I was fortunate enough to get to fly to to Los Angeles for a work conference this past week. I timed the flight in so I would have a little extra time to do some playing before I had to check in to the hotel. And, my route took me directly through Topanga State Park–so, I had to do a hike.
Topanga S.P. is considered one of the most amazing hikes in the L.A. area, and now I understand why. Not only is it easy to get to, it’s more challenging and beautiful than I can possibly describe here.
I arrived at the entrance of the park (not the trailhead) ready to hike to Eagle Rock, a prominent sandstone outcropping nearly 2,000 feet high. Parking within the park is around $10, I believe, but there is ample parking on the street just outside the park. This is a very nice, safe residential area and is just a few feet outside the park. It is absolutely worth it to park here if you can. However, be absolutely sure to park to the right of the white line! I was about an inch over and the park service warned me they would give me a ticket if I left it there. They were very cordial and nice about it.
Once properly parked and in the park I started at Trippet Ranch to the Musch Trail. I did this particular loop in reverse of how many others do it–opting to go clockwise up the Musch Trail to Eagle Junction and then back down the Eagle Spring Fire Road. I figured I would start with the up first and have an easy way back down. I think this was a good decision, despite being exposed to the heat of the day on the way down. My legs thanked me for it.
The Musch Trail winds its way up a narrow single track through beautiful meadows, riparian forest, and over quiet stream beds. It’s a beautiful hike with some areas of shade before hitting the open and exposed trail to Eagle Rock. There are some expansive views of the surrounding mountains along the way as well.
Rock outcroppings started to pop up as I ascended, and tiny lizards darted across the path. The trail does get steep in places, and made the cool day seem hotter. The trail is fairly well-marked, but be sure to keep a look out for signs to stay on the right path. The Musch Trail will take you past Musch Camp, a very nice spot with overnight camping for just $7 a night.
I continued up past Musch Camp to Eagle Junction, where I saw a sign to continue to the right to Eagle Rock. I got a glimpse of the expansively huge Eagle Rock from the trail, but it was still deceivingly far away. There was still quite a bit of a hike to go to get to the top.
Though it’s a fairly short distance to the top, it feels very far away in the heat of the sun.
Finally, I reached the top of Eagle Rock, with a panoramic, 360-degree view all around of the surrounding Santa Monica Mountains. The view can only be described as “epic”.
At the top of the rock, I explored the nooks and crannys, and there is even a small arch/cave that can be explored. BE CAREFUL HERE. The rock is sandy and slippery, and it’s a long way down. The hike up the main side of the rock isn’t bad, and even an acrophobe like myself can do it. This can give a false sense of safety, however, and climbing up and over the top of the rock is dangerous and foolhardy, despite the fact there are many “trails” along it. I don’t advise this.
After getting my fill of Eagle Rock, I decided it was time to head back down. I headed back to Eagle Junction to the junction of the Musch Trail and Eagle Spring Fire Road, where it was an exposed hike all the way back down. Despite it being late March, the trail was dry and hot. I definitely did not pack enough water, and regretted it as my legs cramped on the hike back down. I’d recommend bringing at least 32 ounces per person. And, bring some snacks for the top so you have the energy to get back down.
The road seemed (relatively) mundane and unremarkable much of the way down, until I had about a mile left to go, where it opened up to some of the most gorgeous views I’ve ever seen. Expansive views of open, grassy meadows and a mountain backdrop caused my jaw to drop.
A bit further down, the view opened up to the Pacific, where I could see the Pacific Palisades and what I believe was Catalina Island in the distance. This was so scenic it was breathtaking. Had I taken this way up, I would have had a constant view of the ocean. This is the kind of scenery dreams are made of.
During the entire hike, I was worried about mountain lions, as there are many places they could easily stalk and jump me on the trail. I was warned of rattlesnakes along the way (they are very prominent here). I almost stepped on an unidentified snake that I still haven’t determined what is was. I’ve been told it was a harmless King snake, but it’s head sure looked like a rattlesnake to me. You be the judge.
I finally came back down off the trail and back to Trippet Ranch, where my car and a fresh pair of socks were safely waiting for me. There were many other spur trails–including one to Ynez Falls–that I would have loved to have taken, but there just wasn’t any time left in the day. Despite my urge to keep pushing, I had to call it a day and get to the hotel.
I cannot say enough how amazing this hike was, and I understand why California gets so much attention for its beauty. This place is varied and diverse, with tons of flora and fauna. It’s in a nice area and many of the people I passed were families and friendly groups of hikers. Despite the threat of snakes and mountain lions, I never felt “unsafe” but always kept aware of my surroundings.
If you get the chance to visit southern California, do not pass up this park. It is a gem in the giant jewel necklace that is California. I can already hear it beckoning me back…