Activities in the Santa Monica Mountains


Center of Attention

Stretching from the Hollywood Hills to the Oxnard Plain, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area covers more than 153,000 acres. Now the sprawling natural area has found its center, thanks to the opening of a new visitor facility at historic King Gillette Ranch in Malibu Canyon. Grab a piece of the action.

Gillette Ranch

Ranch Rambling

Reinventions aren’t just the stuff of celebrity comebacks. Some are a little more stable—literally! After extensive renovations, the stable building at King Gillette Ranch has been transformed into the new Anthony C. Beilenson Visitor Center: a culmination of a decades-long dream to establish a national park-quality visitor facility in the heart of the Santa Monica Mountains. Stop in to see the earth-friendly building’s exhibits and pick up a ranch map. Then take advantage of two hours of free parking and explore the ranch on a 3-mile (round-trip) hike. Cross the bridge, turn right, and walk along a pond with views of the Spanish Colonial Revival mansion, which was designed by noted Southern California architect Wallace Neff. Along the right side of a low-slung white building, continue straight onto the unsigned trail. The trail climbs steeply through a Coast Live Oak woodland as views open up to Goat Buttes in Malibu Creek State Park. Blooming chamise and buckwheat brighten the chaparral before you come to a flat. A left spur leads to the Inspiration Point overlook, but for a longer hike continue climbing and then veer left onto the ridgeline. The panoramas are spectacular: Saddle Peak’s sandstone outcroppings, circling red-tailed hawks searching for ubiquitous ground squirrels, and views of Malibu Canyon. At a prominent cleared flat, curl around to the right before the trail descends. Go right on a paved road that reaches a locked white gate, then head left through the woods to the main part of the ranch. Gillette: the best a hike can get!

King Gillette Ranch is located just east of the intersection of Mulholland Highway and Las Virgenes/Malibu Canyon Rd., about 4 miles south of U.S. Hwy 101 and about 8 miles north of Pacific Coast Highway. No dogs.

Malibu Hindu Temple

Canyon Nirvana

On first glance at the Malibu Hindu Temple, the contrast between the pure white tower commanding its entry and the endless cobalt sky seems so ethereal that you may find yourself declaring, "We’re not in Calabasas anymore!" Which, despite the temple’s name, is exactly where this complex of towers and domed side altars is located. The swaying palm trees that frame the entrance and the tower’s elaborate carvings make you feel as if you've been transported a universe apart from metropolitan Los Angeles, despite the beach-bound traffic barely 100 yards away. Take off your shoes for a ritual passage through the courtyard of the South Indian-style temple dedicated to the Hindu god Venkateswara. Once inside, give yourself time to appreciate the intricacies of the carvings of deities, elephants, and lions adorning the structures that Indian craftsmen began building in 1981. Go ahead, take it all in: the bronze statuary on ledges of buildings that taper and soar into the sky, the wafting fragrance of incense, and the murmured prayers of the true believers. Calabasas bliss.

Malibu Hindu Temple is located about a half-mile south of Mulholland Highway at 1600 Las Virgenes Canyon Rd. Summer weekday hours are from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Weekend and holiday hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Century Lake Malibu Creek State Park

Century Club

Long before opening to the public and decades prior to a starring role as a movie ranch for 20th Century Fox, the land comprising Malibu Creek State Park was actually a country club. There was no caddyshack at Crags Country Club—which opened in 1910—but members did hunt, hike, and fish at what was then a decidedly remote spot. They also left their mark on the land, most notably Century Dam and Century Lake. The 1.5-mile (one-way) hike to get there starts on the Grasslands Trail, which edges golden slopes busy with dive-bombing swallows. Beyond an impressive Valley oak (the park marks the trees’ southern limit), the trail climbs up and to the right before dropping you into the valley toward Crags Road. Veer right again and savor the shade of a Coast Live Oak before reaching a junction with signs for the lake. As the road climbs, look left for a primitive path that leads to the foundation, with low walls and tile floor that survive from the old club’s Bavarian-style lodge. Back on the road, the route levels out and a trail on the left drops to a picnic table along Century Lake. It’s a gorgeous spot: lily pads and reeds hug the shore, and the still waters beautifully reflect volcanic formations above the dam. Chill out, then return the way you came.

The Grasslands Trail begins off Mulholland Highway less than .25-mile west of the intersection with Las Virgenes/Malibu Canyon Rd. Roadside parking is available on one side of the highway. If no parking is available, you can also reach Century Lake from Malibu Creek State Park’s main lot ($12) by following signs for Crags Rd. Photo courtesy of magnetic lobster.

Terranea Temptation

This summer, get away without having to go far! Terranea Resort is one of Southern California's most beautiful escapes—combining heavenly beach relaxation with outdoor adventures. Book your stay soon and get up to $200 in Resort Credit (limited time only) when booking one of their Summer Packages. The oceanfront hideaway—set on 102 acres of pristine open space at the tip of the Palos Verdes Peninsula—offers everything from poolside lounging (at one of three ocean-view pools!) and spa rejuvenation to quiet explorations and good times kayorkling (part kayaking, part snorkeling). Stay in a hotel guestroom or opt for one of the residential-style accommodations: Bungalows, Casitas and Villas are elegant yet functional with every modern convenience. Visit Pointe Discovery—a one-stop shop for experiencing all of Terranea’s land and sea adventures, including horseback riding in Rolling Hills and exploring secluded rocky beach coves. As the day winds down, enjoy cocktails while watching the sun set across the Pacific and choose from the resort's eight restaurants, cafes, lounges, or bars. Wrap up the evening with a s’mores roast and champagne toast at one of several fire pits or fireplaces. Here's to an escape that's not far away! Sweet Terranea dreams.

BONUS: Book your stay and receive up to $200 in Resort Credit (limited time only). Whether you're looking for a romantic retreat, a spa revival, a golf escape, a family adventure, or a dining extravaganza, Terranea Resort offers special packages and rates along with perfectly tailored itineraries to suit your wishes.

$200 in Resort Activity Credit is for a limited time only and is not applicable toward rooms. 

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