Ocean Overlook Loop Trail
Central Coast

Ocean Overlook Loop Trail At Charmlee Wilderness Park

Ocean Overlook Loop Trail is a stunning day hike within the Charmlee Wilderness Park in Southern California. At this park, you can experience exceptional scenery tucked away from the busy city crowds.

The Ocean Overlook Loop Trail leads to a beautiful viewpoint of the Malibu coastline and the ocean from its summit. This hike is also dog friendly making it a great spot to bring your four-legged friend for fresh air and exercise, especially on the weekends.

In this post, we cover details on where the Overlook Loop Trail is located, where to park, trail difficulty, and what to expect if you plan to hike it!

Viewpoint from Ocean Overlook

Guide To Hiking Ocean Overlook Loop Trail:


Trail Location & Parking

Ocean Overlook Loop Trail is located within Charmlee Wilderness Park in Malibu. This park is situated slightly inland so it’s quite the hidden gem that not that many people know of.

At the summit of the hike

To get there you can take Pacific Coast Highway 1 and turn onto Encinal Canyon Rd. From Highway 1, it’s just a 5-minute drive before you reach the park entrance gate off Carmichael Rd.

On Google Maps, you can find the starting point marked as ‘Charmlee Wilderness Park‘. If you plan to use the AllTrails hiking app, the hike is listed under ‘Ocean Overlook Loop Trail’. Whichever app you choose to use for directions – both will lead you to the same starting point.

Ocean Overlook Loop Trailhead

There is visitor parking within Charmlee Wilderness Park, but it is very limited. If all the parking is taken, you can also try to find a spot along Encinal Canyon Rd and walk 10 minutes to the trail starting point. Just be sure to keep an eye out for fast-driving cars and motorcycles as you walk to the park entrance.

Once you arrive, the trailhead for Ocean Overlook Loop is located just past the restrooms. There will be a map of the park trails, picnic tables, a nature center, and information signs of things to keep in mind before you head out into the wilderness.

Restroom at the visitor center

About Overlook Loop Trail

Ocean Overlook Loop is one of the best day hikes that you can do in Southern California. This is a 3-mile long loop with 500 feet of elevation gain that is great for beginner hikers, kids, and dogs. Be sure to bring extra doggie bags or grab some at the trailhead to pick up after your dog.

Charmlee Wilderness Park consists of 8 miles of hiking trails that span across 532 acres of wilderness. We had no reception in this area so I recommend downloading an offline hiking map from AllTrails ahead of time to help you stay on track. This park does not have many signs so it’s easy to get sidetracked and take the wrong turn.

Hiking through beautiful scenery at the Charmlee Wilderness Park.

With 500 feet of elevation gain, the Ocean Overlook Loop Trail is easy and takes 1-2 hours to complete. We hiked this trail clockwise going downhill first to a viewpoint of the ocean before tackling the uphill section.

Charmlee Wilderness Park offers some shaded sections with oak trees and shrubs, but much of it is exposed to the sun. It’s best to hike the Ocean Overlook Loop trail early in the morning before it gets too hot and to avoid the hottest parts of the day.

Water fountain station by the trailhead.

Be sure to bring several water bottles or fill them up at the water stations by the trailhead before starting the hike. There is even a water fountain for doggies to get some water. There are no water sources once you head into the trail so it’s best to go prepared.


Our Experience Hiking Overlook Loop Trail

After reaching the Ocean Overlook Loop trailhead, we walked into the wide path going clockwise. The landscape here is very scenic consisting of oak trees, meadows, giant boulders, and rolling hills as far as you can see.

The trail will start in a partially shaded forest with many burned trees.

The first section is very easy and steadily goes downhill toward the coast offering sneak peek views of the ocean along the way. It’s best to wear slip-resistant hiking shoes and bring trekking poles to prevent slipping and falling on rocks going downhill. Overall, the trail is easy but there are a lot of rocks and uneven surfaces that you’ll need to cross.

We hiked the Ocean Overloop Loop Trail in November when the weather was in the 60s yet still sunny and warm. Spring is another popular time for hiking at Charmlee Wilderness Park when the landscape looks very lush and full of wildflowers.

Views of the Malibu coastline from the summit.

In about a mile, you will reach the Ocean Overlook with views of the surrounding landscape and the coast. Overall, this trail offers one of the best viewpoints in Malibu that compares to the Ocean And Canyon View Trail.

After enjoying views from the overlook, you can continue along the loop. There will be a charming bench at the summit where you can take a quick snack break in the shade.

Hiking along the summit.

The next part of the hike started getting more confusing and we had to reference the AllTrails hiking app a few times to stay on the right route.

In a bit, we reached the ‘black forest’ which consists of large boulders and mysterious-looking trees. Here you can go on a short loop around the forest or keep going on the main track.

