The Chumash trail to Mugu Peak trail is fantastic! This is a short workout hike that will tire you out, but be worth the effort for the fabulous views of the Santa Monica Mountains and the bright blue Pacific ocean. I had planned to do this hike for sunset (after hiking the Backbone trail to Saddle Peak) but I am glad we left it until the following morning so we could attempt it with fresh legs and more energy.
If you fancy a hike that you can complete in a couple of hours before going for brunch in Malibu, Mugu Peak is perfect!
Mugu Peak trail – the basics
Distance: 3.7 miles (6km) on alltrails; (although I recorded 4.7 miles/7.6km).
Elevation gain: 1280ft (390m)
Time: 2-2.5 hours.
What to bring:
Bring the 10 essentials.
I found gaiters helpful to keep the small rocks and sand out of my shoes.
Facilities: Trash cans in the parking area. No toilets, although there is one on the map
Dogs: No dogs
How hard is it?
This trail is STEEP! Most descriptions say it is challenging, but it’s honestly not that tough if you take it slowly. It’s a great trail for a workout.
Extra notes: We saw two snakes on this trail, so watch your step!
Why is it called Mugu Peak?
This peak is named after the Chumash village Muwu that used to be located at the trailhead. Chumash people have a maritime culture (using wooden canoes called tomols to travel along the coast.) They used to use this trail to reach the rolling hills of La Jolla valley.
Chumash people were the largest group in the area before missionaries/settlers arrived. Their settlements dwindled due to western diseases and expansion; The headcount was reduced from 20,000 to around 200 by the early 1900s. Nowadays there are an estimated 5,000 people who self-identify as Chumash. You can learn more about the Chumash here and here.
Mugu Peak – Getting started
The trailhead for Mugu Peak is just off the Pacific Coast Highway in Point Mugu State Park. It’s about 50 minutes drive from Santa Monica along the highway. Add Chumash Trailhead to your map so you don’t miss it. The trail starts from the rear of the parking lot.
We hiked up Mugu Peak in the morning, but not particularly early, so the sun shone through the grasses showing off their pretty colours. This trail is steep, right from the start, so it was nice to have beautiful plants to photograph of while I caught my breath!
Super steep trail
The hard part of this trail is at the start. You will gain almost 900ft (275m) in 0.6 miles (1km) There are switchbacks, and the path is easy to follow, but get ready to sweat!
The good thing about super-steep hikes is that you’ll be looking down at the seaside in no time at all. The dodgiest parts of the trail were covered in gravel that slides under your shoes/boots. If you can, try to step on the larger rocks that are a little more solid.
Go right at the saddle
The trail eases up a little as you reach the saddle. You can continue straight on into La Jolla valley for a longer adventure. To reach Mugu Peak and the flagpole, turn right and ascend up the last 100m. There are a few braided trails – try to stick to the main trail to avoid more erosion to the grasses.
This is the view looking down to the saddle, and to Mugu Lagoon off to the left. You can see the Navy satellite tracking station over on Laguna Peak.
Mugu Peak Flagpole
Once you’ve made it up, there is a flag that was placed here after 9/11. This was the only busy part of the trail as most people spend some time up here enjoying the beautiful views.
Point Mugu State Park is the westernmost point of the Santa Monica Mountains; So be ready for some great views northeast. You can even see the Boney Mountains.
Longer loop – or head straight down?
We loved the scenery so much that we hiked over to the eastern peak before looping back. You can see the various trails from Mugu Peak and decide which option you want to take.
Spring flowers on Mugu Peak
We visited California at a gorgeous time of year (in March.) We were a little early for the California poppies; They were only just starting to bloom. But grasses, cacti, succulents and flowers decorated the trail. It’s lovely.
Animals of Point Mugu
We saw two snakes along this trail (they both slithered off too fast for me to take a photo) a lizard, cool funnel spiders as well as a large circling group of 10+ turkey vultures. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife!
If you have time (an extra minute or two!), there is an extra viewpoint on the way back. It leads to an overlook with fantastic views North to Mugu Lagoon.
Head back down the Chumash trail
Once you have completed the loop at the top of Mugu Peak, turn left to descend via the steep Chumash trail. We ran down the trail (as we find it is easier on your knees) BUT be careful if you plan to do that as Marc nearly ran over a snake!
Time for Brunch!
We stopped for Brunch at Kristy’s Malibu (and it was great!) if you have a similar hiking plans and need something tasty to fuel your adventures!
The Chumash trail was perfect for a fun, quick day hike! We started late (for hiking), got to see some fabulous views and still had plenty of time to grab brunch and go to the beach before we needed to be back in Los Angeles.