Solstice Canyon Park lies within the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in Southern California, administered by the National Park Service. It is easily reached from the Pacific Coast Highway and a very popular area for the city dwellers of Los Angeles. Despite the crowds the canyon is breathtakingly beautiful, especially in spring when the wildflowers are in full display. A small network of trails invites you to explore the park.
The area was historically inhabited by the Chumash, who used the land for food, water and shelter. Ranchers grazed cattle in the area for many years.
Around 1865, Matthew Keller built a stone cottage, which is still visible from Solstice Canyon Trail. The cottage is believed to be the oldest existing stone building in Malibu.
In 1952, Fred and Pearl Roberts bought land in Solstice Canyon and had Paul R. Williams design a rustic but elegant home. The house was built of stone and wood, fitting naturally into the canyon environment of waterfalls, springs and trees. Assemblyman Fred Roberts, a lifelong Republican, was a contemporary and political sparring partner of the progressive Charlotta Bass, owner and editor of the Eagle, an influential African American newspaper in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, Roberts died from injuries sustained in an automobile accident before he and Pearl could move into the house Williams designed for them. The house was famous for its stunning blend of natural features within the design, including waterfalls, creeks and trees. Today, you can see a small part of the past in the horseshoes and colorful pieces of glass glittering in the walkways at Tropical Terrace, near the building’s foundations.
Ruins of Roberts Ranch House
Other evidence of human interaction with the land includes two tall tan buildings on the hillside, which stand as landmarks to another era. Space Technology laboratories, Inc., a subsidiary of Thompson-Ramo-Wooldridge (TRW), rented 10 acres from the Roberts Family from 1961-1973. The site was used to test satellite equipment for space missions, including the Pioneer 12. Solstice Canyon was one of only three places in the world chosen to conduct such tests, due to the lack of man-made or natural disturbances.
Solstice Canyon became a public park in 1988 managed by the National Park Service. Fall wildfires often burn through the canyon to the ocean. The Roberts' home, built on the same site where homes were previously destroyed by wild fires, burned in 1982. Traces of the Williams' designed landscape, fish pond and grassy area overlooking the creek remain.
More recently, the Corral Fire raced through the area on November 24, 2007, burning approximately 4,901 acres and over 100 buildings. The park was closed thereafter and re-opened to the public on June 20, 2008.
If you hike along Solstice Canyon you are likely to hear the sometimes screeching noise of parrots flying over the canyon or sitting in the tree branches. Those black-hooded parakeets are believed to have once escaped homes or pet shops in that area and started to proliferate in the wild. They are now regular residents in Solstice Canyon. The black-hooded parakeet is also know as the Nanday Parakeet (Nandayus nenday), native to South America. This bird is about 35cm in length, and is mostly green in color. Its most distinguishing characteristic is its black facial mask and beak. It also shows black trailing flight feathers on its wings and has a long tail edged at the end in blue. The upper chest is bluish-green and the lower chest is a paler green. Feathers covering the thighs are red. The bird feeds on seeds, fruit, palm nuts, berries, flowers and buds. Black-hooded parakeets usually find holes in trees to nest in. It lays 3-4 eggs. After raising its young, all birds will form rather large communal roosts until the next breeding season.
Solstice Canyon Trail: 2.1 miles round trip
Easy hike along the canyon past the Keller house and to the Roberts Ranch House at the Tropical Terrace. This trail is nearly flat. There is one spot where you can go down to the creek and cross it a few times or stay on the main trail to the left of the creek (if going to the Tropical Terrace).
Dry Canyon Trail: 1.2 miles round trip
This trail leaves the parking lot in a northeasterly direction to a waterfall.
TRW Loop Trail: 1.5 miles roundtrip
This trail starts at the end of the parking lot. It loops around the lower part of the canyon.
Rising Sun Trail: 1.5 miles
This trail was named after the Rising Sun Vineyard, a winery established in West Los Angeles by Matthew Keller. This trail parallels the Solstice Canyon Trail high on the eastern canyon slopes. It starts from the water tank near the parking lot and ends at the Tropical Terrace. The part from the Tropical Terrace to the ridge is quite steep. One enjoys marvelous views to the Pacific Ocean from this trail.
Sostomo Trail/Deer Valley Loop: 3.9 miles
This trail starts southwest of the Roberts Ranch House near the end of the Solstice Canyon Trail. The trail leads up the west ridge of Solstice Canyon.
Solstice Canyon Trail
Rising Sun Trail
Combine the Solstice Canyon Trail with the Rising Sun Trail for a very nice loop. It can be done easily clockwise or counter-clockwise. This loop is about 3.3 miles with a little over 700 feet of elevation gain.
The entrance to Solstice Canyon Park is on Corral Canyon Road, 1/4 mile north of Pacific Coast Highway. There is no entrance fee. The parking at the trailheads gets crowded quickly, so you should come early. There are a few more parking spots immediately off Corral Canyon Road. Some people park along Corral Canyon Road.