Rustic Canyon Trail – Sullivan Ridge Fire Road

A tough and strange hike in the eastern part of Topanga State Park.  There was no energy to celebrate after this one, just exhaustion and pain.  At least the weather was cool.

IMG_3120     IMG_3126     IMG_3130   I parked on the street in a rich looking neighborhood and then walked down the road to the left signed, “No Parking Beyond This Point”.  I then started up a paved section of Sullivan Fire Road past this yellow gate marked “Camp Josepho”.

IMG_3140       IMG_3147      IMG_3651       IMG_3656

My first stop – the ruins of Murphy Ranch.  After walking the road for about 2/3 of a mile, I walked through the hole in the fence shown in photo 2 to access a set of long, concrete stairs.  Another way to get to Murphy Ranch, and what must be the least strenuous, is through the hole in the brick wall shown in photo 3.  This was the front gate to the complex and just a bit further up Sullivan Fire Road.  Finally, there is a second staircase just a few yards further up, which leads down to an old water tank and then down to the “ranch”.  It would probably be safer to take this set of stairs as both the top and bottom sections have handrails. Today I took the first set of stairs.

IMG_3157               IMG_3159

The handrail-less first set of stairs steeply descend about 200 feet in .1 miles and are one solid, steep piece of concrete, if memory serves me.


Looking back up at a section of the Murphy Ranch stairs.

IMG_3165     IMG_3181     IMG_3187   I arrive at the graffiti covered buildings of Murphy Ranch.  The lore surrounding this property is quite interesting. Some must just be legend, but stories of this now abandoned property have run in many reputable news sources.  Weird as it may sound, this property may have been used as a commune for Nazi sympathizers in the 1930’s and 40’s.  A fascist paramilitary group borne in the USA known as the Silver Legion of America, a.k.a. the Silver Shirts (named in tribute to Nazi Germany’s Brown Shirts and fascist Italy’s Black Shirts), held up in this hidden canyon with hopes that someday a fascist regime would take control of our government.  After WWII started, the compound was raided by law enforcement and left abandoned until the 1960’s when it was turned into an artist colony.  The city of LA bought the property in 1973 and it was destroyed by a wildfire in 1978.  It’s been left to decay ever since.  I read the dilapidated buildings are scheduled to be torn down sometime this year.

IMG_3193               IMG_3195

IMG_3204               IMG_3205

IMG_3215               IMG_3201

Graffiti at Murphy Ranch

IMG_3197     IMG_3211   Photo 1 – Taken inside the first structure I came up to.  This place is dangerous.  There are built in holes in the floor, dark crawlspaces filled with garbage and who knows what.  I don’t think this building was meant to be lived in.  Photo 2 – The rusted and collapsed garage and work shed. Notice the monster bougainvillea growing up through that pile of scrap.

IMG_3219               IMG_3224

An overturned VW Bus left abandoned on the property.  Affixed to its bumper, a UCLA sticker with a 1969 expiration date.

IMG_3245     IMG_3247     IMG_3252   I hiked upstream, away from the ruins.

IMG_3254     IMG_3259     IMG_3263   I passed an abandoned barn, still smelling like horses, and someone’s now planted in the ground Christmas tree complete with ornaments.


Oak Kisses Sycamore

IMG_3291       IMG_3269      IMG_3362       IMG_3368

IMG_3313       IMG_3299      IMG_3307       IMG_3339

The next stop I came to was Camp Josepho, a Boy Scout camp with a rifle range and horses, among other things.  The last sign of civilization was a flat, grassy area marked Wilderness Outpost, apparently a scout project.

IMG_3377               IMG_3380

IMG_3394               IMG_3403


Then things began to get rough.  Rustic Creek trail is an unmaintained trail and often there is no trail at all.  The trail runs parallel to the creek, or sometimes simply is the creek.  Fallen trees lying across the creek was a frequent sight.  I must have gone around, crawled under, hopped over or bulled my way through at least 20 fallen trees.

IMG_3428       IMG_3434      IMG_3437       IMG_3446

Photo 4 shows a rare break in the canopy.

IMG_3450               IMG_3482

IMG_3558               IMG_3503

What a mess!  All of these photos of heavy brush and fallen trees weren’t on the side of the trail, they were obstacles I had to somehow find my way past.  The fallen sycamore in photo 4 was the worst.  I went to the left where the smaller branches are, tip-toed my way past the poison oak and then powered my way through.

IMG_3466       IMG_3532      IMG_3580       IMG_3592

The last photo shows a bobcat track, I think.

IMG_3494               IMG_3495

I was about to hop over this waist high tree but then banged on it with one of my hiking poles.  Angry ants swarmed out, determined to protect their home.  I crawled under the big log instead, getting my pant legs wet.

IMG_3520     IMG_3570   The poison oak was thick down by the creek, and sometimes I had no choice but to trudge right through the water.  I started to seeing yellow markers along the trail when there was about a mile or so left. They showed ways around difficult crossings and were a welcome reminder that I was on the right path.

IMG_3583               IMG_3598

Photo 1 – Thick brush to push through.  Photo 2 – Finally, the creek ended and the trail began to steeply climb up this hill of loose dirt.

IMG_3601   I was spit out on an unpaved section of Mulholland Highway, overlooking the San Fernando Valley.  It took me seven hours to hike just over five miles, and I still had another seven and a half miles to go.

IMG_3604               IMG_3608

I believe that’s the city of Encino below.

IMG_3613     IMG_3617   Photo 1 – View toward the ocean.  After hiking on Dirt Mulholland for a couple of miles I came to Sullivan Ridge Fire Road, the same road I started the hike on before exiting down to Murphy Ranch.  The top two thirds of the road is dirt, the bottom third is paved.

IMG_3621               IMG_3631

The long, gentle descent was welcome as was the view of Santa Monica Bay.


That river of trees in-between the two mountains is what I had hiked through earlier, Rustic Canyon Trail.  I was glad to be above it here.








Leave a Reply

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