Temescal Canyon lies within the city limits of Los Angeles and is a very popular “getaway” hike and workout if you have only a short amount of time. It can be reached from several locations, but the easiest is probably via Temescal Gateway Park off Sunset Boulevard in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood. From the park, which features picnic tables and grassy areas, restrooms, a camp store, meeting rooms, an auditorium, and classrooms, one can choose from several trails, most of them leading into Topanga State Park. A very popular loop hike, and described in this route description, is to take the Temescal Ridge Trail up to Skull Rock, rocky outcroppings among the chaparral-covered ridge, and return via the Temescal Canyon Trail.
Temescal Gateway Park is located at 15601 Sunset Boulevard in Pacific Palisades, CA 90272. You can park inside and pay a parking fee or easily along Sunset Boulevard just outside the park. If you park on Sunset Boulevard, be careful if you have to cross the street, as most cars drive pretty fast in that spot. To reach the trailheads, you can walk on the official street into the park or take a well-developed use-trail just west of the park street along the creek north. Either way, you will reach the restrooms and gift shop, where the road starts to loop around the park facilities. Facing the canyon, take the left loop and walk a short distance to the trailhead to Temescal Ridge and Canyon. There is also a sign where the loop starts pointing in the right direction.
From the Temescal Ridge Trailhead the trail leads promptly and rather steeply in many switchbacks up the ridge. In short time you will gain some elevation and are greeted with nice views over the canyon, the Pacific Palisades neighborhood and the Pacific Ocean. Once you start the uphill climb you will gain about 850 feet in about one mile to reach a flat area with beautiful all-around views (Overlook). If you start from Sunset Boulevard this spot is about 1.5 miles from your car. There is a small wooden cross at the Overlook. The only thing I found in the Internet about the cross is that it represents a memorial for a young girl.
City of Angels
From the Overlook, the trail soon descends and reaches the intersection with the Temescal Canyon Trail in another 0.25 miles. Along the way there are a couple of other trails leading west and down into Pulga Canyon. If you want to hike a little more (and have time) you can continue along the ridge for another half mile to Skull Rock, a rocky outcropping, which seems popular for climbers and bouldering. There are several smaller and bigger boulders in that area. The one closest to the trail, which officially is called “Temescal Canyon Road” here, can be easily reached via a short scramble from the backside. You can access the other rocks if you don’t mind to bushwhack a little. There are some use-trails in the area, but oftentimes you find yourself ducking and crouching under sharp and stingy chaparral. The views from the top or near the top of those boulders are certainly worth the effort. From the Skull Rock area you could hike further north along the ridge eventually all the way to Temescal Peak, Eagle Rock, and Trippet Ranch.
Returning from Skull Rock, you will again reach the intersection with the Temescal Canyon Trail after about half a mile. Take the Canyon Trail and descend quickly and steeply into the shaded canyon. At the canyon bottom you will cross Temescal Creek over a small wooden bridge. Here you also see a nice waterfall. The trail now leads fairly straight along the creek south. At several locations you will pass beautiful conglomerate rocks forming the canyon wall. After a little over a mile you will reach the Temescal Gateway Park again and stroll easily along the park road and facilities back to your car.
Again, this is a very popular area for a quick workout if have not much time but still want to enjoy the outdoors. The route described here totals to about 4.5 miles with 1,300 feet of elevation gain. It can be done clock- and counter-clockwise, but if you prefer to have the strenuous exercise in the beginning you should do it clockwise and start with the Ridge Trail.
No mountain bikes and no dogs on park trails in Topanga State Park.