Malibu Creek State Park covering over 4,000 acres is a California State Park that lies just 25 miles from downtown Los Angeles within the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in Southern California. The park which was once owned by Bob Hope, Ronald Reagan and 20th Century-Fox, features hiking, fishing, bird watching and horseback riding opportunities. There are over 30 miles of streamside trails through oak and sycamore woodlands and chaparral-covered slopes. The park's volcanic rock makes the area a popular destination for climbers, and if you work up a sweat, a 60-foot-wide rock pool is ideal for wading. Twenty-five-mile Malibu Creek in the park is the principal water-course of the Santa Monica Mountains and the only creek that cuts entirely through the Santa Monica Mountains from north to south. The park was the center of Chumash Native American life for centuries and was once used to film numerous movies and TV shows.
Chumash people lived in the area that is now Malibu Creek State Park for thousands of years. Grasslands, chaparral, oak woodlands and riparian woodlands provided plentiful sources of food, water and materials. A wide variety of wild plants were readily available. Fish and wild game were skillfully hunted, used for materials or eaten. Archaeologists have uncovered the site of a village in the northeast section of the park. Known as Talepop, the village probably consisted of about 40 people. When Spanish explorers first came into contact with the Chumash, they encountered a highly-developed culture of villages, established class structures and extensive trade systems. The Chumash were and still are renowned for their use of the plank canoe (tomol), extraordinary craftsmanship, oral traditions, music and a rich religious life. A few homesteaders settled here after the 1850s. The Sepulveda Adobe, at the corner of Las Virgenes Road and Mulholland Highway, housed an early homesteading family in the 1860s. Before the bulk of the property was purchased by 20th Century Fox Studios in 1946, it served as a country club in the 1920s. In fact, the main trail to the backcountry, Crags Road, is named after the Crags Country Club. Some portions of the park’s visitor center, the nearby ruins of the Mott Adobe, and the dam at Century Lake still allow a glimpse into the life of the park in the early 1900s.
Filming came to the property as early as 1935 with MGM's Tarzan Escapes when the studio built the tree-house near Crag's Road. When 20th Century Fox filmed the 1941 How Green Was My Valley, the studio took an active interest in the property. While they did have an extensive and large backlot at their main studio location, they were interested in the Crag's property because they envisioned moving their entire studio operation to the Malibu Creek property. The property was purchased by the studio in 1946, but they never moved their studios, probably due to the cost of the move. The studio later purchased part of the Ronald Reagan Ranch and the Hunter Homestead. The property was the home to the movie and television versions of M.A.S.H. as well as Planet of the Apes. While some sets were built and removed, long standing sets included a ranch set, a Mexican Village, and a Fort, now all gone. In 1974, the State of California purchased the ranch and opened it to the public in 1976.
Malibu Creek meanders from west to east through the middle of the park, its elevation dropping from 700 to 500 feet. The creek was dammed in the early 1900s to form the seven-acre Century Lake. Numerous smaller creeks empty into Malibu Creek from the highlands, particularly in the winter and spring. From the creek to the northern border of the park, much of the area is oak savannah: sloping grassland dotted with valley oak trees. Many of the slopes are covered with chaparral - a mixture of drought resistant, fire adapted shrubs.
Malibu Creek State Park stretches from below Malibu Lake in the west to Piuma Road in the east. It follows the creek down to the Pacific Ocean and includes the Adamson House on the beach. Tapia Park has been incorporated as a subunit of the park. The area is habitat for mountain lions, bobcats, mule deer, golden eagles, and southern steelhead. Malibu Creek State Park and the connecting trails have something for everyone. There are novice trails here, as well as one of the most demanding. The trails in the park are generally quite easy because they wind through the valleys and don't have a lot of climbing, but neither are they dead flat and boring. Since they have mountains on at least one side at all times, the scenery is always more than pleasant and often spectacular. And from the park you can get to the Backbone Trail, the holy grail of trails in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Points of Interest
Rock Pool: This is a nice little pool along Malibu Creek after it cut through the gorge below Century Lake surrounded by vertical volcanic rocks that is very popular for wading and swimming in summertime. It's about 1 hour from the parking lot. Many people use the rocks sometimes from very daring heights to jump into the water (as seen in the video).
Grassland Trail to Rock Pool: This trail is about 5 miles roundtrip over some rolling hills along Las Virgenes Creek down to Malibu Creek and along the High Road past the Visitor's Center to Rock Pool. The views from the Grassland Trail over the eastern portion of Malibu Creek State Park with the Goat Buttes are magnificent. Spring is the best time as the temperatures are pleasant, the hillsides are usually green, and some water is flowing. Rock Pool invites for a picknick under the shades and some wading or swimming in the water. Many bouldering and climbing opportunities near the Rock Pool at the Planet of the Apes wall.
This is a selected list of some movies of which scenes were filmed in the area that is now part of Malibu Creek State Park.
Planet of the Apes (1968), Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
The entrance to Malibu Creek State Park is located four miles south of Highway 101 on the Las Virgenes/Malibu Canyon Road. The park is open for day use from dawn to dusk. The park's visitor center is open noon to 4 pm every weekend. The visitor center is located about 0.7 miles from the lower parking lot on the main trail. The map address for the park is:
1925 Las Virgenes Road
Calabasas, CA 91302
You have to pay a fee ($8) to park your car inside the park. An alternative is to park your car on Mulholland Drive shortly west of Las Virgenes Road. This is only a few hundred yards away from the main park entrance. The Grassland trail starts from there.
Inside the park is Malibu Creek State Park Campground, which is a great place to tent camp with your family and children in fall, winter, and spring. The campground is in a serene valley and contains 62 tent campsites, two wheelchair-friendly bathrooms with flush toilets and solar-heated showers, and four RV campsites. Most of the sites are in the sun, which can be uncomfortable in summer. Every campsite contains a fire pit and picnic table but no hookups.