The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area encompasses a broad range of parks and publicly owned open space areas, ranging from 10,000-acre-plus state parks to tiny parcels situated to protect unusual natural habitat, or to preserve cultural and historic resources, or to allow public access to spectacular vistas. One example of the latter is the parcel known as the “Malibu Canyon Piuma Ridge.” There, high atop the rim of Malibu Canyon, you can take a short hike to a restful spot with a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Monica Mountains spilling down toward it.
The hike is practically trivial, but getting there involves some adventurous driving on curvy roads. From Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, turn north on Las Flores Canyon Road. Proceed 3.4 miles to Rambla Pacifico, and turn right. Go 0.6 mile to Piuma Road and turn left. Now head west on Piuma for about three miles, and notice the Piuma roadside overlook on the left. The obscure starting point for the trail (a small parking area on the left side of the road) is 0.25 mile farther, at mile post 2.91. The little hike ahead is great for kids, and your leashed dog might appreciate the chance to sniff around a bit and enjoy the exciting scents of the natural world.
From the trailhead, follow a former roadbed (now a wide trail) that ascends the brushy slope. After only about 0.3 mile and 150 feet of elevation ascent, you arrive at a flattish, open area featuring two picnic tables and a virtually unlimited view. Gaze eastward to spot the dramatically tilted sandstone strata on the west flank of Saddle Peak. Look westward into Malibu Creek State Park and spot the dramatic profile of the Goat Buttes — a mini-mountain range of volcanic origin. Scan the ocean in the south to as far as the transparency of the air will allow. Those bumps out there in various directions are the Channel Islands, the nearest of which is Santa Catalina Island, about 45 miles away.
Enjoy a wide-world view from Piuma Overlook in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Distance from downtown San Diego: 145 miles
Hiking length: 0.6 mile round trip