Hike Number 12. March 29, 2015. Tuna Canyon.

Distance: 3.67 miles (Likely closer to 3.8 miles – we accidentally turned off tracking for a bit on MapMyHike)

Elevation Change: 728 feet

Temperature day of hike: 78 degrees

Directions: From PCH in Santa Monica, head north until you reach Big Rock Drive. Turn right onto Big Rock Drive, and follow it 1.7 miles to the top until it dead ends. There is limited parking at the top of the hill.

Abby: Sasha and I had a much more eventful weekend than usual, with a late night comedy show on Friday, and a full day of making pasta from scratch (and drinking a lot of wine) on Saturday. By the time Sunday rolled around, we were exhausted and a little cranky. I’m writing this as a caveat to what may be a slightly bitter review.

Around noon, we finally made our way to Starbucks before heading to Malibu. When we got to the mountain, we made our way up a super windy road overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was really beautiful but also quite sharp, so drive slowly. As we hit a curve nearing the top of the hill, we saw a creepy animal, which Sasha recognized as a coyote. I didn’t know I was afraid of coyotes until this point. So now, on top of being cranky, tired and maybe a touch hungover, I am also anxious and without cellphone service. Not my best combination.

When we got to the top, it was a total dead end, so we weren’t certain where to park. We noticed that there were a couple of cars on a pseudo sidewalk, and with a small car, we were able to squeeze in. Not sure if this is legal, but we figured a tow truck wasn’t going to make its way up that windy hill, so we risked it.

After a few minutes of complaining, we made our way to the gated entrance to the service road to begin our hike.

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Sasha: After we awkwardly climbed over the locked gate, we started on the paved road up to the top of the mountain. As Abby mentioned, we were both feeling under the weather, so neither of us was thrilled when we realized we had quite a climb ahead of us. Since we didn’t have cell service, we weren’t really sure what path to follow, so we headed straight up Big Rock Drive. If you’ve ever met either one of us, you’re probably aware that we can be quite verbose, so it was pretty telling that we said maybe 5 words to each other over that first 2/3 of a mile.

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Abby: When we finally made it to the end of that miserable hill, we were shown two options. One was to head down a hill (Big Rock Lateral), the other was to keep climbing up Big Rock Drive. We decided to keep climbing up, so that the end of our hike was downhill rather than uphill. As we trekked up, we noticed two different spots where someone had buried an animal and now I’ve not only seen a coyote, and climbed straight up a concrete hill, I’ve also seen memorials to dead animals on the side of a mountain. Sasha put it into perspective by saying this was reminiscent of “Pet Sematary.” I am officially no longer interested in this hike.

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Sasha: Once we saw that second shrine, I turned to Abby and said “Let’s just find a good point to turn around and end this thing.” We knew there was a meditation maze somewhere on the hike, and were hoping to get to it but weren’t sure how to find it. After a little more walking, I noticed a meditation maze to our right, through some heavy bushes. We continued on, hoping to find an easy path to the maze. We finally found a small opening in the brush and tried to head towards the maze, but quickly realized we had no idea where we were going and turned around, pushing past overgrown plants to make it back to the main trail.

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At that point, we decided we had spent more than enough time on the trail. We were pretty spooked after the animal shrines and the feeling of total isolation on the trail, so we picked up our pace on the way back to the car. As we reached a flat section bordered dry rocky ground and low plants, we heard the unmistakable sound of rattles surrounding us. I paused to listen, and Abby said “don’t even say anything,” so we booked it until we were clear of the sound.

Abby: When I learn that there are rattlesnakes in addition to all of the aforementioned, I just start laughing as this whole thing has become a big joke. We picked up the pace, and quickly made our way back down the hill. I’m fairly certain I’m going to fall down the concrete hill as icing on the cake, but somehow I don’t.

