all state parks and protected beaches for the entire day. The Malibu Lagoon State Beach also offers excellent saltwater fishing, bird watching, and picnic facilities. Birders love visiting this area, especially during migratory seasons. This beach park is a fantastic place for photographers wanting to capture the beauty of this region.
Built during 1929 on the estate, once known as Vaquero Hill, the design of Adamson House is influenced by Spanish architecture. One of the highlights of this famous home is the handmade tiles it is decorated with. Over 100 craftsmen made these tiles during the 1920s in Moorish, Mayan, Saracen, Moroccan, and Persian-styled designs. You haven’t seen anything until you have seen a Persian rug made from decorative tile. Other tile highlights include several fountains and a dog bathtub.
The Adamson House and grounds are on an estate within Malibu Lagoon State Beach Park, just seven miles away from the Malibu Creek State Park. A docent-led tour of the house will help you enjoy the story of the family who owned this home and learn about its architecture, design, and original furnishings. Weekly tours of the garden are also offered at no extra charge and without reservations.
If fishing, eating, shopping, or people watching tickles your fancy, check out the largest pier on Malibu Beach. While you are there relaxing, there is a pretty good chance that you’ll see a few dolphins. This historic pier has been restored and offers a fun seaside experience on the old Riviera of America. It is also a great spot to catch some surf and is within view of Surfrider Beach. Your day parking fee at Malibu Creek State Park covers the entrance to the pier as well.
Supposedly, Jim Morrison came here to write songs in seclusion. As the rumor began to spread, visitors flocked to the cave, graffiti increased, and the rangers closed the cave. The graffiti has been removed, and the trail around the cave is a little overgrown, but the hike is still worth doing. The views are breathtaking from start to finish, and it is a pleasant walk. It’s easy to see why the songwriting story got started. Corral Canyon is one of the most tranquil areas of a very peaceful park.
One of the most famous hiking trails in Malibu Creek State Park, the Castro Crest Trail, extends almost to the top of the privately-owned Castro Peak. The higher the trail gets, the better the ocean views become. The trail is rated as moderate and is a favorite among birdwatchers, photographers, hikers and, cyclists. Winter is an excellent time to hike here because distant snow-capped mountains are clearly visible. This trail is just over 10 miles long and is an out and back route.