Rivas Canyon / Lower Rustic Canyon

I was looking for an easy hike.  Instead this was a tough sunrise to sunset affair.  At the end of the day I staggered to my car soaking wet with a banged up knee.  Certainly a day of hiking I won’t soon forget.

1     2   I parked on the street and started my hike at Will Rogers State Historic Park at around 6:30 am.  Above the parking lot and tennis court is the trailhead for Rivas Canyon Trail.  This would be the first leg of my journey – a 4.2 mile round trip to Temescal Canyon Gateway Park and back.

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The route basically took me down one side of Rivas Canyon, across the canyon and up the other side and then down into Temescal Canyon.  I started out hiking near houses but then got a little more isolated, starting with this magical grove of Eucalyptus trees.

5     6   Cave of dead ivy

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9   Looking through Rivas Canyon basked in gorgeous morning light.

10   From the second ridgeline, a view of Santa Monica and the Santa Monica Bay.  It was pretty hazy all day.

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Photo 1 – Looking down into Temescal Canyon.  Photo 2 – After a sometimes steep descent I arrived at Temescal Gateway Park.

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17   I explored up and down for about a half an hour.  There are small cabins and meeting halls left over from days gone by.  They can be rented by groups for weddings, retreats, etc.

18     19     20   I started back toward Will Rogers Park.  There is no marker for the trail, just wooden steps heading into the hills. There’s some steepness to these hills.  Photo 3 – Honeycombs of wasp paper by the side of the trail.


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Some unusual, non-native plants plants pop up here and there.  I passed by the Eucalyptus grove again.  Layers of sloughed off bark covered the ground beneath the trees.

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30       31   Back at Will Rogers park and above the tennis court, I began the second leg of my hike, a five mile loop connecting the ridge on which Will Rogers Fire Road runs and lower rustic Rustic Canyon Trail.  After a short hike I came to a sign for Inspiration Point.  There are two ways, left or right.  I went to the right at the sign.  I then made a left up the stairs and was spit out right at Inspiration Point.

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Photo 1 – Hazy view of Santa Monica from Inspiration Point  Photo 2 – Downtown LA from Inspiration Point

34   I continued up Will Rogers Trail.

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I stood on one of the ridges that rises above Rustic Canyon.  Visible on the hillside coming down from the opposite ridge is a long set of concrete stairs.  These stairs take you down to the hidden Murphy Ranch, which I visited while hiking the upper portion of Rustic Canyon a couple of years ago.

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They call this bridge Chicken Ridge Bridge.  It sits on top of a crumbling section of trail.  Right above is a handrail for another crumbly area.

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43   Soon after the bridge I found the trail that breaks downhill to the right.  It is marked by that little sign, “No Horses On Trail”.  It is right across from another sign that reads “Backbone Trail” (Will Rogers Trail makes up the first few miles of the 50-plus mile Backbone Trail).  Super steep switchbacks quickly moved me to the canyon floor.  I crossed the creek and came up at an abandoned house.  I wanted to revisit Murphy Ranch but wasn’t sure where it was in relation to this house.  I followed the trail to the right (south).  There is a sign pointing in that direction that reads, “Will Rogers Park – 1.8 miles”, or something to that effect.

44     45   I followed the trail south until I came to a buried car engine.  I could have continued on but felt I might’ve passed by Murphy Ranch.  I turned around and headed back to the abandoned house.

46     47     48   Before I go on, allow me to tell you exactly how I got to Murphy Ranch.  From the abandoned house I followed the dirt and then paved road north.  I arrived at a hairpin turn in the road.  I followed the road around the turn and headed south, as shown in photo 1.  I began to climb up the road.  I took a right on the paved road that breaks off of the main road.  I followed it until I saw a graffiti covered building below the road.  Then I followed the concrete stairs down to that first building.  I didn’t know my way at the time and wandered around for who knows how long looking for the ranch.  Before I found it I I headed north on another road.  I came to a couple areas that looked like they had buildings standing on them at one time, but no Murphy Ranch.

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51   I walked up on Camp Josepho, a Boy Scout camp.  I knew from my last trip that I had hiked too far north.  I headed back to the hairpin turn.


I then followed the road after the hairpin turn in the opposite direction, south, and up to Sullivan Ridge Road.  Near the top is this enormous water tank.

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I reached Sullivan Ridge Road and the front gate for Murphy Ranch.  Time to backtrack once again.


View from Sullivan Ridge Road.  You’d think you could just look down into the canyon and see the buildings of Murphy Ranch, but it’s too heavily forested.

56     57   Finally, after going back down the road from the broken fence on Sullivan Ridge Road and then down to the left I came to the bottom section of those concrete stairs I spotted earlier in the day.  These stairs lead down to the first building.


I read that these buildings were scheduled for demolition in the summer of 2012.  Instead, fences were erected around them to keep people out.  The fences all have big holes in them so they aren’t keeping anyone out (including me).

59   Inside the first abandoned, graffiti-covered building.  If you do go in be very careful.  This building is solidly constructed of concrete and steel but it’s old and dilapidated.  There are stairs without rails and holes built into the ground.

60     61     62   I was a little disappointed with the graffiti.  When I was here last it was much more interesting.  None of that graffiti from two years ago remains.  You can read about the weird, pro-fascist history of Murphy Ranch in my post for my Rustic Canyon – Sullivan Ridge Fire Road.

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I walked down to another fenced off building, I think it was a big work shed.  Glad to see the bougainvillaea is still thriving among the ruins.


I find the flipped over VW Van that’s been laying there for decades.

66   Because I spent so much time trying to find Murphy Ranch I didn’t have time to retrace my steps back to that very first house.  Instead I followed the road and then trail south toward the ocean.  I only had an hour until sunset so I had to move.  But it was less than two miles to Will Rogers Park so what could go wrong?

67   I passed some burned out corrugated steel wreckage – it looked like a war zone.


The lower section of Rustic Canyon Trail is just as rugged and unforgiving as the upper.  Even though I knew I was headed in the right direction, south and moving downstream with the current, it’s so densely vegetated that I always felt lost.  There are several stream crossings and short sections where there is no trail at all, just canyon walls and water.

69     70     71   I came to the top of a dam.  I followed the trail down to the right.

72   I found a newt climbing through the grass.

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Things got a little scary for a second as I got turned around and began hiking in the wrong direction.  I hiked all the way back to the dam before I realized my mistake.  It was getting dark and I definitely didn’t want to get caught stumbling around in this mess, lost in the dark.  I again followed the water, moving with the current.  Photo 2 – This was the last picture I took on the day.  A couple of minutes later I slipped on a rock, banged my knee hard and found myself sitting in a pool of water up to my chest.  I was soaked as well as my camera, which refused to function for the rest of the hike.  Fortunately I was only about a half a mile from the turn-off for the trail leading out of the canyon.  To prevent people from continuing down the creek and missing the trail, there is a sign placed right in the middle of the creek that says, “End of The Trail”.  On the right hand side, the trail switchbacks up a half a mile to the polo grounds in Will Rogers Park.  I arrived back at my car as darkness fell.


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