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Malibu Creek State Park is a gorgeous, year-round place to hike in the Santa Monica mountains. Visit in the winter and spring for beautiful green grasses and cool temps. Come in the summer when the heat in the Valley is unbearable for a dip in its cool waters. Return in the fall for a final hike before the winter rains. If hiking isn’t enough of a draw, the park used to be owned by a film studio and movie stars like Bob Hope and President Reagan and served as backdrop to many movies and TV shows. In fact one of the days I visited, a movie was being shot. Nothing like hiking past actors made up to be plane crash victims. Keep reading to find out which shows you can step into the background of.
Visiting the M*A*S*H Set
With one easy hike of five miles (very little elevation change), you can go from Southern California to South Korea—or at least pretend you have. This hike goes along a four-wheel drive road and follows a creek, which will probably be dry or low. One thing about the park is that there are many overlapping trails so it can be a little confusing what trail you’re on. Most intersect a few times so it’s easy to get off trail but back on. I recommend using All Trails to keep on the right path but there are signs posted.
When I was at the MASH site, there was an old Army ambulance you could crawl in for a photo op and some other old pieces from the set. Unfortunately a massive wild fire ran through the area, taking with it much of the old equipment. It’s still worth the hike.
If you’re visiting in the summer, you will definitely want to stop here on your way to the M*A*S*H set. This lake was created by developers back in the 1900s but later purchased by Twentieth Century Fox. It’s a beautiful, deep lake popular for swimming and cliff jumping. It does get crowded on the weekends in the summer as it’s surrounded by cliffs, allowing only a few places to access the water.
King Gillette Ranch
According to Wikipedia, King Gillette Ranch was annexed to the state park. However, I can’t find confirmation of this anywhere and I no longer live in the area to check in person. As far as I know the ranch, which sits across the road from the park, is still run by the Mountains, Recreation, and Conservation Authority.
The Ranch is an old mansion built by the razor king and designed by famous architect, William Neff. The main home is not available to the public and is used for private events. There are a few hikes starting at the ranch but the main draw is the visitor center housed in the old stables. This center is a great way to learn about the Santa Monica Mountains and its history.
The state park does have a visitor center housed in an old ranch home used in many films but its visitor hours are extremely limited. In the few times I’ve been there, I haven’t been able to go inside.
The park borders Mulholland Highway, a scenic highway with plenty of twists and turns through the Santa Monica mountains. This is well worth a drive alone. The easiest way to access the park is from Interstate 101 from the north or the Pacific Coast Highway (yet another gorgeous drive) from the south.
There is a fee for visiting this park. Considering how much this park offers, it is a minimal fee and well worth it to keep it maintained. I will offer this one tip to only be used if you truly can’t afford the fee. If you park along Mulholland Highway at the Grasslands trailhead, you can walk in without paying. This adds about a mile (both ways to any hike accessed from the main gates). But pay if you are able.
This park sits above Malibu and the most beautiful beaches Southern California has to offer! After getting all hot and sweaty hiking, drive down the canyon to the ocean for a cooling-off dip.
For an outdoor adventure without ever having to get outside, check out the Lost Gorge Mystery series!
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