Butterfly on the Santa Ynez Waterfall Trail in Topanga State Park, California
The Santa Ynez Waterfall Trail, which is part of Topanga State Park, is a relatively flat (300 feet in elevation gain) and easy trail that starts above the town of Pacific Palisades and leads to the waterfall in the name, a trip of about 2.25 miles round trip.
It is a good trail for kids, but watch out for the plentiful patches of poison oak lining the trail, often very close to the walking path. There is a trail junction about half a mile from the trailhead. One path leads to the waterfall, while the other heads to Trippet Ranch and the Musch Trail to Eagle Rock, a steep strenuous hike of about 3.5 miles from this point.
Thanks to California’s ongoing drought, the waterfall was fairly disappointing as of Spring 2016. There is a trickle of water bouncing down the rocks, and at the base are several small pools that contain newts.
This is an out-and-back trail so once you’ve had your fill of the falls, simply turn around and head back to the trailhead via the same route (while continuing to watch out for all that poison oak).
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.