Over The Hill Day

Nothing to do with old age. Growing up in Malibu, going over the hill meant traveling from the ocean side of the Santa Monica Mountains to the inland side, usually on Kanan Dume Road or Malibu Canyon Road. I made four stops today.  I began on the inland side with Lake Eleanor Open Space in Westlake Village, and then worked my way over to Malibu with stops at David M. Brown Overlook, Serra Retreat and Malibu Bluffs Park. This trip was very therapeutic.
Total hiking miles: Around 8 mies

Driving Directions:

Lake Eleanor Open Space:  From the 101 Freeway in Westlake Village, exit on Westlake Blvd. and go south.  Drive one mile to Triunfo Canyon Rd. and turn left.  In about 0.5 miles turn right.  Drive another 0.5 miles up Highgate Rd. to its end.

The Rest of the Day:  Please read below.


I began by going around the side of a fence at the top of Highgate Rd. A few yards beyond an unmarked trail breaks off to the right.  Immediately I was met with a cool-looking rock formation.


   Lake Sherwood soon came into view.

Dark Skies, Cold Lake

I recognized landmarks in the hills to the east.


I spotted rock formations that reside off of Kanan Dume Rd. and the house/vineyard that can be seen for miles around.

On my a right, a gorgeous formation appeared.


Close-ups.  Golden grasses seem to flow from the fissures.


Every time I’d turn a corner, I enjoyed another “Wow!” moment.



I read that Lake Sherwood got it’s name because they shot a Robin Hood movie here in the 1920’s.  Photo 2 – Close-up of a building on the lake, I’m not sure what it is.


Photo 2 – Smiling rock dwarfs houses below it.

             After a mile and a half the trail ended at the top of a residential street. I was at my turnaround point and realized I hadn’t seen Lake Eleanor. I checked my map and discovered the lake sits right beneath that fantastic rock formation I passed earlier. There are three knolls beside the trail. One must climb to the tops  to get glimpses of the lake.


   Photos taken from the knolls

Lake Eleanor is quite tiny but it’s also very close, right below the trail. Westlake Blvd. runs next to it. I’ll drive past one day if I can.


Views from the northernmost knoll


Photo 1 – Skeleton of a primitive shelter

        I went too far and missed my turnoff.  Suddenly, I was lost lost. I even lost the trail momentarily.


   I followed a trail for a long way and eventually  came to an unmaintained road like the one I had started on. This led me down into a neighborhood.  Photo 2 – Sticky Monkey Flower – what a great name.

   This was a really beautiful and well maintained neighborhood.


I hoped to ask someone on the street where I was but the place was like a ghost town. Finally I reached a park at the bottom of the hill. Two helpful dog owners pointed me in the right direction.  I walked down to Triunfo Cyn. Rd. and then back up Highgate Rd. What was supposed to be a three miles had become five, but I didn’t let this miscue seriously alter my plans.

I got back on the 101 heading south and exited on Kanan Dume Rd. I then made a quick left on Cornell Rd.  I stopped to take a photo of Ladyface Mountain.


Castro Peak

Cornell Rd. comes to Mulholland Highway. I went left on Mulholland which led me to Las Virgenes Rd. I went right there. Heading toward Malibu, Las Virgenes Rd. becomes Malibu Canyon Rd.

             From Malibu Canyon Rd. I went left on Piuma Rd. I twisted my way into the mountains and after a few miles arrived at David M. Brown Overlook.  There is a trail across the street, maybe 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile out and back.  When I was last here I took this trail a short distance in flip-flops. I paused as I noticed a rattlesnake slither into a bush about six inches from my bare foot. Today I wore my snake gaiters. I saw no snakes but they were very helpful keeping the foxtails out of my socks and boots.

The views from here are some of the best in the Santa Monica Mountains.


Close-ups on the mountain to the northeast  Photo 2 – If you enlarge this photo you will spot a house balanced on top of the rocky ridge. Crazy.

Mountains to the west

This most spectacular peak is called Brents Mountain.  A close-up reveals the cross planted near the top.

        Also in view, Ladyface Mountain and the Topa Topa Mountains near Ojai.

When I reached a crest in the trail there were more awesome views, down Malibu Canyon all the way to the ocean.

        Malibu Creek flows along the canyon bottom.

   Straight ahead but miles away is Malibu Lagoon, Beach and Colony.

        So pretty

   I started back. Noise from a helicopter surrounded me. It sounded like it was right on top of me. To my surprise he set down on a flat spot just a few yards away.


I returned to Malibu Canyon Rd. and continued toward Malibu. I made a quick stop in front of Pepperdine University. While the man-made, giant cross is striking, I really prefer this impressive natural rock formation.  If there’s a God He’s in the rocks, not the concrete.

        Malibu Canyon Rd. ends at Pacific Coast Highway. I went left down the coast. My next stop was Serra Retreat. I had to cross the highway to get there. I thought it would be fun to drive up an extra mile or so and take a photo of this giant man, mascot for a now defunct Mexican restaurant.  I was right, fun! When I was a kid, if memory serves me, he was clean shaven and wore a fast food worker’s paper hat. He held up a giant hamburger.

   I flipped around on PCH and headed back upcoast.  I followed a Serra Retreat sign on to Serra Rd. I traveled on this narrow but peaceful road for about a half mile into the canyon. Following this sign, I turned left and drove up into the retreat’s parking lot.

I was just up on that ridge someplace.

                  Serra Retreat is a quiet place filled with hidden nooks containing magical treasures. I arrived at 3:30 p.m., meaning I had about an hour to explore the grounds.  I found this to be the perfect amount of time.

        Blue-belly lizard


A rock maze was the first thing I explored. I took a little time, becoming a child once more, and slowly walked through.


This is a religious retreat, decorated with many statues and memorials. There are about a dozen highly detailed sculptures illustrating the Crucifixion.

             I continued to explore. There are little trails that lead to secret spots – a bench, a fountain, etc.

             St. Agatha, Protect Us From Fire

   There are a couple of courtyards with bubbling fountains and shady trees.


        Photos 4 through 6 – I’m not sure what these big plates are. They were leaning against a wall.


   I made my way out to a little point.

   Here stands a statue of the retreats namesake, Junipero Serra.


There are also great ocean and mountain views.

   Before leaving I rested under a little pagoda, rested both body and mind.  Sitting in silence, basking in the ocean landscape, I reflected on my day and my life.

             I had originally planned to end my day at Serra Retreat but extra time spent at Lake Eleanor meant I had to change my schedule. I drove back up the coast to where Pacific Coast Highway intersects with Malibu Canyon Rd. I turned left at the light into Malibu Bluffs Park. There were Little League games being play out at east side of the park. A mural depicting life in Malibu from the beginning to present day is painted on the side of a building next to the parking lot.

   To the west is the wild side of Bluffs Park.  I started in this direction.

             I came to the western boundary, halted by a wide, green crevasse. I walked up to PCH and back again.  Photo 3 – There are a couple of steep trails which lead down to the road beneath the park, Malibu Road.

I was treated to a fabulous view of Point Dume.


Trail Critters.  This lizard lunged at that fly but missed.



Photo 2 – The park also has a panoramic view of Pepperdine.  Photo 4 – Also, partially in view – ultra exclusive Malibu Colony.


I circled back up to the ballfields. The best thing about having a lot of people around is their dogs.

        I passed a whale tail bench near a viewing area.

I continued on a concrete path to a bench and another view of Point Dume.
What a great day, much more than expected.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *