This route is a very scenic option for hiking Mesa Peak along the Mesa Peak Motorway starting from the Corral Canyon trailhead of the Backbone trail. It follows most of the time a wide dirt (fire) road, which is also very popular with trail-runners. You will pass in the beginning amazing sandstone pinnacles that invite you to scramble and climb. The views on clear days are nothing short of breathtaking. To the south the Pacific Ocean sparkles in the morning or evening sun. To the west you will see Saddle Peak with its towers on top. Castro Peak (also with towers) dominates the views to the east. Beyond those peaks one can glance over other portions of the Malibu Creek State Park and marvel at the beauty of the Santa Monica Mountains.
The route described here totals about 6.8 miles roundtrip with ~1,600 feet of elevation gain.
The trailhead for the described route is on top of Corral Canyon Road. After you turn on this road from the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, follow this windy road past the two mountain communities of El Nido and Malibu Bowl for about 5.5 miles to its end. The last few hundred yards are an easily passable dirt road. The dirt parking lot is the Corral Canyon trailhead (elevation ~1,990’) of the Backbone trail, which traverses the entire mountain range. From the parking lot a section of the Backbone Trail leads west into the Upper Solstice Canyon to the Latigo Canyon Road. To the north of the parking lot the Castro Peak Motorway leads eventually to the summit of Castro Peak, which is unfortunately on private property and not accessible.
Begin of trail
To reach Mesa Peak you have to hike in easterly direction from the parking lot. On the south end of the parking you will notice a narrow trail that leads over some easy sandstone formations up and down in about 0.4 miles to the Mesa Peak Motorway. The motorway actually ends at a gate at the Corral Canyon Road a short distance before the start of the dirt road. You can also park your car directly across the gate and follow the motorway directly. However, I consider the first 0.4 miles from the dirt parking lot on the trail through the sandstone formations very worthwhile and enjoyable.
Shortly after you reach the Mesa Peak Motorway from the dirt parking lot you will notice a large sandstone pinnacle with curiously looking, pretty large stone circles in front of it. I am unaware of any meaning of it or who built it, but it’s an interesting sight. The large sandstone pinnacle invites you to climb to its top, which can be done my several routes. There are also many caves in its wall, which obviously are used for some partying.
On Mesa Peak Motorway
From this rock formation the motorway makes its way over some hills further east. After about 1.7 miles you reach the “highpoint” of this route at around 2,234’. A steady moderate descent brings you down to around 1,870’ (after 2.4 miles from the trailhead). During the last portion of this downhill hike you will walk over exposed sandstone on the motorway with innumerable tiny to medium-sized tellurite fossils.
From this point the motorway climbs around Peak 2049 (prominently shaped rock formation on top) and reaches a saddle at about 1,980’. From there you have gorgeous views to the east with Saddle Peak, Calabasas Peak, and Cold Creek Canyon. After a short downhill portion you will reach the turn off trail to Mesa Peak (~1,880’ and 2.9 miles from the trailhead). A short and easy walk south for about 0.4 miles on a broad trail, which I think is officially called the Puerca Motorway, will lead you to Mesa Peak, which can be easily recognized by the small antennas on top. A brief use trail through some low bushes will take you to the summit (~1,831’ and 3.4 miles from the trailhead). From the summit you can see the continuation of the Puerca Motorway south all the way to the ocean. Another trail to the southeast along a ridge seems to lead to another peak, which should offer exquisite views over Pepperdine University. Take in the views and return the way you came.