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10 Unforgettable Santa Monica Hikes Near the California Coast

10 Unforgettable Santa Monica Hikes Near the California Coast

Hikes in the Santa Monica, California area offer gorgeous scenic views and a lot of diversity. Many people visit the Los Angeles area for the city and entertainment but when you want to get away from it all, you don’t have to travel very far.

The abundant outdoor activities in the surrounding state parks and beaches make this area a prime spot for all your adventuring needs. 

Today we’ll share 10 of the most unforgettable Santa Monica hikes for your next outing. Some even have hidden surprises.

Santa Monica Mountains in 4K | Sandstone Peak | LA and SoCal Hiking

Where Is Santa Monica, California? 

Santa Monica, Calif., lies along California’s southern coast in Los Angeles County. And it sits just 30 minutes west of the heart of Los Angeles. 

It borders Will Rogers State Historic Park and has Topanga State Park to the north and Kenneth Hahn State Recreation area to the east. It has a beautiful coastline known for Venice Beach and the Santa Monica Pier.

Why Is Santa Monica a Good Place to Hike? 

Santa Monica has beautiful beaches, coastlines, and the nearby Santa Monica Mountain range. The area has over 500 miles of trails to hike and explore.

You can easily escape the hustle and bustle of the city on beautiful free trails. You’ll see stunning views of forests, the ocean, or downtown L.A.

You may also find the hikes in Santa Monica a great place to go because you can bring your pets and kids. And you can see famous filming sites where they filmed M*A*S*H and Westworld, plus go horseback riding, mountain biking, and wildlife viewing.

Pro Tip: Want to snooze in the sand? Check out these 10 Options For Beach Camping in California.

Couple hiking along coast in Santa Monica
With beautiful shorelines and impressive mountains, Santa Monica makes for the perfect spot to hike in.

10 Unforgettable Santa Monica Hikes Near the California Coast

With all this area offers, let’s dig into some of the most unforgettable hikes near the Santa Monica coast. Tie up your hiking boots, and let’s explore.

1. Santa Monica Ocean Front Walk

Location: This walk goes along the beach right behind the Santa Monica Pier.

Length: The Ocean Front Walk is only .7 miles or 1,500 steps long.

Loop or Out-and-Back: This Ocean Front Walk loops around to where you started.

Skill Level: This is an easy and accessible footpath with no elevation gain along the beach, making it a fun and easy exercise for the kids.

Are Dogs Allowed?: You can bring your dogs, but not in the shops along the way.

About: Take your family on this short route and let the kids play in the sandbox with a Viking ship in it. Or they can explore the dragon head peeking out of the grass nearby. It also has restaurants, shops, and volleyball courts.

2. Stunt High Trail

Location: The Stunt High Trail runs through the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area north of Santa Monica near Calabasas, Calif.

Length: It extends 4.2 miles and usually takes 2 hours to complete.

Loop or Out-and-Back: This is an out-and-back trail.

Skill Level: This moderately challenging hike has an elevation gain of about 954 feet.

Are Dogs Allowed?: You can bring your dogs as long as you keep them leashed. However, you can’t have dogs on the Saddle Peak section after Stunt Road Loop.

About: This hike has nice shady and sunny areas, beautiful foliage, and oak trees. A creek runs along the first part of the trail. Depending on the time of year, you may experience heat, bugs, or muddy sections. You may find it best to go in the morning in the spring.

3. Solstice Canyon Loop

Location: You’ll find Solstice Canyon Loop in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area near Malibu, Calif.

Length: This is a 3-mile hike.

Loop or Out-and-Back: It loops around to bring you back to the trailhead.

Skill Level: With 669 feet of elevation gain, you may find this a moderately challenging hike.

Are Dogs Allowed?: You can bring your leashed dogs on the trail.

About: Many people enjoy this hiking area, and it can get a little crowded depending on when you go. It is mostly shaded. You may come across a waterfall and creek, the ruins of a mansion, and the oldest stone building in Malibu. 

You can also explore the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. The trail to the right of the Conservancy gives you ocean views and the ruins of the Tropical Terrace, a home built in the 1960s. It has a 30-foot waterfall, pools, and exotic plants.

Palm trees in Santa Monica
Take a break from tanning to hike close to the beaches of Santa Monica.

4. Tiger Tail Trail

Location: You’ll find Tiger Tail Trail north of the Los Angeles area.

Length: This Santa Monica hike is 2.9 miles long.

Loop or Out-and-Back: This out-and-back trail takes about an hour and 45 minutes to complete.

Skill Level: It has 862 feet of elevation gain making this a challenging hike with rough terrain. It also has some intense inclines.

Are Dogs Allowed?: You can bring pets as long as they remain leashed.

About: The trail remains open year-round and provides beautiful sunset views over Topanga State Park. It runs along a ridge its whole length, giving you beautiful views from every angle. Some say it has the best views in all of L.A., with snowcapped mountains, ocean, and city scenes.

5. Los Leones Trail

Location: This trail lies just north of Santa Monica above Sunset Boulevard.

Length: This Santa Monica area hike extends 1.3 miles.

Loop or Out-and-Back: Los Leones goes out and back.

Skill Level: Though it’s a relatively short trail, it has 543 feet of elevation gain, making it a difficult uphill hike.

Are Dogs Allowed?: According to the Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Department website, “When planning a visit, please note that dogs are only allowed on the Los Leones Day Use Trail. Beyond the Los Leones Day Use Trail connecting to the Los Leones Trail, dogs are prohibited.”

