Solstice Canyon Hike
Summary for Solstice Canyon Hike
Easy to Moderate
3 Miles Round Trip
Hike into a wonderful sea side canyon featuring great ocean views, old growth oak trees, interesting historical ruins, and a lovely seasonal waterfall.
The Solstice Canyon Hike is located in Malibu off Corral Canyon Road at Pacific Coast Highway, and is part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. This is a lovely coastal canyon with something to offer for everyone. Dogs are also allowed on the trails, but they must be kept on a leash. Despite being located within one of Southern California’s most bustling and glamorous areas, Solstice Canyon manages to defy the cacophonies that come with modern-day city living. One of the ways that the site accomplishes this is by preserving its historical attributes, which stretch back to the 19th century.
The remains of what is believed to be the oldest existing building in Malibu can still be seen from the Solstice Canyon Trail. It is a cottage that was built in 1865 by agriculturalist, vintner and distiller, Matthew Keller. The cottage survived many forest fires until is was finally destroyed in the 2007 Corral Fire. Despite the destruction, the remains stand as a tribute to Keller’s legacy. A trail located within the Solstice Canyon Hike was named “The Rising Sun Trail” in honor of Keller’s winery which was located in Los Angeles.
Matthew Keller isn’t the only person who has contributed to the historical charm of the Solstice Canyon Hike. In 1952, Fred and Florence Roberts commissioned renowned African-American architect, Paul Williams, to design what they envisioned to be their own personal utopia in Solstice Canyon. The sprawling ranch house was dubbed the “Tropical Terrace” due to its design, celebration of nature, and also the home’s effortless ability to ensconce itself into the lush landscape. Unfortunately the Tropical Terrace was destroyed by a fire that spread from the canyon to the coast in 1982. Remains of the house have been managed by the National Park Service since 1988, and the spot is a favorite destination for Los Angeles area hikers, standing integrated amongst the landscape like an elaborate life-sized blueprint. Just past the ruins is a lovely waterfall which is seasonal and may be dry in summer, but usually flows nicely in the wet months. Note that the canyon can be explored above the waterfall, and this area contains a number of nice pools, grottoes, and small waterfalls, but there is no defined trail past the first waterfall.
Directions to Trailhead for Solstice Canyon Hike
Map of Solstice Canyon Hike with Downloadable GPX File
Detailed Description for Solstice Canyon Hike
Parking is free at the trailhead and a there are a few restrooms are available as well. Parking can fill up quickly, especially on weekends, so you may have to park down the road 1/2 mile or so is the lot is full. The popularity of this site is both due to its beauty and historical attributes, as well as its proximity to the beach and city.
You can do this hike all the way to the Tropical Terrace and Solstice Canyon waterfall by going up the canyon along the stream and then back the same way, which is easy with very little elevation gain. The hike described here, however, takes a more scenic route with a decent workout, going up the canyon ridge to the Tropical Terrace and waterfall, and then coming back down the canyon along the stream.
After arriving at the trailhead, access the Rising Sun Trail by keeping an eye out for a trail on the west end and north side of the lot that will lead to a set of stairs. Unlike the canyon bottom, this trail does not offer much shade, so be careful on hot days. Soon you will arrive at a road with trail junctions.
From there, the TRW Loop trail descends to the left and back shortly to the canyon floor. This is another shorter and easier hike option. For our hike The Rising Sun trail you want to stay on is across a parking lot which is now up the road above you. You can continue on the road a short distance and cut to the right to climb up the canyon ridge. Soon you will be high on the ridge with great views both down into the lush canyon and back towards the ocean.
After about 1 mile further, you will see ahead the narrowing stream bed below, and the Solstice Canyon waterfall and ruins to its left.
The trail descends down to the canyon floor, at which point you cross the creek to enter the Tropical Terrace ruins. The waterfall is located just beyond the Tropical Terrace ruins, and when flowing offers a serene melody.
As mentioned above, you can explore the area above the falls, and I have gone another mile or so further. It is quite beautiful, but note that if you proceed above the falls this now becomes an adventure hike, and you should have experience in off trail travel and boulder hopping in stream beds or you can easily be injured.
After enjoying the Solstice Canyon waterfall and ruins, you now stay on the right side of the creek which leads back to the trail head, forming a loop. The trail here, really an old paved road, is shaded by foliage comprised of sycamores, oaks and alders, and is quite lush and lovely with many old growth trees.
You will cross the creek on a bridge, at which point you are close to the trail head and parking lot. Now you can simply locate your vehicle, and then perhaps stop at one of Malibu’s world-famous beaches or restaurants before heading home!
Video of Solstice Canyon Hike
Here the waterfall at the end of the defined trail. Note that this was shot 3/26/2011 in a wet winter, so the flow is significantly stronger than normal. But it almost always has decent flow in the wet months, and is a lovely spot.