Hiking Highlights

No Responses

The Grotto Trail

The Malibu Grotto Hike is a “must do” hike in this area.

The trail is located in the Santa Monica Mountains north of Malibu.

This out-and-back moderate hike is about 2 miles each way for a total of 4 miles. It takes about 2-2.5 hours to do the entire hike and take in all the sights.

This is a very beautiful environment, especially after some rains. There are amazing vistas of sandstone peaks, a wonderful green meadow, a running creek and waterfalls, boulder hopping, creek crossings and some nice shady trails.

The hike is not very strenuous since there’s only about a 620 foot elevation gain. However, it does take some skill, ability and courage to get down into the actual grotto as you must climb over several boulders, sometimes with wet shoes, and not everyone is prepared for, or able to, do this. Don’t be concerned, however, as the hike has plenty of rewards if you don’t make it to the grotto. This tough part is only on the very last 25 yards or so of the adventure.

The hike:

The hike starts by taking the dirt road to the left of the ranger station. Take this down through the small picnic area below where you will see the trailhead well marked by the dirt parking area.

The first half of the hike runs steadily downhill to the grotto, and therefore, the way back gradually climbs uphill.

About a half mile into the hike you see your first waterfall as you walk along fairly shaded trails with beautiful vistas of sandstone peaks. You can live for a long time in Los Angeles and not have a clue of the wonderful places like this that exist around here. The views took my breath away and I couldn’t stop taking pictures inside this amazing place.

After awhile you get to this beautiful open green meadow that takes you to the trails that descend into the lower regions of the area where you walk closer to the creek.

You eventually get down into the hollow and walk beside the creek. There are some 3 or 4 creek crossings down here with varying degrees of difficulty getting across. After the rains you should be prepared to get your feet wet somewhere in one of these creeks.

As you get deep into the hike, near the end, the dirt trail disappears into a surface of all rocks and boulders surrounding the creek. You have no choice, if you want to go further you have to travel over rocks and boulders. It’s all pretty tame though, you don’t have to be an advanced or technical climber to get across this area. Most reasonably fit people can hike this area easily.

This creek and boulder area is a really pleasant and shady place to take a rest or sit and pause to have a snack, take photos, etc.

The very last part of the hike is to go over the boulders down into the grotto area. This is the part that takes some courage, skill and an honest evaluation of your ability. The drop to the grotto is a steep drop over the ledge, down boulders, some 10-15 feet down. Size it up for yourself and decide if you want to get into the grotto area.

The grotto is a sort of boulder enclosed cave with the creek above spilling water over it, like a small waterfall. You can walk in the pond bottom of the grotto and circle around and under the spilling water.

Save some energy for the return to the ranger station because it’s all uphill.

Have a great adventure in this beautiful place!

Note: Because Los Angeles is such a dry area, hikes with water features, such as this hike, should be taken in the rainy season for full enjoyment. Creeks and waterfalls, unfortunately, can completely disappear in the warmer months.


Located north of the city limits of Malibu in Ventura County. Take PCH north past Malibu, Zuma, Trancas and Broad Beach, over 25 miles north of Santa Monica. The road you turn onto is called Yerba Buena Road, directly north/west of the Neptune Net restaurant. Take the narrow curved road up about 5.2 miles until you spot the Circle X Ranch ranger station on your right, see the slideshow, the ranger station looks like a saloon or small shop, not like any ranger station you’ve probably ever seen before. Park in the lot for free. Maps are at the station front outdoors. To start the hike, walk the dirt road down to the left of the ranger station, the way is marked. In a lower dirt parking lot for the picnic area you will see the trailhead to the Grotto trail (see slideshow). There is a restroom at the station and also below near the picnic tables.

This article was provided by Daykations.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>