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Pro’s:

  • Great views
  • Wide trails
  • Easy to find your way back down

Con’s:

  • The concrete climb at the beginning is incredibly steep
  • There is no shade
  • All of the deadly animals and burial sites

Holy shit view factor: 7/10 If it would have been a clearer day, the views would have been significantly better, so there is potential.

How good your ass will look afterwards: 7/10 That first .6 miles will bring your ass up at least an inch.

Post hike grub spot: Since we were at the tip of Malibu, we drove back to San Vicente and stopped at À Vôtre Santé because Gwyneth Paltrow like their food. Their mimosas were only $4 and the food was delicious.

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Hike Number Nine, March 8, 2015: Mesa Peak.

Distance: 6.65 miles round trip

Elevation Change: 1,512 feet

Temperature day of hike: 75 degrees

Directions: From PCH in Malibu, drive inland on Malibu Canyon Road for 4.5 miles and turn left into the parking area for the Piuma Trailhead on the west side of the road. From the north, take the 101 Freeway to exit 32 for Las Virgenes Canyon Road in Agoura Hills. Drive south for 5 miles on Las Virgenes Canyon Road (which becomes Malibu Canyon Road) and turn right into the parking area for Malibu Creek State Park’s Piuma Trailhead. The turnout is 0.1 miles south of Piuma Road and 1.6 miles south of the main entrance for Malibu Creek State Park.

Abby: Leading up to this weeks’ climb, we had both read and been told that the Mesa Peak hike in Malibu State Park was notoriously challenging, which we were initially excited about. The day started a little later than planned, maybe due to Daylight Savings Time, maybe due to a hangover, but most likely due to beach traffic. When Los Angeles weather goes from “cold” to mid-seventies in five days, the beaches fill up quickly.

We took PCH up to Malibu, turned right onto Malibu Canyon Drive, and after about four and a half winding miles through the tall, plunging mountains, we began to feel a little nervous about what we were about to encounter. And rightfully so.

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Sasha: We found easy parking at the Piuma Trail parking lot, where you can park for $10 per vehicle (check local signage for instructions). After we parked, we walked past a porta-potty and out-of-order bathroom to the well-marked base of the Backbone Trail. We immediately started a steep climb up a rocky single-track trail. After about ½ a mile, the trail evened out and at 2/3 of a mile, the Backbone Trail ended at the Mesa Peak Service Road, where we turned left to continue up the hill. While this first 2/3 of a mile has nice shaded coverage, once you hit the service road the trail is largely uncovered so be sure to lather on the sunscreen before you head out.

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Once we turned onto the service road and rounded a hairpin turn we realized that we had quite a bit of climbing left to do. We continued onward, stopping several times to catch our breath, hydrate and admire the sweeping views of the surrounding mountains and Malibu Canyon. We noted some landmarks (Brents Mountain, which we named Boob Mountain, was a favorite) and measured our progress by our relative position to the sights. After one particularly grueling climb, we stopped to catch our breath and noticed Malibu Canyon Road in the canyon far below us and I made the classic mistake of checking our progress on MapMyHike. We had only climbed 1.5 miles and had about 2 miles left to Mesa Peak.

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Abby: When Sasha announced we still had about two miles to scale, I was shocked. I felt as though we’d been climbing up that steep mountain for hours. At this point, we looked at each other and exchanged “I can’t believe we haven’t thrown up” admissions. However, if there is one trait we share, it is our tenacity, so we were going to make it to the top however challenging it may be. We continued upward and onward for another two miles until we made it to Mesa Peak. The views from this point made all of the leg and ass pain worth it.

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Sasha: The highest point of the climb actually happens before Mesa Peak, where a fork in the road greeted us. We veered left, toward our destination. Before we made the descent, we stopped at the top to take some pictures of our first major coastal view, and noticed some rock piles marking the location. After a few minutes, we continued onward to Mesa Peak, which we could tell would give us even better and less obstructed views of the coast below us. As we approached, we noticed a narrow path to the right up to the summit, and scrambled up to the solar panel and small building at the top. Once we reached the top, we realized there was another lower peak obstructing our view, so we bushwhacked our way across a poorly maintained footpath to our reward: panoramic views of the Pacific below us.

