The Solstice Canyon Trail leads you on a journey through a canyon floor before it climbs up a ridgeline that overlooks the ocean. The entire loop is around 3 miles total and passes creeks, waterfalls, bridges, and multiple house ruins.
This is one of the simplest and most popular hikes in Malibu that offers spectacular views for somewhat little work. The Solstice Canyon Trail is a wonderful option for beginner hikers, families with kids, and even dogs. With stunning views and serene woodlands, this is a great adventure for those looking to enjoy a bit of nature on the coast!
Location & Parking
Solstice Canyon Trail is located within Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in Malibu. For directions, you can either set your Google Maps to Solstice Canyon Education Shelter or look up Solstice Canyon Loop on AllTrails and set directions through this app.
There is a designated paved parking lot for Solstice Canyon hikers and visitors. This parking lot is small and can fill up quickly but if you wait around for 10-15 minutes, hikers are constantly returning and you should be able to get a spot with minimal wait.
If you don’t want to wait, there is a second overflow parking lot 0.3 miles from the trailhead at the junction of Solstice Canyon Rd and Corral Canyon Rd. This lot is also very small but sometimes you might just get lucky and find an open spot here. Then you will need to walk 10 minutes up the paved road to the trailhead.
The Solstice Canyon Hike starts behind a gate next to the Solstice Canyon Education Shelter. Here you can also find information on the nearby trails and check out hiking maps.
About Solstice Canyon Trail
The most popular trail at Solstice Canyon is the Solstice Canyon Loop. This route starts on the Solstice Canyon Road and halfway connects with the Rising Sun Trail for a 3-mile-long loop.
I would classify this trail as Moderate only because of the 650 feet elevation gain that climbs up a mountain ridge. Other than that, this hike is straightforward and easy to follow. If you’re not familiar with this area, I recommend using an offline hiking app like AllTrails or Maps.Me as there is no reception once you head into the canyon.
The most popular option is to hike the trail clockwise starting on the flat, shaded part, and climbing the steeper part later on. If you have more energy at the beginning of the hike, you can hike it counter-clockwise and get the hard part out of the way first.
The Solstice Canyon Trail offers a great mix of mountain views, a look into this canyon’s history, ruins, and even a small waterfall.
Solstice Canyon History
The interesting part that sets Solstice Canyon Trail apart from other coastal hikes are the ruins that you can visit here.
About halfway into the trail, you will come across the ruins of Roberts Ranch House. This house was built by Fred Roberts and his wife Florence in 1952 as part of their dream to live in Solstice Canyon. The house was designed by a famous African American architect Paul R. Williams that designed homes for many Southern California celebrities.
Unfortunately, Solstice Canyon is very prone to wildfires and despite the efforts to add water pumps and fire protection systems, the house eventually burned down in 1982 due to a canyon fire.
Now visitors can walk around the footprint of the house, explore several stone terraces and their remains.
Is Solstice Canyon Dog Friendly?
Yes, Solstice Canyon is very dog friendly and many people bring their four-legged friends for fresh air and exercise in the mountains. However, if you plan to bring your dog, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Your dog must remain leashed at all times or you may be fined $5000 and banned from the park.
- This is a busy trail and many of the sections are narrow with steep drop-offs. This may be difficult for dogs that are new to hiking or not used to being around other dogs.
- Please carry out any waste including your pet’s to keep the trails clean and protect native wildlife. I always bring extra biodegradable waste bags.
- While rattlesnake bites are rare, they are more likely to happen in the dry, coastal mountains. I started carrying a snake bite extractor kit on hikes like this in case my dog or myself get bit by a rattlesnake.
Our Hiking Experience
Despite living an hour away, we love coming out to Malibu to hike the Solstice Canyon Trail on Saturday mornings. It’s the perfect way to start the weekend and get a bit of exercise in for ourselves and our dog.
From the parking lot walk past the large gate and follow the wide path to take the Solstice Canyon Loop Trail clockwise.
If you’d rather knock out the steep section first and follow the loop counterclockwise, take the stairs directly to the right from the gate. This direction is a better option on hotter summer days to get the steep, exposed part out of the way and end with the flat, shaded section.
