Diminutive Corral Canyon Park is one of the newer parcels of open space to be added to the archipelago of public lands known as the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. A lazily looping hiking trail traverses the park’s grass- and chaparral-covered slopes, inviting your exploration on foot (no mountain bikes allowed, though).
The trailhead is obscure. To get there, you’ll need to be going westbound (up the coast from Santa Monica) through Malibu on Pacific Coast Highway. (There is no eastbound access to the trailhead.) At a point 0.6 mile east of Puerco Canyon Road, there’s a parking lot on the right for the Malibu Seafood and Deli restaurant, 25623 Pacific Coast Highway, which doubles as the Corral Canyon trailhead. If you reach Corral Canyon Road, you have gone 0.3 mile too far.
Check out the interpretive plaques at the trailhead and then take off on the trail, which begins by crossing a small area of willow scrub in the often-marshy bottom of Corral Canyon. On the far side, swing left. After 0.1 mile choose the trail on the right that will take you immediately uphill and counterclockwise on a two-mile loop. The beautifully graded pathway curls up a grassy hillside swept by fresh Pacific breezes. Hang-gliding humans on parasailing craft can often be seen drifting lazily to and fro along the shoreline, utilizing those same sea breezes.
At 0.8 mile, you reach a narrow ridge. A false trail goes right up along the top of that ridge, but you stay left, following a more gently graded trail that continues gaining elevation, going north, parallel to the canyon bottom below. By about 1.1 miles, at an elevation of 550 feet above sea level, there’s a sharp switchback. You swing left and initiate a zigzagging descent down into the canyon and then alongside the canyon bottom. Keep an eye on the sky for ravens, hawks, or vultures swooping, soaring, and gliding.
Nearing the end of the hike you pass a homesite — a cabin burned like so many others in this wildfire-prone region — with its forlorn chimney still standing. Shortly ahead, you come to the aforementioned split in the trail, a short distance shy of the trailhead.
This article contains information about a publicly owned recreation or wilderness area. Trails and pathways are not necessarily marked. Conditions can change rapidly. Hikers should be properly equipped and have safety and navigational skills. The Reader and Jerry Schad assume no responsibility for any adverse experience.
Climb high above the Pacific Ocean on the trails of Malibu’s Corral Canyon Park.
Distance from downtown San Diego: 150 miles
Hiking length: 2.2 miles