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Abby: After taking in the views and cooling off for a bit while staring at the ocean, we decided to head back down the mountain. I’ve said this many times, but I am always trepid on the way down. This trail was no different, especially as it was such a steep climb up, and the trail was so loose. While it was a significant challenge on the way down, I have to admit that I basked in pride as we made this trek downward because seeing how vertical the trail was shocked me. I cannot believe we made our way all the way up that mountain.

Sasha: As Abby said, the trip down the mountain was pretty harrowing. Despite my well-treaded trail running shoes, I had a complete wipeout on one of the steeper sections of the descent. For the first time, hiking sticks seemed like less of a joke than a necessity, and we envied those we saw using them flying down the mountain. We’re still not entirely convinced we need them, but we’ll see how we feel after our next 1500 foot climb.

Pro’s:

  • Incredible views
  • A significant workout
  • No animals allowed, so no animal feces on trail
  • Wide open spaces
  • Not very busy
  • Peaceful, despite the challenge

Con’s:

  • Very few resting spots
  • Not a ton of shade
  • Watch out for snakes – we encountered our first one on this trail!

Tips:

  • Don’t forget a camera
  • Be prepared for steep climbs
  • Bring extra water and wear sunscreen

Holy Shit View Factor: 10/10

How Good Your Ass Will Look Afterwards: 9/10 This is a very steep climb

Post hike grub spot: As we’ve mentioned, Malibu has some exceptional venues for post-hike grub. We decided to stop at Duke’s on the way back east and although we were told there would be an hour wait, we found a nice spot at the bar, right on the ocean. We ordered Pina Coladas and they were incredible. After sucking the first one down quickly, we ordered wings and Brussel sprouts proving that we both have a little east and west coast in our blood. The food was great, service was wonderful and we paid less for our meal and drinks than we usually do for a bottle of wine. Highly recommend.

Tracking the hike: We used MapMyHike to track, but also relied on tips from Hikespeak (linked above).

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Hike Number Eight, March 1, 2015: Zuma Canyon Trail.

Distance: 4.01 miles round trip

Elevation Change: 755 feet

Temperature day of hike: 65 degrees

Directions: From PCH headed north, turn right on Bonsall Drive. Continue until it ends at a short dirt road to a parking lot. For GPS, use 5875 Bonsall Drive, Malibu, CA 90265.

Sasha: When Abby and I started brainstorming this week’s hike, we decided we wanted to try something a little longer and steeper, and preferably with some killer ocean views. I had hiked the Mugu Peak Trail before, and we thought we would roll the dice on rainy forecasts and take a farther drive up PCH for that climb. When we headed out on Sunday morning, we realized PCH was closed at Point Mugu because Los Angeles and rain, so we did some fast research en route and thought Zuma Canyon would be a nice replacement. Zuma is well-known for its gorgeous Malibu beaches, so we were confident we would be in for some spectacular views. And we were right!

Once we found parking in the almost-empty lot, we saw the trailhead at the northwest corner, near a box full of maps, and started the walk to the trail. We were planning on making a loop of two trails: the Ocean View Trail and the Canyon View Trail. After we walked for about ¼ of a mile, we hit a sign that said Canyon View Trail, but we decided we were more interested in starting with the Ocean View Trail, so we continued on. After a few minutes, we ran into a second intersection and a sign that said Ocean View Trail by a path to the right and headed that way.

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The initial climb was mild; we noted the beautiful flowers that lined the sandy, narrow, single track tail as well as the giant mines made of horse poop we were constantly hopping around. After a few switchbacks, we got our first glimpse of the Pacific from the trail and the climb became aggressively steep. We stopped several times to catch our breath and to admire (and take pictures of) the gorgeous views of the ocean. We also noticed the angry storm clouds to the north, but were grateful for the cool breeze that seemed to be coming from their direction. Once we got to the top, we wandered down the well-marked Kanan-Edison Road for a bit to check out the views, but quickly turned back in the direction of the Canyon View Trail to complete the loop back down the mountain.

