Posted by: GeekHiker | January 30, 2008

HIKE: Stunt High Trail

Fellow blogging hiker Homer-Dog and I disagree on hiking in the rain: I have a great deal more love for it than he does, I think.

So, despite the warnings in the forecast last weekend for heavy rain, I headed out for the trail anyway.

Sunday had dawned bright and clear, with blue skies overhead. I quickly had breakfast and headed out the door, intent on heading towards an old fire lookout to get some good panoramas. By the time I was headed over the Sepulveda Pass, however, the situation had changed dramatically.

Rain was pouring down at an unbelievable rate as I drove along. I would later learn that the Pass received three inches of rain in just a couple of hours. Impressive any way you choose to rank it.

In my head I ran through my mental list of good hiking places for such inclement weather. Most times I would head for the Secret Spot, but with that closed until at least May, that option was clearly out. Finally, I decided to head for the Stunt High Trail.

The Stunt High Trail is part of the Stunt Ranch Santa Monica Preserve, which is owned by the University of California system for research and education purposes. Part of the reserve is closed to public use, but the Stunt High Trail crosses the western end around the Cold Creek watershed.

Stunt High Trail 02

Looking down the Cold Creek watershed

On lazy summer days the trail leads to a number of quiet pools and rocks to hang out on, have lunch and read a book while relaxing next to the quiet trickle of Cold Creek. But with a heavy storm overhead, barely-there Cold Creek grows substantially in size.

From the dirt trailhead parking lot, head past the chain link fence and down past the road culvert (normally dry), following the old road. You’ll be descending an old road along Cold Creek for the next half mile.

Stunt High Trail 01

Tributary of Cold Creek, notice how muddy the run off is

A few hundred feet in, be sure to look on the right for the stone with holes carved into the top of it. These are grinding holes used by the Native Americans who lived in the area and ground acorns here.

The trail continues descending with the sound of the trickling creek to your right. Eventually you’ll arrive at a point of easy access to the creek itself, a nice place for a picnic lunch.

Stunt High Trail 03

Cascade along the road, normally totally dry

Stunt High Trail 04

Rain-swollen Cold Creek; most of the time just a trickle

From here, the trail continues up and then bends left (watch for the sign so you don’t follow the non-trail to the right), crosses a tributary and continues through a meadow.

Stunt High Trail 06

In heavy rain, the trail itself becomes another tributary

Stunt High Trail 07

Trail curving along the meadow

Stunt High Trail 08

Oak in meadow along the Stunt High Trail

Eventually the trail will lead to the entrance road to the UCLA section of the reserve at Stunt Road. Simply turn around at this point and retrace your steps back to the trailhead parking lot.

Of course, if you’re going to hike in a downpour, it’s best to have a plan for afterwards. In my case, it involved heading down Mulholland Highway to Malibu Canyon Road, and then out to Malibu Seafood:

Malibu Seafood Sign

The entrance to Malibu Seafood

To partake of their wonderful fish & chips:

Malibu Seafood Fish & Chips

Tasty Fish & Chips!

The view from Malibu Seafood looks out over the ocean. How much rain was falling inland? Notice the brown water in the ocean caused by all the silt rushing out to sea.

Beach After Storm

Erosion at work: the sea filled with soil runoff

Total Distance: 2.0 miles

Elevation Gain/Loss: 410’/410′


Directions: From Highway 101, exit Topanga Canyon Blvd. (Hwy. 27) south. Turn right at Mulholland Drive, then left at Mulholland Highway. Drive 5.3 miles and turn left at Stunt Road. Drive 1 mile to the parking lot on the right.



  1. What a gorgeous trail! And with varying water levels in the creek it would seem like a different hike each time you head out there. Lucky you.

  2. My favorite part is your post-hike lunch… since I moved to Northern VA, I don’t get to eat seafood at the beach anymore. What did the Indians do with ground acorns?

  3. I don’t mind hiking in the rain, depending on your definition of rain. PNW rain? NO problem. SE rain? More times than not it’s a hard down poor. No thanks!

    When I have to pack extra protective gear outside my usual hiking gear to remain mostly dry, then it’s too much effort in my opinion. Of course, if you get caught in the middle of it, that’s something else.

    Is that a meal or an appetizer?!

  4. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm fish and chips…yummy. Everything else was lost on me once I saw food….

  5. Hey Hey Hey! I’m not against hiking in the rain! I just try to avoid it at all costs … if that makes any sense 🙂

  6. Sorry, GH, you lost me at the Fish and chips also. Looks way better than my protein shake. 😀

  7. Backpackermomma – It’s true. And proves we actually do have seasons here!

    charlotte – the acorns were a primary food source, especially during the winter months as they stored well. They were ground in the rock holes, leeched of their tannins, then made into a variety of recipes, including soup and acorn flour.

    Aaron – Meal. Trust me, that’s a bigger piece of fish than you might think.

    Ruby – I understand. 🙂

    Homer-Dog – Exactly. You avoid, I drive out into it! LOL

    dobegil – Heh. Protein shake? *shudder*

  8. Dying to do most of the Apalachian trail! Need a hiking buddy? I come with a very cool dog and my own tent so you dont have to share 8)

  9. I have problems with hiking in the rain, the crutches prevent horrible obstacles with mud in the area. I tend to enjoy Oregon Ridge, but it’s hard to do after or during a big storm due to the mud and no where really for the water to run off too. What great views of the beach! Charlotte is right, seafood around here in to view of rivers, etc. The beach is waay too far for my liking.

  10. Nice write-up and pictures. I may go out here today, it will probably be nice after all the rains of the weekend.

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