CALABASAS PEAK HIKE
The sandstone bluffs and outcroppings of the Santa Monica Mountains were formed many millions of years ago as part of the seabed of an ancient ocean. This seabed was forced upward as the Pacific Plate rotated, creating the series of transverse mountain ridges unique to the Los Angeles area. These great geologic forces are plainly in evidence at Red Rock Canyon Park, a wildlife corridor nestled deep in the Santa Monica Mountains between Topanga Beach and the city of Calabasas. Here you will find massive sandstone formations embedded with stones and pebbles washed into the sea by long-lost rivers many millennia ago. This conglomerate rock has since been weathered by wind and water, producing numerous pocket caves. The canyon also boasts numerous fossils of ancient sea life dating back nearly 20 million years. Much of this is hidden by the dense growth of toyon and sumac on the canyon walls, but a little off-trail investigation will reveal the wonders of history in this geologic playground.
The trail begins low in the canyon on a wide dirt fire road. The first .5 mile of the trail meanders easily through clusters of oak and sycamore trees in riparian environment. There are several picnic areas, and the area, despite its seclusion, is popular with hikers, joggers and mountain bikers. At approximately .4 mile from the trailhead is the trail junction for the Red Rock Trail, a single-track use path that climbs out of the canyon below Calabasas Peak. Staying on the fire road, the trail begins a moderate climb to the Calabasas Peak Motorway, approximately 1.1 miles from the trailhead. As you begin the climb out of the canyon the riparian environment gives way to the more common chaparral that covers the slopes of the Santa Monica Mountains. Turning right at the junction with the Calabasas Peak Motorway, long range vistas of the Santa Monica Mountains come into view. The climb also become progressively steeper and more strenuous. For the next .5 mile, you will pass through a series of long sandstone ribs rising up from the gorges below to the mountain crests above. Climbing up on these giant ribs provide some great views and some very dangerous drop offs. Caution is advised if you venture out onto these rocky viewpoints. From the sandstone ribs the climb toward the summit of Calabasas Peak becomes quite steep, but there is only about a half mile of serious trudging before the trail levels out at the Red Rock Canyon Overlook with its stunning easterly views. From here it is an easy .25 miles to the summit and its 360° panoramic views encompassing the San Fernando Valley, portions of the Los Angeles Basin, a sliver of the Pacific Ocean (clear days) and the interior of the Santa Monica Mountains.
Click the full frame icon in the upper right corner for a larger map in a separate window.
Directions to Trailhead
Red Rock Canyon Park
23601 West Red Rock Road
Topanga, CA 90290
From the South
If approaching from the PCH, turn north onto Topanga Canyon Road and proceed for approximagtely 4.3 miles and turn left onto Old Topanga Canyon Road. Continue on Old Topanga for 1.9 miles Red Rock Road and turn left. There are two parking areas about 0.8 miles in on Red Rock Road. The street sign for Red Rock Road may be bent and hard to read. Red Rock Road is a paved, but narrow and twisting street through a residential neighborhood. Remember to be considerate. Keep your speed down do not park along the street in order to save on the parking fee at the park. You will be towed. At 0.6 miles the pavement ends at a dirt fire road and becomes W Red Rock Road. This portion can be extremely rutted and uneven, but nothing a passenger car can’t handle if you proceed slowly. The parking area is just 0.2 miles ahead. There is a $5 parking fee, made payable on the honor system at the iron rangers located at the park entrance and in the parking area near the trailhead.