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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area: Solstice Canyon Park
- Modern Hiker – Hiking Solstice Canyon
- Local Hikes – Solstice Canyon Loop
- Hikespeak.com – Solstice Canyon Trail
- 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.
Station Fire Photos: