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La Jolla Canyon to Mugu Peak

This hike is located north of Malibu in Point Mugu State Park.

The destination is Mugu Peak which has awesome views of the peaks and valleys inland to the east and the Pacific Ocean and coastline directly beneath the peak to the west.

There are two basic hikes you can take. One is an easier more gradual moderate-hike approach to the peak via the La Jolla Valley Loop. This hike is 9-10 miles roundtrip and takes about 4-4.5 hours.

The other is a more direct and vigorous workout ascent straight up to the peak from the canyon. This is a more rigorous-moderate hike of about 7 miles total and takes about 3.5 hours roundtrip.

Elevation gain is about 1200 ft up to the peak from the trailhead.



The Hikes:

Both approaches to hiking up to Mugu Peak start out going through the lower canyon on the La Jolla Canyon Trail. Start at the trailhead near the restrooms as you go through the large yellow gate. Follow the fire road which soon becomes a trail. (see slideshow) The trail is about 1.5 miles long through the canyon.

The canyon starts out fairly wide but then narrows rapidly and the trails become quite narrow along the canyon sides. The sandstone rock formations are very interesting and dramatic in places. In the Spring, gorgeous wildflowers come bursting out of the hillsides. The combination of the rock formations and flowers give these canyon trails an almost surreal atmosphere.

Once you reach the end of this canyon you arrive in the lower valley area, known as the La Jolla Valley Natural Preserve. Here you will come to a fork in the road, and you will either do the Loop Hike: take a right (La Jolla Canyon Trail); or you will do the Direct Ascent Hike: take a left (La Jolla Loop Trail) depending on which hike you are doing.

Please run slideshow below to see trail hiked in March.

La Jolla Canyon to Mugu Peak Slideshow

Loop hike:

For the longer hike, and more gradual ascent up to Mugu Peak, take the trail right which means you are staying on the La Jolla Canyon Trail. This trail allows you to start the counter clockwise loop you are taking around the valley area to get up to Mugu Peak.

The valley area is a basically flat meadow type area with some very low rolling hills and a lot of tall grass. This part of the hike lets you relax a bit as you transition from the inclines you traveled up the canyon to the incline trails you will be taking up to the Peak.

In less than a mile you will see another fork. Take the left fork which will get you on a trail headed towards Mugu Peak (back in the direction of the Pacific Ocean). Stay on this trail all the way to the Peak.

As you head to the Peak, you will see a few trails that go off to the left, don’t take them, just keep going straight and you will eventually start heading up the mini-mountain known as Mugu Peak.

You will get about three quarters of the way up to the Peak and you will see a fork. The right fork heads steeply down a trial to PCH. (Don’t take this, it’s called Chumash Trail). Take the left fork which takes you around the Peak, on the ocean side of it, from the north side to the south side. Once on the south side of the Peak you will see another fork. Take the left fork up to the Peak, it’s an almost 180 degree left turn. (Remember this fork because the fork to the right is the way back to the trailhead.) Go up to the Peak and enjoy the views.

Photo below: In the Spring these gorgeous, rare, yellow, wildflower bouquets come bursting out of the hillsides.

Direct Ascent Hike:

After you get through the canyon and make your left turn, you will be moving briefly through a corner of the valley’s meadow grasslands, dotted with a few trees. You basically take a left at any fork as you will do when you see the trail sign to Mugu Peak Trail. Take this trail up to the Peak.

You will get about three quarters of the way up to the Peak and you will see a fork. The left fork goes towards the ocean and around the Peak to the other side. Don’t take this. Instead take the right fork which goes up to the Peak. Go up to the Peak and enjoy the views.

From the Peak Back to the Trailhead:

No matter which hike you take, the ascent up to the Peak has beautiful views of the valley, the ocean and nearby Peaks. You can also see Sandstone Peak from here, the tallest peak in the local mountains. On a real clear day you can see the Channel Islands off the coast to the north. Many folks have also seen whales from up here during whale watching season, as you get a terrific elevated view over the deep ocean.

So enjoy it up here. Relax, breathe deeply the wonderful moist air, have a snack and take some photos.

The descent back to the trailhead is the same for both hikes. The general idea is to go back down the mountain and take the canyon trail back to the trailhead.

When you reach that fork that’s close to the top veer to the left to go down the valley side of the mountain.

Once you get back into the valley, find your way back to the La Jolla Canyon Trail. You’ll get there if you take a right at most forks you run into. You will briefly turn right onto the Valley Loop trail, and then you’ll turn right onto the La Jolla Canyon Trail. Then just head back through the canyon to the trailhead.

I hope you enjoy this hike!

Notes:

This hike is basically all exposed to the sun. There are very few shaded spots.

Technically there is a waterfall, creek and pond along this hike. None of these are very impressive and are definitely not a reason to do this hike. As I last took this hike after a decent period of rain, and these water features were still very minimal to non-existent, it must take a sustained period of heavy rain to get these going.


Location:

North of Malibu off of PCH. Drive up PCH north past Yerba Buena Rd and Deer Creek Rd, after which there aren't roads as much as there are signs for state park venues. You want to turn on the road that's marked for Thornhill Broome Beach (this is between the signs for the turns to Sycamore Canyon and another one for Pt Mugu Beach). The trailhead is in a parking lot just up a short unnamed road from PCH. You can pay a fee to park in the lot or park for free along PCH. As you walk to the trailheads, look for La Jolla Canyon Trail (do not take the Ray Miller trail). See the fire road and yellow gate at the start of the trail in the slideshow above. There are restrooms at the trailhead.

Click here for trail map

See general location map below.

La Jolla Canyon to Mugu Peak



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