Santa Monica is more than a stretch of sand. It’s the namesake for a 156,671 acre national recreation area, comprising many individual state parks perfect for exploring. The park expands across the rugged Santa Monica Mountains, all the way to the Pacific Ocean. There are all kinds of trails and beaches to explore, so we’ve made a list of a few of our favorites.
Westward Beach at Point Dume
This public beach sits just below rugged cliffs jutting out into the Pacific. It’s quieter than many beaches in the area, as it’s set a bit farther away from the highway, and is not as easy to access. A trail winds up to an ancient coastal bluff sand dune, yielding views of the entire Santa Monica Bay, North Malibu, and even the Catalina Islands.
Solstice Canyon Loop Trail
One of the most popular hiking trails in the mountains, the Solstice Canyon Loop is a 6 mile, picturesque trek featuring small waterfalls, old stone buildings, and the eerie ruins of a burned down mansion. The trail is wide and clean, but there’s very little shade—be sure to pack lots of water and snacks if you’re attempting this in high California heat.
Point Mugu State Park
With five miles of ocean shoreline, and over 70 miles of hiking trails, Point Mugu offers hikers a workout with a view. At the end of your traipse, head down to the beach for a relaxing dip in the Pacific or even a little light body surfing.
Malibu Creek State Park
If you like bird watching, mountain biking, or rock climbing, Malibu Creek State Park should be your go-to. Don’t be surprised if you recognize the park’s gorgeous old sycamores, chaparral-covered hills, or adobe ruins. The park was a Hollywood filming location for both M*A*S*H and Planet of the Apes.
Be sure to visit the Santa Monica Hills National Recreation Area on your next visit to Santa Monica!