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Hike 47 – Solstice Canyon | 100 Hikes

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Hike 47 – Solstice Canyon

Posted By on March 6, 2011 in Hikes | 2 comments

After inviting Shawnté and “The Mystery Hiker” on Hike #44, they returned the favor and invited me on a hike to a secluded watering hole in the Santa Monica Mountains. Along for the adventure was MaryEllen, who makes up half of the rock band, The Wardens. (Shawnté makes up the other half.) Yes, I would be hiking with two extremely talented rock goddesses – possibly three, if The Mystery Hiker played an instrument.

I drove to Silver Lake to meet up with the ladies and carpool the remaining 35 miles up the coast to Malibu. This would be my first hike in the coastal section of the Santa Monica Mountains and I was excited to see Solstice Canyon after Shawnté gave me the rundown: The hike would be a 3.5-mile round-trip loop, taking the Rising Sun Trail up into the canyon, dropping down to the Roberts Ranch House ruins where we’d check out out a 30-foot waterfall. Then we’d trek up the Sostomo Trail to a secluded (secret!) watering hole under the shading branches of elderly oaks and sycamores. It sounded like a perfect hike.

And it was! We reached Solstice Canyon Park at around 8:30am and hit the trail soon after that. It was already beginning to be a warm day and the steep TRW Loop Trail didn’t help matters. The trail steadily gains about 600 feet in the first mile or so before topping out around 760 feet above sea level. The climb up the Rising Sun Trail, on slopes covered in coastal sage scrub, reveals views of the shimmering Pacific Ocean. After 1.8 miles along a well-groomed and wide trail, we drop down a handful of switchbacks into Solstice Canyon, shaded by a healthy bunch of oaks, sycamores, and even palm trees, planted by the Robert’s family to surround their house. The Roberts’ weren’t there to welcome us onto their property – they gave the land to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area after their famous house burned in a 1982 wildfire – but we made ourselves at home, checking out their property. Although the house burned down, the footprint still remained, including a couple brick chimneys, brick walls, a life-sized statue of the Virgin Mary, and a private 30-foot waterfall. Not a square foot of the Roberts’ lovely ruins were private now, so quite a few hikers, trail runners, and families had no problems exploring the property. Most came up the Solstice Canyon Trail, which is almost entirely shaded on the 1-mile stretch from the parking lot to the ruins. We would be taking this trail back to our car, but not before we explored further up the canyon for a little R&R in a watering hole.

After 10 minutes of hiking, we arrived a the secluded watering hole, more than ready to slip right into the cool, refreshing natural pool of water. We spent at least an hour there and didn’t see another soul. All we needed was some nice cold beers and I’d call this a perfect afternoon in Malibu.

Driving home was another story. We drove out of the compact paradisaical foothills of Malibu and back into the expansive Los Angeles Basin to a sight of an unfathomable natural disaster taking place. Far in the distance – almost 50 miles away – was a huge pyrocumulus cloud (see photos below) created by the ever-growing Station Fire. It wasn’t until this moment that I realized how terrible the fire had became. I had hoped that the firefighters would get control over the beast and extinguish it quickly, but after seeing this massive mushroom cloud of ash, my heart sank. My mountains would never be the same again.

What I learned on the hike:

  1. Parking is limited in Solstice Canyon. If the 30-40 spot parking lot is full, try to find a spot off of Corral Canyon Road outside the park entrance, and hike a quarter of a mile into the park from there.
  2. With less than a half of a mile from the trailhead, I realized that I left my hiking pole at the watering hole. Shawnté and I hiked back up into the canyon, double-time, to retrieve it. This added 2.5 miles to our hike.
  3. I should have brought more water on this hike. In racing back up the canyon to retrieve my hiking pole, I almost had a heat stroke. Despite the shade that the Solstice Canyon Trail offers, the triple-digit temperatures almost did me in.

Resources:

  1. Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area: Solstice Canyon Park
  2. Modern Hiker – Hiking Solstice Canyon
  3. Local Hikes – Solstice Canyon Loop
  4. Hikespeak.com – Solstice Canyon Trail

Trip Stats:

  • Date of hike: August 29th, 2009
  • Location: Solstice Canyon Park- Malibu, California
  • Duration: 4 hours, 31 minutes
  • Length: 6 miles
  • Average speed: 1.3 mph (includes sitting in the watering hole for an hour)
  • Altitude gain: 1,437 feet
  • Altitude loss: 1,450 feet

This map was made with the data my GPS captured on the hike.
For a more detailed trip report map, check this out.

Video:

Photos:

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With Max, The Wonder Dog at our side, we head up the Rising Sun Trail.

 

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The view north, into Solstice Canyon. The Solstice Canyon Trail runs along the bottom of the canyon, under the tree canopy. Sounds nice on a hot day, but we took the Rising Sun Trail, which runs higher along the eastern canyon wall (upper right).

 

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The Rising Sun Trail is a wide, well-manicured trail. Sunscreen and water are a must on this shadeless trail. If you bring a dog, make sure to pack water for them, too.

 

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Heading down the switchbacks into the Roberts Ranch House ruins (you can see the chimney in this picture, left of center)

 

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This is most likely a juvenile Great Basin fence lizard, basking on a rock.

 

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We reach the waterfall of Solstice Canyon, which is behind the ruins of the Roberts Ranch House.

 

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The ruins of the Roberts Ranch House, built in 1952 and destroyed in a 1982 wildfire.

 

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Max, The Wonder Dog, doesn’t look like he’s very wonderful. He didn’t seem to enjoy the cool dip in the watering hole.

Station Fire Photos:

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This is the scene that greeted us on our drive home from Malibu. A massive pyrocumulus cloud is created by the ever-growing Station Fire. Firefighters would not get control of the fire until late October, 2009 – almost two months later.

 

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I took this out my front window while on the 210 Freeway in Pasadena.

 

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This was taken on the morning of August 29th while driving to meet the girls for the hike. You can see the 100+ foot flames burning the foothills above La Canada-Flintridge, just north of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

 

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Photo taken on the 10 Freeway near Hoover Street

 

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Photo taken on the 110 Freeway in Downtown Los Angeles.

 

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The Station Fire as seen from Silver Lake Reservoir

2 Comments

  1. Richard March 25, 2011

    Nice documentation and movie.

  2. Linda October 8, 2011

    HI, I have just started my own 100 hike challenge. Can you give me any hints on how to make it better? Thanks much!

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