About: If you want to see beautiful ocean views while hiking through lush vegetation, you might attempt this hard hike.

At the end, it opens to a clearing where you can sit and enjoy the sunset overlooking Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica. If you can visit on a particularly clear day, you can see out to Catalina Island.

Woman hiking in Santa Monica mountains
Pack plenty of water and sunscreen while hiking in Santa Monica.

6. Santa Ynez Waterfall Trail

Location: This hike lies a few miles north of Will Rogers State Beach in Topanga State Park. You can get there from Sunset Boulevard to Palisades Drive after turning onto Vereda De La Montura.

Length: This hike extends 2.2 miles.

Loop or Out-and-Back: This out-and-back trail has a beautiful surprise at the end.

Skill Level: Many reviews say the trail is poorly maintained and pretty rugged, making it a difficult hike. You’ll likely need hiking sticks to get over the terrain.

Are Dogs Allowed?: You can’t bring dogs on the trails, fire roads, or backcountry areas. 

About: At the end of this Santa Monica area hike, you’ll find an 18-foot waterfall. Mostly, the trail follows the creek and crosses it at some points. 

The terrain becomes rockier the closer you come to the waterfall. The canyon walls close in a bit, and you’ll have a steep section near the falls.

7. TRW Loop Trail

Location: This hike is a bit further from Santa Monica and is closer to Malibu. It’s not too far away from Dan Blocker County Beach.

Length: The TRW Loop Trail goes 1 mile.

Loop or Out-and-Back: The trail loops back to the trailhead.

Skill Level: This generally easy hike takes about half an hour to complete.

Are Dogs Allowed?: You can bring your dogs as long as they remain leashed.

About: Many enjoy this easy, family-friendly hike along a gravel trail. Depending on the season you visit, you can see wildflowers and wildlife. At the highest point, you can see some ocean views. You can go hiking, running, or walking, but you’ll find many other people on the trail too.

8. Murphy Ranch Trail

Location: Capri Drive & Casale Road, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272

Length: This Santa Monica area hike goes 3.85 miles, but if you want to extend it, you can take another trail at the top and curve around for a 4.25-mile hike.

Loop or Out-and-Back: This trail is considered a lollipop loop. At the top, you can hike around the ruins of Murphy Ranch and then come back down.

Skill Level: The hike has 325 feet of elevation gain and lots of stairs making this a moderately challenging trail.

Are Dogs Allowed?: Feel free to bring your pup on a leash, but watch out for rattlesnakes and other dangers along the trail.

About: Murphy Ranch Trail has a rich and interesting history. You can hike to the remains of an abandoned Nazi shelter turned artist colony. Some concrete staircases link Murphy Ranch to Sullivan Ridge Fire Road.

Ferris wheel in Santa Monica
After your hike, cool off with a refreshing swim at the beach in Santa Monica.

9. Temescal Canyon Trail

Location: You can find this trailhead off Sunset Boulevard in Pacific Palisades at the Temescal Gateway Park. The trail then takes you into Topanga State Park.

Length: The trail extends 3.8 miles.

Loop or Out-and-Back: This is one of the popular loop hikes in the Santa Monica area.

Skill Level: This moderately challenging route takes about 2 hours to complete and has 935 feet of elevation gain.

Are Dogs Allowed?: You can only bring dogs at the bottom of the trail, so it’s best to leave them at home for this hike.

About: You’ll see views of Malibu and the Santa Monica Mountains, and the wooded canyon. You’ll also come to a shady waterfall area, but other parts of the trail have no shade. The hike also has beautiful flora and rock formations you can explore, such as Skull Rock.

10. Viewridge Trail

Location: Viewridge Road, Topanga Canyon, CA 90290

Length: This 3-mile hike takes about an hour and 15 minutes.

Loop or Out-and-Back: This lollipop loop trail curves around Santa Maria Road and Summer Hill Ranch, connecting back to Viewridge Trail.

Skill Level: This is a moderately easy trail with only 325 feet of elevation gain.

Are Dogs Allowed?: You can bring dogs, horses, and mountain bikes on this hike.

About: This hike offers wildflowers in the spring, beautiful canyon and hillside views, a picnic table, and a lookout bench.  The trail also crosses Santa Maria Creek on a small wood and metal footbridge. You’ll enjoy small wooded groves and grassy meadow overlooks.

What Is the Best Time of Year for Santa Monica Hikes?

In the spring, you can enjoy cooler temperatures, waterfalls, and lovely wildflowers dotting the hills in the Santa Monica Mountains. However, fall and winter also make great times to hike. 

You may find fewer crowds, and the trails remain open year-round. You also won’t have high temperatures. 

Pro Tip: You’ll love hiking in these 7 Best National Parks in California.

Crescent City Redwoods KOA Campground Overview | Camping near Redwoods National Park

Enjoy Hiking in Beautiful Santa Monica

Santa Monica hikes provide an array of experiences. You can choose wooded hikes to a waterfall or Nazi-era compound ruins. You’ll see gorgeous ocean views among hillsides and mountains in the distance. 

These hikes also cover chaparral and forested areas giving you some diversity of scenery. Each has varying levels of difficulty, so you can challenge yourself. 

The Santa Monica area provides many outdoor adventures for you to explore, often with your furry friend.

Which Santa Monica hike will you go on first? Tell us in the comments!

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Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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