Los Angeles, CA‎ > ‎

Charmlee Wilderness Park

This is a wonderful wilderness park in the foothills north of Malibu. It's probably best described as a nature-walk park. It's got amazing views overlooking the Pacific Ocean and far out to the islands on a clear day.

Charmlee has plenty of trails on which you can log some mileage. There are about 9 miles of trails if you were to walk them all around the 530 acres in the park. While its trails are quite flat and easy, there are a few trail sections here and there with a few hundred feet elevation gain, so you can get a bit of a work out here.

This is a fantastic place to bring the whole family. It’s also a great place to get someone started in hiking and a more active lifestyle.

While many experienced hikers wouldn’t even think of coming here because of the tame hiking conditions, I really enjoy hikes like this occasionally. Sometimes I like to just walk around a beautiful area take in some great sights and enjoy a carefree atmosphere while putting in some decent mileage.

What’s unique or special about this park, compared to the other places you could go to, is that it is probably the easiest spot to get to and hike around with ocean views this awesome. Every other place that has great ocean views requires much more strenuous hiking, or is more remote and less family friendly.

While we almost always recommend a specific hike or trail on each page of this website, we don’t feel this would be particularly useful at this park. For one thing, no trails are marked (at least when we were there).

Please run the slideshow below to see the area hiked in the month of April on a partially foggy day.

Charmlee Wilderness Park slideshow

Another reason is that the park environment is pretty similar throughout. The landscape is basically flat with meadows, grasslands and scattered shrubs, herbs and flowered plants which are about one to two feet high. There are a few small rolling hills and a few areas with grouped trees.

However, I can give you a recommended general guideline. The most interesting and desirable feature of this location is that it has some awesome ocean views. The edges of the park where you get the best ocean views are to the south and to the west. Therefore, you can head out on the trails that go farthest south or farthest west and then curve along those south and west boundaries to give you ocean views while you walk. Also, you get ocean views from almost any high point in the park.

Since the park and trails are basically completely exposed to the sun, I think most of you would prefer coming here on a cooler day. While the park lies close to the ocean and is certainly cooler than the city, it can get hot up in these foothills on a warm day.

While the park has an interesting mystical quality to it on a foggy day, the fog blocks all the great ocean views, so you’ll probably want to visit on a clear day that's not too hot.

There’s a charming little nature center near the parking lot that you may want to visit to learn a few things about the animals and plants in the area. The park has a wealth of picnic tables, many of them under shade trees within short walking distance of the parking lot. There are good restroom facilities.

Note: While the park strangely had no visible standard signage on the trails, which is quite odd for an otherwise almost perfectly family friendly park, I’d say that you would be hard pressed to get lost in the park unless you are seriously sense-of-direction challenged. I did notice around the park some trail posts with numbers carved in them. I found out later from a park volunteer that there are a few of these posts in a limited area of the park, and that these numbers are marked on a map they give out at the nature center so that you can see where you are while hiking. So, you may want to visit the nature center and ask for that map.

Map and Directions:

The general area to access the park from is along PCH between Pt Mugu and Pt Dume. From PCH, Highway 1, turn north up Encinal Canyon Road. Drive about 3.5 miles and you will see the entrance to the park on your left (see first photo in slideshow). Coming from the Valley you can come in different ways but the most direct highway would be to come over on Kanan Dume Road, then turn right on PCH to get up to Encinal Canyon Rd. You can take other roads through this scenic area over the mountains, but the roads are very winding and take much longer. You can park for free outside the park entrance, or go into the parking lot and pay a fee. There are restrooms close to the parking lot.

Click for trail map

Google Map

tags: Charmlee Wilderness Park hiking trail, Charmlee Wilderness Park, trail los angeles, Charmlee Wilderness Park hike, photos, map, directions, hike, trail, hiking, best trails, best hikes, day hikes, top los angeles hikes, best los angeles hikes, santa monica mountains, malibu hikes, malibu trails, ocean view