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Abby: As Sasha mentioned, the views on this trail were absolutely phenomenal and to get to them literally took my breath away. Those hills were no joke, and despite the fact that we work out every day, I was out of breath with burning calves by the time we got to the top. Actually, to be honest, I was out of breath many times on the way to the top. Some of the hikes that we’ve been on to date have been rather easy to climb; Zuma Canyon was definitely not that, so you do get a workout.

The trail was a loop, which was nice, as it gave us even more opportunities to take in the ocean, greenery and hills from another angle. However, the way down was also quite steep, and since the trail was so narrow, it’s a little intimidating to be so high up with such steep falls. Sasha was patient with me as I was a tad trepid, since, you know, I’d like to make it to thirty-one

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The cool breeze was a nice addition to the trek down, since that climb had us sweating pretty profusely. I’d recommend going on a day that isn’t too hot. Overall it was beautiful, just be prepared for a tough climb to the top.

Pro’s:

  • Incredible views
  • A great workout that doesn’t take too long to complete
  • Healthy greenery that is well kept

Con’s:

  • Very little shade
  • Narrow trails
  • Tons of horse poop

Tips:

  • Don’t forget a camera
  • Be prepared for steep climbs
  • Bring water and wear sunscreen

Holy Shit View Factor: 10/10

How Good Your Ass Will Look Afterwards: 9/10 This is a very steep climb

Post hike grub spot: One of our favorite things about Malibu is how many options there are for a great meal and cocktail. We have been talking about getting Pina Coladas for a long time, so we stopped at one of our favorite spots on the way back down PCH, Moonshadows. The bar to sit over the ocean was closed, but we still had a beautiful view sitting inside and shared some calamari and ahi tuna over our Pina Coladas

Tracking the hike: MapMyHike was really helpful this week as we weren’t totally sure if the trail was a loop or not.

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Hike Number Four, January 17, 2015: The M*A*S*H Hike

Distance: 5.24 miles

Elevation change: 433 feet

Temperature: 68 degrees

Directions: 1925 Las Virgenes Road, Malibu Creek State Park, Agoura Hills, CA 91301 – Take the 101 North and exit Las Virgenes towards Malibu Canyon. Turn left on Las Virgenes and continue until you see the well-signed entrance to Malibu Creek State Park on the right. Enter and be prepared to pay $12 for parking.

Abby: Despite the fact that neither of us have ever seen the show M*A*S*H*, we decided that we wanted to hike to the show set in Malibu Creek State Park. As always, Sasha looked into it and on Sunday, we headed to Malibu to check it out. We took the 101 instead of PCH because it was a holiday weekend and drive PCH during a holiday weekend is a terrible idea. When we got there, we passed the parking lot and ended up driving into a campground. I am still confused as to who sets up camp at Malibu Creek State Park but that’s a different conversation. Once we turned around, we found the parking lot and were on our way.

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Sasha: After we parked in the main lot – FYI there is a $12 parking fee so have cash handy – we decided to check out the map that was conveniently located near some restrooms that I would never use and a vending machine. We immediately noticed tons of families (read: lots of little kids) gathered around with picnic gear and we realized we were probably not going to be too challenged by today’s hike. We sped up to get in front of some larger groups and headed to the beginning of the trail, which is straight shot behind the restrooms and down a few wood steps. The path is very well marked, but if you’re nervous, you’ll immediately cross a bridge over Las Virgenes Creek, see a “no fun zone” sign and know you’re heading the right direction. If you’re using any kind of mapping app, this is marked Waycross Drive (though it is clearly for people on foot or bike, not for vehicles).

