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 Six, February 15, 2015: Inspiration Point, Will Rogers State Park.

Distance: 3.13 miles round trip

Elevation Change: 404 feet

Temperature day of hike: 75 degrees

DirectionsFrom Sunset Blvd in the Pacific Palisades, head north on Will Rogers State Park Road and park anywhere parking is allowed. I suggest parking on the street to get a little extra mileage on your hike, but there is parking at the park itself – just be prepared to pay $12.

Abby: The weather in LA has been incredible this week, so we were really looking forward to this hike. We had talked about heading deeper into the Palisades, but with the long holiday weekend, a touch of the flu and other commitments that evening, we opted for a hike that was closer to where we live and a bit shorter. We drove with the top down and parked the car outside of the park, to avoid paying for parking. When you get to the park, there is a large field that Sasha let me know was used for polo games. I’m here to tell you that we will be back to watch a polo game, because; hot men playing sports.

We had stopped at Starbucks along the way, so when we got to the park, we used the restroom which was clean and easy to find. Before you hit the trailhead, there are options to have a picnic, or play lawn games outside of Will Rogers’ former home. It is a beautiful location to spend time at, so I look forward to revisiting.

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Sasha: We wandered our way behind the ranger’s house and the ranch house (where I think tours are offered), and found a narrow stone path underneath some Eucalyptus trees. We followed that path for a bit, until it met up with what MapMyHike calls the Will Rogers Fire road, which also seems to be the Inspiration Point trail. There was a confusing sign posted that said “Inspiration Point .45 miles,” so we took that as a good sign and headed that way. Since the entire trip ended up being just over 3 miles, I’d guesstimate Inspiration Point was closer to 1.2 miles from that sign, but I’ve been known to be wrong.

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The fire road is wide well-maintained and easy to follow, with fantastic city and ocean views around every corner. It’s clear that a lot of money is spent on the upkeep of the park, which makes for an easy trip up and down the mountain. There are lots of trash and recycling cans along the way, and great west-LA people watching. There are a few well-placed, clean benches at optimal viewpoints, so if you get tired (or lazy) on the short climb up the mountain, you can take a seat and enjoy the scenery (by scenery, I definitely mean men in tight pants hitting balls on horses). Will Rogers Historic State Park is also home to the Westside Riding School, so be prepared to dodge horses and jump quite a few steaming piles on your way up.

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Abby: As Sasha mentioned, the views along the way were gorgeous. It was a hazy day, and we got to see the palm trees along the ocean as well as views of downtown LA. The people watching at the top of the mountain was also quite enjoyable with a man practicing Tai Chi. The way back down was pretty simple, but with the sunshine, the views and the company, it was so enjoyable. It was like a fancy Runyon Canyon. When we got to the bottom, people were still enjoying the space and it was quite busy, which feels nice in Los Angeles when you’re a little lonely.

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Sasha: Growing up in West-LA, I’d definitely spent quite a few Mother’s and Father’s Days picnicking at Will Rogers, so it was nice to revisit a familiar spot. Now that I’m an adult, I’m looking forward to champagne and stomping divots – is tailgating the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic inappropriate? Who’s in?

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Pro’s:

  • Great city views
  • Wide, well kept trails
  • Quick and easy workout
  • Really green and lush
  • Clean bathrooms

Con’s:

  • A lot of horse shit on the trail
  • Not much shade
  • Not a ton of inclines

Tips:

  • Definitely wear sunscreen
  • Don’t expect a tough workout

Holy Shit View Factor: 8/10 Great views of LA, beautiful lush plants all the way up

How Good Your Ass Will Look Afterwards: 4/10 Not a tough climb

Post hike grub spot: As noted, with busy schedules we weren’t able to eat together after the hike. On the way back, however, there are several options in Brentwood on San Vincente to choose from.

Tracking the hike: MapMyHike has been our go-to with these hikes, and it was reliable again this weekend.

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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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