Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Hiking Sullivan Ridge

We are lucky here in SoCal to be so close to so many hikable parks. The true king of variety in these parts is Topanga Canyon/Santa Monica Mountains. Every time I think I have hiked the heck out of Topanga, it offers up another trail to test my mettle. This shouldn't come as a surprise given what else goes on in the park. On a recent weekend, I decided to check out the unheralded Sullivan Ridge to see what was shakin.

How you access the trail is to go through a rather tony neighborhood in the Pacific Palisades. The initial portion of the trail is paved as it also serves as access to Camp Josepho and every once in awhile you will see a car go through the gate. So yes, part of the trail is paved

So yes, part of the trail is paved

but one of the beauties of this trail is that you can hike off trail onto the ridgeline which means less people, better views and a better overall experience.

There are 2 ways to access the ridgeline trail to the right/East of the main trail. Basically after .3-.5 miles after the gate either look for the hard, scrambly way up

Or another .2-.3 down the road you can take a more genteel way up through the brush. Either way, get on top of this ridgeline, you will see great views of the ocean

the mountains

and downtown LA (forgive me if I don't put up the obligatory picture of downtown).

Plus the trail is pretty rugged and singletracked which should satisfy your inner woodsman.

Eventually the trail meets up with the paved fireroad but never fear, it dips back up onto the ridge at the Camp entrance.

I would like to stop here (if I may) with a suggestion about when/how to hike this puppy. As it is Summertime here in SoCal, I have been reduced to hiking early in the morning or later in the evening. I did this one later in the day and worked up quite a sweat hiking the ridges in the sunlight but as I took the fireroads back, they were covered in shade and it gets c-o-l-d.

My suggestion (if doing this hike later in the day in the Summer) is to do the fireroad first and then hike the ridgeline back as you want as much sun on you as possible during the later part of the day.

Regardless of when you hike the ridge, it gives you great views of the 2 canyons it straddles.

And weirdly, a summit disc?

You keep plugging away until about 4 miles in you see the tree.

You will know this tree because that is all there is, you can't miss it.

Most people use this tree as a turnaround point, making the round trip about 8 miles. If you are feeling adventuresome you can push on for another 1.5 miles to the junction with Sullivan Canyon and another .6 more to Mullholland Drive.

I decided to push on and get some more miles under my belt and decided to hike to Sullivan Canyon. As it is with the rest of this trail, you can either take the ridge trail or the fireroad.

I ain't going to lie, that is a steeeep hill and I was in no mood to tackle 1.5 miles uphill like that so I stuck to the fireroad (which had turned to dirt/stone at this point) and was rewarded with some nice views

and some cool rocks (well to the extent rocks can be "cool")

and also some mountain views that reminded me of Southwestern Virginia.

You will know you made the Sullivan Canyon junction when you see this little beauty.

On the way back it was all fireroads. By going on the fireroads, you get to see this weird part of Topanga Canyon history.

Modern Hiker does a good job breaking it all down what this place was all about and I definitely suggest checking out his trip report.

Overall, this hike packs a punch, gives you a wild ridge trail, great views and not too bad of a roundtrip mileage. If you think you have hiked Topanga, you haven't till you have done this bad boy.

One other thing to note about the ridge trail. Mountain bikers have done a lot of work on the trail. There are jumps and built up trails all over the place. It is clearly their trek but you can enjoy it as well and there really are no butting of heads on the trails.

If you want some further info about the ridge, check this out: http://www.hikespeak.com/trails/sullivan-ridge-hike-palisades/


  1. Thanks for the memories! That is one of my favorite Santa Monica Mts. off-road rides.


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