Musch Trail to Eagle Rock in Topanga State Park, California
When I asked the ranger what trail I should take on my first visit to Topanga State Park, her answer was immediate: “Go to Eagle Rock.”
The trailhead starts at the Trippet Ranch parking lot and is a slow uphill trek that starts in forest and after you pass through the Musch Camp, continues through meadowland. Total elevation gain is about 750 feet, and that includes scaling Eagle Rock itself.
Eagle Rock becomes visible to the north as the main focus of the landscape once you reach Eagle Junction and continue up the wide fire road. Once you reach the rock, it’s an easy climb to the edge to look out over the homes in affluent Pacific Palisades and the Pacific Ocean beyond.
To return, head back to Eagle Junction. From there you can either return back down the Musch Trail or take the more direct fire road, which also drops you back at Trippet Ranch. I took the fire road as it was getting dark and logged about 4.5 miles total on this loop.
Hiking to the wind caves at Gaviota State Park
The journey to the Gaviota wind caves is just over 2.5 miles with an elevation gain of about 700 feet. It’s a small price to pay for the amazing views of the Gaviota area and the ocean, as well as for the chance to poke around in the caves themselves.
The trailhead starts at a gate leading up a fire road, which you’ll follow for about half a mile until you reach a trail sign pointing in the direction of a dirt track to the left. There’s a fairly steep incline through a meadow and keep an eye out for a trail spur leading to the left toward a small rock-lined ridge. You’ll want to follow that instead of heading right on the more well-defined trail.
Shortly after that split, you’ll reach the first couple of caves. A little further on and you’ll reach several more – and these are the ones with the best views of Gaviota, the ocean, the railroad bridge and the oil rigs beyond. Most are big enough to duck into – you can even stand upright in some.
After reaching the caves, you can continue on to explore the network of trails criss-crossing Gaviota State Park or return to the trail head by reversing course back down the trail.
McMenemy Trail in Montecito
For a great view of the expensive homes and landscapes of Montecito, take a climb up the McMenemy Trail. Supposedly you can even see Oprah’s house… although to be honest, I don’t know which one it is.
The McMenemy Trail starts out down the Eucalyptus lined street of Park Lane, itself a lovely view. The well-maintained path climbs slowly during the first half mile and rejoins upper stretches of Park Lane (with prominent No Trespassing signs glaring at you) until it hits a gate. Continue to the left around the gate as the trail parallels the creek through the woods. Once you reach another fork, stay left again and hop over the easy creek crossing.
At this point, the trail climbs more quickly as it rises out of the forest, giving you views of Montecito and the Pacific Ocean beyond. In just under a mile and a half, you’ll reach McMenemy Bench, named after Col. Logan T. McMenemy. The bench serves as a resting stop before heading back down to the trailhead.