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The first section of the hike is extremely flat. After walking through a short section shaded by Oak trees (impressed that I knew that, aren’t you), the path becomes very open and you’ll walk alongside Las Virgenes Creek until you reach an intersection, where you will bear right to continue on Craigs Drive. After some more flat walking, you’ll notice a few porta potties and an option to go left, and finally, a moderate incline if you continue straight on Craigs Drive. We continued straight up the incline, which was long but not so hard (that’s what she said), and found Century Reservoir to the left pretty soon after the top. This section was especially well populated, as Century Reservoir turned out to be a popular swim spot for families. We decided to skip it because too many children and unhygienic adults (ew) and headed onward. The rest of the path was pretty straight forward, and you’ll know you’re almost to the site when the path suddenly narrows into a single track (and very rocky) trail through some woods. Once the trail widens again, you’ll immediately see the M*A*S*H* site ahead of you.

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According to the internet, M*A*S*H* was filmed at the Malibu Creek Park site from 1972-1983. The site is extremely well preserved and clean, with a couple of trucks you can climb into and a picnic area. Though Abby and I had no clue what the significance of any of the vehicles or other props were, we luckily had some guests along who had greater appreciation for this piece of Hollywood history. Despite our M*A*S*H* ignorance, the setting was pretty spectacular, though I’m a little confused about whether Malibu and Korea are really all that similar.

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Abby: We walked a little bit further than the set site but learned quickly there wasn’t much else to see, so we headed back down. On our way down we saw someone who was walking the trail with no shoes or socks on, and I don’t think we’d recommend doing that because there are a lot of rocks, and lets be real, it’s not smart to walk anywhere outside without shoes on. It was busy again when we got closer to the entrance but it was easy to make our way down. When we got to the end of the hike, we all agreed it was more of a nature walk. We also ran to the car as we were starving.

Pro’s: 
  • Beautiful scenery
  • Nicely shaded
  • Signage made it easy not to get lost
Con’s:
  • Not many inclines, so it was more of a trail walk than hike
  • Lots of people at the entrance/exit
Tips: 
  • It would be fun to have a picnic on the MASH site, so bring food if you are into that
Holy Shit View Factor: 6/10
  • The foliage was really beautiful
  • There were several times where we noted that it was great scenery because of the trees and mountains
How good your ass will look after: 4/10 There was a small climb that was pretty steep about half way through
Post hike grub spot: We went to Mediterranean Pit Grill because who doesn’t want Mediterranean food after exercising? It was excellent food. We had a friend with who is on a strict diet and still found something she could have.

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Hike Number Two, January 1, 2015: Escondido Canyon Trail

Distance: 5.55 miles round trip

Elevation Change: 626 feet

Temperature day of hike: 60 degrees in the shade

Directions: Take PCH to Winding Road. There is limited free parking at the bottom of Winding Road and tons of street parking on PCH. For GPS directions, use 27807 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265.

Sasha: We know we said we were going to be doing a hike once a week, and probably on Sundays, but since we were both lucky to have extended holiday breaks and this challenge is all about exploring in 2015, we decided to start the year off with our second hike on January 1. On our first hike, we discussed what we would be excited to encounter through the year, and Abby mentioned wanting to see a waterfall or two. So despite sage advice from T-Boz, Left Eye and Chili, we decided to kick off 2015 chasing waterfalls in the middle of a severe drought. Five minutes of Internet research later, we found Escondido Falls in Malibu.

The drive up the PCH was stunning, per us, and we were excited that the weather seemed to be on par with that of our first hike. The route to Escondido Falls took us further north than Topanga, a few miles past Pepperdine to Winding Road, which is just before Paradise Cove. While there is parking at the base of the trail off Winding Way, it is extremely limited, so be prepared to park on the PCH and make the harrowing walk against oncoming traffic to the beginning of the trail.