If you decide to stay on the wide path, soon after you will come across a restroom, trashcans, and a station to fill up on water.
The first part of the trail follows the Solstice Canyon Road next to a creek. This is a wide, partially paved road that used to lead to the Roberts Ranch House. Now it’s closed for car traffic and is mostly used by hikers.
This segment of the hike is partially shaded with beautiful oak and sycamore trees. I’ve hiked this trail in the fall a couple of times when you can enjoy some fall colors.
In the fall the creek that runs next to the trail is down to a mere trickle with some patches of muddy water. The best time to see this creek and its waterfalls flowing with water is spring or after rainfall.
About 0.6 miles into the trail you will come across an information plaque about Henry Keller and the stone house that he built in Solstice Canyon. Unfortunately, this house also burned down after a wooden porch was added to it.
Keep going and soon you’ll come across the ruins of Roberts Ranch House. This house was built in a remote, secluded location with nothing else around.
As you roam around the burned-down ruins you can explore a tropical terrace made of beautiful lush plants that were incorporated by the architect. There isn’t much left of the house after it burned down except for cement floors, stone walkways, and several brick chimneys.
If you keep going to the right, there is a narrow walkway that leads to a hidden waterfall. I missed this on my first visit so be sure to keep an eye out for it!
After exploring the ruins you can keep going along the loop to the Rising Sun Trail. The Rising Sun Trail starts to the east of the ruins right after the creek crossing.
The second part of the loop is not shaded and climbs 650 feet up mountain switchbacks. If you’re not up for the challenge, you can turn around and head back the same way that you came.
The Rising Sun Trail trail follows a narrow path straight up a canyon wall with steep drop-offs. The higher you go, the better the views will get.
You’ll also get a glimpse of the Roberts Ranch House and its lush trees from up top that stand out like a desert oasis against the otherwise bare mountains.
On a clear day, you will be greeted with views of the coastline and ocean from up top. Unfortunately, the few times that I’ve done this trail it’s always been covered in morning coastal haze or fog.
Once you reach the highest part, the trail will start descending back to the starting point. You have the option to stop by a concrete platform that in the 1950s was used for calibrating satellite equipment.
Just like every other building within this canyon, this space research facility burned down after a fire and now you can only see the concrete pad that remains.
From there follow the path directly down towards the parking lot that you’ll soon see coming into your view and finish up the hike.
Where To Eat Nearby
If you’re looking for a place to grab post-hiking lunch, OLLO restaurant is our favorite brunch spot in Malibu that is located just a quick drive from the trail. OLLO serves a breakfast menu until 3 pm with many delicious options.
Some of my favorites include Eggs Benedict, Fried Chicken & Waffle, and Huevos Rancheros. They also serve fun brunch drinks like mimosas and Malibu Mary.
For a more casual atmosphere, try the famous Malibu Seafood Fresh Fish Market & Patio that has laid-back outside seating. Here you can try a variety of fresh or deep-fried seafood plates and my personal favorite – Clam Chowder in a sourdough bowl.
Where To Stay
If you’re planning to visit Malibu for a quick getaway, there are many incredible places to stay nearby. Some of our favorites inlcude:
- The Surfrider Malibu – this is a boutique hotel located just steps away from the beach and Malibu Pier. The star of this property is the guest-only roof deck bar & restaurant overlooking the ocean. Other notable amenities include complimentary surfboards and stand-up paddleboards.
- Malibu Beach Inn is a sophisticated hotel with rooms overlooking the ocean. This hotel also boasts an incredible luxury spa, a Beach Club, and direct access to its private beach.
- Calamigos Guest Ranch and Beach Club is located on a 200-acre property and exudes a cozy ranch chic atmosphere. During your stay, the guest services team can arrange a day at their Beach Club, horseback riding in the mountains, wine tasting, and helicopter tours. This hotel is also pet-friendly!
Looking for more things to do around the coast? Check out these posts next:
- Ventura River Preserve Trail In Ojai
- Hiking Toro Canyon Park In Santa Barbara
- 10 Best Hotels In Santa Barbara For A Perfect Seaside Escape
- Carpinteria Bluffs Trail & Tar Pits Park
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