Hiking paths crisscross the Malibu Bluffs.

Hike the Malibu Bluffs to Malibu Beach on a splendid journey from the heart of Malibu to the surf-line. Watch for pelicans, dolphins, whales and wildflowers and get great vistas of Santa Monica Bay.

Hiking paths crisscross the Malibu Bluffs.
Hiking paths crisscross the Malibu Bluffs.

Malibu Bluffs Park, stunningly situated above the famed Malibu Colony, is the trailhead for a short but memorable coastal ramble. The park is operated by the city of Malibu in cooperation with the California Department of Parks and Recreation, landowner of the bluffs.

Malibu Bluffs is crisscrossed by a network of footpaths. Figure on about a two-mile or so loop around the bluffs, though you could shorten or lengthen that depending on the route you choose. The unmarked paths show up pretty well on the Google terrain map of the area.

Take a hike from the Malibu Bluffs to Malibu Beach.
Take a hike from the Malibu Bluffs to Malibu Beach.

If you’re looking for a beach walk, you can hike from the Malibu Bluffs to a coastal access-way in the Malibu Colony, then walk up or down the beach. If you hike down-coast to Malibu Lagoon State Beach it’s about 6 miles round trip and about the same 6 miles round trip if you head up-coast to Dan Blocker State Beach.

The developed part of Malibu Bluffs Park is mostly a Field of Dreams—that is to say, two absolutely beautiful youth-league-size baseball diamonds. What a beautiful backdrop! My son played a few games here and I can tell you it’s a wonderful experience for players and spectators alike.

Other park amenities include a walking path, a whale-watching perch and the Michael Landon Community Building. Fans who remember that 1960s’ TV horse opera, Bonanza, will note that this hike leads from a building named for Michael Landon, the actor who played the part of Little Joe to a beach named for Dan Blocker, who played his brother Hoss.

Directions: Driving to the park can be half the fun. Malibu Bluffs Park is located at the beginning (or end, depending on how you look at things) of Malibu Canyon Road. You can take Highway 1 from Santa Monica or in Calabasas exit the Ventura Freeway (101) on Las Virgenes Road, which becomes Malibu Canyon Road, snakes through deep gorges and rugged ravines and descends into Malibu. On approach to Pacific Coast Highway, the motorist enjoys vistas of the dramatic sweep of Santa Monica Bay and a glimpse of world-renown Surfrider Beach. Malibu Canyon Road winds past Pepperdine University to its terminus at Malibu Bluffs Park.

The hike: The best place to start hiking is on the trail that begins by the Michael Landon Community Building. Stay right at the first junction, parallel the highway for a time, then swing ocean-ward on another path.

For the shortest way to the beach, keep right and head the ocean. Follow a narrower path down a ravine to bougainvillea draped trailhead at Malibu Road, which extends through the Malibu Colony. Cross the road to the official coastal access-way. (This is not the only coastal access but in my experience it’s the most dependable (the gate is unlocked) one for public use.

Meander the sometimes rocky Malibu Colony beach between the breakers and a wall of upscale beach houses built on pilings.
Meander the sometimes rocky Malibu Colony beach between the breakers and a wall of upscale beach houses built on pilings.

A walk of a bit less than two miles up-coast travels to Dan Blocker State Beach (formerly Corral Beach), a mixed shore of sandy and rocky beach backed by riprap shielding the coast highway from the pounding surf. Those opting for a down-coast route will enjoy a beach hike of a bit more than two miles to Malibu Lagoon State Beach. From here, you can follow nature trails around the lagoon, continue along the shore to historic Malibu Pier, or return the same way.

One of the more curious sights-to-see while hiking the Malibu Bluffs.
One of the more curious sights-to-see while hiking the Malibu Bluffs.

Ah, the bluffs. Clear-day views are just gorgeous. Not much blooms along the state parkland trails in mid-summer, but the bluffs put on quite a wildflower show in March, April and May. In spring, members of the California Native Plant Society have been known to lead wildflower appreciation hikes.

I like taking a counter-clockwise route that includes the path on the beach side of the bluffs. This trail dips a bit, then ascends back up to a walkway at the edge of the baseball field. Any way you go, though, is a good one atop Malibu Bluffs—surprisingly unknown terrain considering it’s located so close to famed Malibu Beach.

Hike On,
John McKinney
The Trailmaster