After risking our lives on the walk from PCH to our starting point, we were disappointed to find the beginning of the hike was a 3/4 of a mile mild climb up Winding Road, which was well-populated with lots of couples walking dogs and young families congregated at the base. We sped up to pass the groups of kids and dog owners (who seemed unconcerned with cleaning up after their dogs so tread carefully), on the wide road and continued on up past several mansions with amazing views of the ocean. After passing a beautiful house with stables to our right, we started a short and fast decent to Escondido Canyon Park, where the trail to the hidden falls actually begins.

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Abby: We got to the gravel part of the trail where we were met with loads and loads of horse shit. Literally. I didn’t intend for any sort of pun there, but I feel like there is one. Anyway, you definitely have to be cognizant of where you are stepping on this trail, as it is everywhere. The trail is about 2 miles of flat ground so it’s hard to consider this an actual hike, but as Sasha mentioned, we were hopeful to see a waterfall after having some rain in Los Angeles. When we approached the springs, we were both surprised and disappointed. Surprised that there was a little bit of a fall, but disappointed that we hadn’t really worked out and this was the end of our planned hike.

After looking around, and swinging on the random tree swing by the fall, Sasha remembered that she had read there was an extension of the hike, but it meant that we had to do some serious rock climbing. We looked at each other begrudgingly, and decided we were going to try.

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Sasha: We noticed an unmarked narrow and steep path to the right of the water trickle, and thought we heard voices from that direction so we headed that way. The path was not at all obvious, but after a short climb we saw a yellow nylon rope that was clearly tied to help hikers scale the limestone wall. Abby and I were pretty nervous about this as the limestone was covered in loose sand and gravel that was extremely slippery so were grateful our Pop Physique classes taught us to lunge and squat in more ways and directions than we knew possible. I highly recommend wearing treaded footwear if you attempt this section, which takes you up 150 feet in 1/10th of a mile. Don’t be embarrassed to use all four limbs as necessary to avoid falling off the mountain. There were several points when we threw our water bottles ahead of us because we needed hands and feet to scale boulders or make it up a particularly vertical section. There aren’t ropes throughout this section, so use sturdy roots or boulders for stability – you’ll need them.

After scaling a few more boulders, we followed voices to a large open area and the upper falls. In wetter years, it looked like we would have run straight into a pool with a lush waterfall, but there wasn’t much water given the drought. There were a few groups picnicking and chatting around the falls, and we were excited to take a few minutes to catch our breath now that the sandstone climb was over.

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Abby: While it wasn’t the most impressive waterfall, it was really exciting to see it and feel as though this hike wasn’t a total wash. I am full of unintentional puns today, it seems. We noticed that there were people scaling down the side of the mountain after having climbed to stand behind the waterfall and decided we needed to try that. I have to admit; this was pretty intimidating for me. I am not a rock climber and I am prone to breaking bones, so climbing up the side of a wet, mossy mountain was a little trepidating. Sasha went first, and made it look easy. I followed and made it without hurting myself. My father called me this morning, and was shocked that I did this, if that tells you anything. At this point, as terrible as I am at Pop Physique I am feeling quite grateful for the classes as my legs were used to moving this way.

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Sasha: I’m not really sure that we were prepared to climb back down from the upper falls but we didn’t bring camping equipment and there was no cell service, so we really didn’t have a choice. What felt steep and dangerous going up felt impossible and downright terrifying going down. We spent about half this section on our butts, doing a version of a spider climb down the mountain. When we finally made it back to the yellow rope, a snooty kid remarked there was an easier way down if we had veered to the left, but we sure as hell weren’t going to climb back up the steep section after making it so far down. We tossed our water bottles over the edge to the lower falls and completed the last bit of the climb, using a conveniently placed tree to scale down to safety.

While we had been disappointed by the first section of the trail, the comparably boring walk back to Winding Road and up PCH to the car was a nice way to unwind and stretch out after the rock climbing to and from the upper falls.

Abby: While the beginning of the “hike” left little to be desired, I have to admit that I am feeling quite accomplished from the rock climbing and waterfall portions of the trail. If you’re willing to walk the miles to the trail, and the two flat miles (watching your step) of trail leading up to the climb, it’s an adventure worth taking.

