Will Rogers State Historic Park honors Will Rogers, often called the “Cowboy Philosopher,” who bought a spread in the Santa Monica Mountains in 1922. He and his family enlarged their weekend cottage to 31 rooms, including 11 baths and 7 fireplaces.
The Oklahoma-born Rogers toured the country as a trick roper, punctuating his act with humorous comments on the news of the day. His roping act led the humorist to later fame as a newspaper columnist, radio commentator and movie star.
Today, the ranch and grounds of the Rogers Ranch is maintained as Will Rogers State Historic Park, set aside in 1944. View a short film on Rogers’ life at the park visitor center and tour the ranch house, still filled with his prized possessions.
Come for the history, stay for the hiking; there’s a lot here for hikers. Rogers himself designed the riding trails that wind into the hills behind his ranch. The path to Inspiration Point is an easy walk for the whole family.
The park is the eastern terminus for the Backbone Trail that extends some 65 miles across the spine of the Santa Monica Mountains to Point Mugu State Park. Extend the hike to Inspiration Point and get great views by ascending the first mile or so of the Backbone Trail. One of The Trailmaster’s favorite lengths of the Backbone connects Topanga and Will Rogers state parks; it’s about 11 miles one-way.
From Sunset Boulevard in Pacific Palisades, 4.5 miles inland from Sunset’s junction with Pacific Coast Highway, turn inland on the access road leading to Will Rogers State Historic Park. Park your car near the polo field or near Rogers’ house.
Begin at the Will Rogers home and join the path up the hill to the west of the ranch house and left of the tennis courts. Follow the zigzag path 0.1 mile to meet Inspiration Point Loop Trail (a wide dirt fire road). The trail bends west, offering vistas of Santa Monica Bay, then heads north into the mountains. The path ascends a ridge overlooking nearby Rivas Canyon and leads to a junction, 0.8 mile from the trailhead.
Bear right to Inspiration Point, not really a point at all, it’s actually more of a flat-topped knoll. Nevertheless, clear-day views are inspiring: Santa Monica Bay, the metropolis, San Gabriel Mountains, Catalina.
(From the signed junction below Inspiration Point, consider an optional exploration on famed Backbone Trail. Ascend Chicken Ridge (one mile with nearly 500 feet in elevation gain) and enjoy more great views of the mountains, metropolis and wide blue Pacific.)
Return to the main loop and continue your clockwise tour, first continuing northeast, then east and then descending south. The lower length of trail, lined with eucalyptus, leads back to the polo grounds and visitor center.
Interested in more hikes in the Santa Monica Mountains? Check out my guide: HIKE the Santa Monica Mountains