santa monica mountains hike labyrinth

Castro Crest and Bulldog Road, Malibu Creek State Park

HIKE TO: Castro Crest and Bulldog Road in Malibu Creek State Park
TRAILHEAD: Castro Motorway/ Bulldog Motorway trail
MILES: 5.89 miles + 0.24 miles to rock labyrinth
TIME: 2 hrs 18 mins
DATE I WENT: 3/14/15
DIFFICULTY:  moderate
ELEVATION: 3,606 ft
LOCATION: Santa Monica Mountains, California

Getting to Castro Crest Trailhead and Parking

We arrived at the bottom of the Santa Monica Mountains at around 7:35 am in Malibu and got to the trailhead at 8 am.  Luckily, it was only 66° when we started.

There is a parking lot (drive into the dirt road) but we parked right along the street outside of it (cause we did not see it until we walked in).  Take note — there are three different trails from the parking lot!  Make sure you pick the right one.

  1. When you enter the lot, there is a trail directly to your right (makes a u-turn and you walk back the direction you came, but on a trail and upwards).
  2. There’s the Backbone Trail/ Corral Canyon Trailhead/ Latigo Trailhead to the right side (declines).
  3. & Straight ahead is the Castro Motorway/ Bulldog Motorway trail.

castro crest and bulldog road hike, santa monica mountains

First off, let me say I didn’t research this hike as well as I normally do.  Option 3 sounded like the right one (given the trail name) so we embarked on our adventure from here.  The elevation picked up quickly.  It’s 0.8 miles until you hit Bulldog Motorway.  The view of the hills and ocean was beautiful!

We walked about 2 miles total and then I questioned if it was the right trail or not since we were on a fire road the whole time.  After reading a little bit, I got doubtful and decided we should turn back to try a different trail.

Hiking to the Santa Monica Mountains rock labyrinth in Malibu

When we got back to the parking lot and we tried trail option 1 to the Backbone trail. I don’t think this is part of the Castro Crest & Bulldog Road trail, but it was what I was looking for from the blog I read and it was a beautiful view!  It’s different than any hike in the area — the rock/ sandstone formations make you seem like you are not even in Malibu anymore.  It only goes about a mile or so and it’s a very easy hike with no elevation gain on this part really, and at the end you see a spiral rock formation on the ground.  It was definitely something I have not seen on other hikes.  From here, you can go back the same way or take the fireroad back which is a lot shorter.  That’s the one we did.  It’s also the same (last) trailhead that we passed on the way to the parking lot from Corral Canyon Road.  I realized now maybe we did it backwards.  Maybe we were supposed to start here, make our way to the parking lot and pick up the Castro/ Bulldog trail.  Either way though, it worked out.

I looked it up again after we left and realized we were on the right trail the first time and we were almost to the final destination, just off by a mile or so (one way).  Castro Crest is private property so you cannot actually hike to the peak (where the antenna towers are). This hike is supposed to be 7.6 miles with 1250 ft elevation gain.  The first trail we did was just over 4 miles round trip with 1214 elevation gain, and including the second trail we did we finished off at 5.89 miles.  So I guess most of the elevation gain is in that first two miles… and we definitely felt it.

Detour after finishing:  As we were driving back down the mountain, I saw this small hill that shot straight up and looked like an overlook point, so we made a detour.  It’s right along the road on the left side with a dirt spot to pull over on the right.  You know me by now, I like exploring and I like views, so we decided to just go for it and ran straight up.  I looked it up after and it is not a trail on the map… but it was only 0.24 mile roundtrip, 6 mins… purely a short incline just for a beautiful ocean view.  Definitely worth it.

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