Pro’s: 

  • The second waterfall after the rock climbing is beautiful
  • Easy to navigate to lower falls
  • Most of the trail is shaded, so it probably stays cool in hotter months

Con’s: 

  • The horse and dog feces covering the flat trail
  • If you’re looking for steep inclines, there aren’t any unless you climb
  • Pets allowed on trail
  • Trails are very narrow in the climbing sections
  • Lots of people on the trail

Tips: 

  • Definitely bring water, it’s a dry course
  • Wear shoes that you can climb rocks in, if you decide to take the second half
  • Watch where you are stepping
  • Pay attention on the way up, as it’s not clearly marked

Holy Shit View Factor: 6/10 On your way to the trail, you have a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean, but along the trail you don’t have a view.

How Good Your Ass Will Look Afterwards: 4/10 The flat road at the beginning doesn’t do much for your back side, but if you decide to climb the rocks, you get a nice little workout.

Post hike grub spot: We didn’t have lunch, as we had evening plans, but Paradise Cove is a block away, and they let you take food and drink on the beach, which is a nice way to relax after the climb.

Tracking the hike: For this hike, we decided to use MapMyHike to track our trip. It was our first time playing with the app, so we’re not really sure what it’s capable of yet, but we’re excited to play with it to track our distance and elevation and to map our hikes.

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Hike Number One, December 28, 2014: Los Liones Trail up to Parker Mesa.

Distance: 7 miles round trip

Elevation change: 1,250 feet

Temperature day of hike: 65 degrees

Directions: From PCH, head east on Sunset Blvd to Los Liones Drive (the second left off Sunset). Drive up Los Liones Drive until it runs directly into the clearly signed trail head. Park anywhere on the street. For GPS directions, use 575 Los Liones Dr., Pacific Palisades, CA.

Abby: One of the things I appreciate the most about Sasha is that she is a dear friend, and also my exercise buddy. When one of us finds a new or different workout to try, we try it together. When you have a workout buddy, you are committed to actually trying that work out. That being said, before the holiday break she asked if I was interested in one of the long hikes in Malibu, as opposed to the 32-minute schlep up Runyon, that week. I agreed and we decided on Sunday. When Sunday rolled around, I woke up and checked my handy iPhone weather app as it had been cold in Los Angeles (60 degrees is freezing), and it said 42 degrees. What the hell, LA? So I showered, put on my Lululemon pants, a t-shirt, a long sleeved shirt, a sweatshirt, a scarf and two pairs of socks before heading out the door. Sasha picked me up wearing exactly the same thing; we grabbed our Starbucks and headed toward the PCH for a beautiful drive along the Pacific Ocean with the top down, because even if it’s 40 degrees, you have to have the top down when you’re driving the PCH. We got to Topanga Canyon, and when we parked the car realized the weather was much better in Malibu than it was in West Hollywood. Thank God. We took off the scarves and two layers, and made our way to the trail.

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The first 1.5 miles are more like a nature walk than a hike. It’s a pretty narrow path through several trees with low-hanging branches. Watch your head if you’re tall. When we got to the first overlook I even said to Sasha, “that didn’t feel at all like one and a half miles” which I quickly learned was a jinx. There was an older couple sitting on a bench, so obviously we bothered them for a photo. The lovely old man had some major photog skills, despite asking how to use the iPhone camera.

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Sasha: Because the weather was so beautiful and we were trying to get a “real” workout in, we decided to continue onward and upward. I had previously hiked the 3-mile Los Liones loop and knew there were options to extend, so we headed in the direction that looked like it would take us to the top of the mountain. The path widens as you meet the fire road, which takes you up to Parker Mesa Overlook.