A short loop around the black forest at Charmlee Wilderness Park.

In 1.5 miles you will need to make a left turn to stay on the Ocean Overlook Loop Trail. This turn is not well marked so we missed it and had to backtrack a bit.

From here the trail will start climbing up along a steady incline. This is the hardest part of the hike with 300 elevation gain.

Steep incline during the last section of the hike.

Eventually, the trail loops back around with the starting point at the Charmlee Wilderness Park nature center. Overall, the hike took us a couple of hours to complete with plenty of stops for resting, drinking water, and taking photos along the way.

After the hike, we recommend heading to Neptune’s Net or Malibu Seafood Fresh Fish Market & Patio Café to enjoy some fresh, local seafood.


Other Visitor Tips

  • Charmlee Wilderness Park is open from 8:00 am to sunset for day visitors.
  • This area is home to wild animals such as coyotes, foxes, bobcats, and rattlesnakes. While rattlesnake bites are rare, when hiking in California, I always bring along a rattlesnake venom extraction kit just in case.
  • There are trashcans near the trailhead if you need to dispose of trash or doggie bags before or after the hike.
  • Pack plenty of water bottles for your hike. Due to the heat exposure and frequent fire warnings, this hike is best done in the winter or on cooler, overcast days.
  • Ocean Overlook Loop Trail can also be used for mountain biking and trail running.
  • Charmlee Wilderness Park also offers instructor-led hikes for seniors, and students, sunrises, sunsets, plus other events.

What To Bring

Here are a few things that we recommend bringing for day hikes in California:

  • Bring bug repellant. This area had some persistent mosquitos that followed us around.
  • Pack mineral sunscreenlip balm, and polarized sunglasses to avoid getting sunburned. While some portions of this trail are partially shaded, other sections are exposed to the sun.
  • I always bring a first aid kitheadlamp, and a portable phone charger, even on day hikes. It’s always best to go prepared!
  • Use trekking poles if needed. This is not a technical hike but trekking poles can help if you’re new to hiking or get winded easily from the altitude.
  • Comfortable, stretchy The North Face leggings that are easy to move around in. I prefer ones with a side phone pocket so I can easily access my phone for directions and photos.
  • Danner Trail 2650 Hiking Shoes. A good pair of hiking shoes can make all the difference in outdoor adventures! I recommend getting a pair that are tough and have lots of traction so you don’t slip and fall, especially when your feet start getting tired. 
  • Small day pack. I have a small lightweight day pack that fits all my essentials, water, and camera gear. This Gregory Nano pack comes with a padded mesh back, several adjustable straps, and plenty of pockets where you can put small things.

Where To Stay In Malibu

If you’re planning to visit Malibu for a longer getaway, there are many incredible places to stay nearby. A few of the best hotels in town include:

Malibu Beach Inn

Photo by Malibu Beach Inn

Treat yourself to boutique comfort and glam at the Malibu Beach Inn. This beautiful hotel features beach-inspired decor that’s complemented by its beachside locale.

This luxurious hotel sits right on the ocean and is a short walk from Carbon Beach and Malibu Pier. There are partial and complete ocean-view rooms available and upgrade options that include a living room. 


The Surfrider Malibu

Photo by The Surfrider Malibu

Upscale bohemian vibes abound at The Surfrider Malibu, a four-star hotel overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Guests can take their pick between beach or mountain views, but every room is equipped with a spa rain shower, mini-bar, and a private terrace or balcony.

After a long day at the beach, hit the Surfrider’s Roof Deck Bar and Restaurant, where you can refuel on gourmet coastal dishes. This hotel’s property is conveniently near Malibu’s best beaches, restaurants, and landmarks like the Malibu Pier.


Calamigos Guest Ranch and Beach Club

Located more inland in the Malibu Wine Country, Calamigos Guest Ranch and Beach Club offers guests a luxurious place to relax on a 200-acre property away from the crowds. Accommodation choices at this hotel include private cottages, bungalows, and estate rooms that are bursting with impeccable interior design.

Some rooms also come with a balcony or patio for enjoying stunning nature views. Other amenities found at this hotel include multiple onsite dining options, three pools, and a large heated spa pool. Hotel staff can also arrange private wine-tasting tours, horseback riding, and helicopter tours for entertainment.

Read More: 10 Wonderful Places To Stay In Malibu Near The Beach


Ocean Overlook Loop is a wonderful trail in Malibu offering stunning ocean views and beautiful scenery. If you’re looking for more things to do on the coast, check out these posts next:

This post is written by Laura Sausina. Hi, I’m a California local and the founder of the California Wanderland travel blog. I currently live in Ventura County and help 30,000 readers a month discover things to do in Central California! Read more about me here.

Some of the links used in this blog may be affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, I earn a small commission when you book through these links for which I am very thankful!

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