What started out as a leisurely nature stroll turned into a relentless climb. We hiked up. And up. And up. There was definitely a lot of grunting and sweating, a few “my ass better look amazing after this” comments and several stops to admire the spectacular views and chug water. About 3/4th of the way through this section, there was a short and steep decline into a field that would have been perfect for frolicking in if we hadn’t been so damn tired. Don’t be fooled by this slight break though, you will have to regain that elevation pretty quickly. There’s very little shade in this section, so we were grateful for a cool LA winter breeze.

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After climbing for about 1.5 miles, we were borderline ecstatic to see some signage pointing us .5 miles towards our summit, Parker Mesa Overlook. We noticed there were options to extend further, but we decided to stick with the 7-mile loop.

Since neither of us were familiar with the post-Los Liones section of this hike and our research had consisted of thirty seconds of iPhone searching in a Starbucks parking lot that morning, we weren’t really sure what to expect for the big view pay off. After an easy .5 miles of rolling hills on a narrow path, we reached the cleared summit. We were lucky enough to have a perfectly clear day and panoramic views from snow-covered mountains and the entire city to the south east, to miles of ocean and blue skies to the west and north.

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Abby: As much as climbing the inclines sucks, walking back down the mountain is so much worse. But that’s with any hike, so I’ll try not to say that every week. There were a few spots where we had to trek back up the mountain, but it was a lot of downhill hiking, so be prepared for that. I never am. When you get to the last mile and a half, remember that it is very narrow, so be equipped to have to move out of the way often to accommodate other hikers.

Sasha: One of our favorite topics of conversation is that we wish we knew what we know at twenty-nine when we were younger. While the past year has certainly been full of challenges for us both, we’re both so grateful for the wisdom that comes with the confidence and experience of our “advanced” age. We’re both turning thirty in 2015, which feels big and important, and given the time of year, we decided we needed New Year’s resolutions befitting the numeric and emotional milestones. We wanted to do something that was good for us, but we both exercise a ton already, and I love food too much to resolve to diet, so we had to think of something a little different.

As I was standing in Niketown a few days after Christmas with a totally unnecessary new pair of hiking shoes on my feet, I thought “if I buy these, I need to hike more,” and then “maybe there’s a New Year’s resolution in that.” Between grunts on the upward climb, Abby and I discussed and she came up with the brilliant idea to do it together (accountability is everything) and to blog about it.

So here’s the first of our year of 50 hikes. Over the next year, we’ll explore trails across the city and state and post about our experiences here. We’ll post helpful tips, rate the hikes, give you the pros and cons and hopefully make you laugh at least once. We’re welcoming suggestions, questions and partners-in-climb. While we’re not sure where this blog is going to take us, if Los Liones and Parker Mesa are any indication, we’re sure we’re going to enjoy the views.

Pro’s:

  • Incredible views
  • Clear signage
  • Trash cans along the way
  • No pets allowed on the trail
  • Nice overlooks to rest at every mile or so
  • Wide fire-road trails on the steep climbs

Con’s:

  • The first 1.5 miles can trick you into thinking it will be an easy climb
  • A lot of it is very narrow, making it challenging for several people to be in one spot
  • Very little shade

Tips:

  • It was significantly busier on our way down than on our way up, so go early in the day. We started at 10:30am.
  • While the weather was perfect in December, it can get very hot and dry in the summer. If you do this hike in the hotter months, we definitely suggest a hat, extra water and an earlier start.
  • Abby got a bit of a sunburn, despite the temperature being in the low 60’s, so wear sunscreen. Sasha was smart enough to do so.
  • Definitely bring water. Other hikers had food as well, and ate it at the top.
  • Bring a camera, the views are gorgeous.

Holy Shit View Factor: 10/10 So beautiful you may lose your breath a few times. It’s probably from the hike, but you have an excuse with these views.

How Good Your Ass Will Look Afterwards: 7/10 The flat road at the beginning doesn’t do much for your back side, but the inclines make up for it later.

Post hike grub spot: Café Havana. Get a mimosa because you deserve it (and it’s garnished with a fresh strawberry) and the Kale Caesar salad because it’s Malibu and it’s fucking delicious. We both cleared our plates.