The Temescal Canyon loop is a fun, easy-ish hike on the edge of the Santa Monica Mountains, California. It will treat you to fabulous views of Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean. We went in a clockwise direction, so climbed up the steep section first to enjoy the scenery. The return loop takes you deep into the shady canyon to a (teeny) waterfall.
We were only in LA for a few days because Marc won an award for his work on the movie, Dune. We came the weekend before the award ceremony (in March 2022) to get some hikes in!
Temescal Canyon loop – the basics
Distance: 4 miles (6.5 km) plus extra 1 mile (1.6 km) to skull rock.
Elevation gain: 920ft (280m) for the loop or 1180ft (360m) if you get to skull rock.
Highest Point: 1410 ft (430m) at skull rock
Time: 1.5-2.5 hours
What to bring:
Bring the 10 essentials.
Facilities: Toilets and water at the trailhead. You need to pay for parking.
Dogs: Dogs are allowed at the bottom of the canyon, but not on the main loop, once the trail crosses into Topanga State Park.
How hard is it?
Easy/moderate. It is easy to follow and never crazily steep. It must feel hard later in the spring/summer once the weather is hot.
Extra notes: There was sign warning hikers to watch out for rattlesnakes. It said not to fear them, but stay away from them. Stay on the trails to avoid them.
Temescal Canyon trail map
I live in Canada, so my maps are normally configured to km for distances and m for elevation (just in case you look without noticing the units!)
This was the first hike we did in the LA area, so we enjoyed the whole experience, even the drive along the Pacific Coast Highway on the way there.
Temescal Canyon – Getting started
The trail starts at Temescal Gateway Park. We parked right at the trailhead ($12 for parking…) but there is free street parking if you arrive early. Turn left by the cute cabin and follow steps up towards Topanga State Park.
We did the loop clockwise as we wanted to get the steep section over early, and relax on the way down. On hot days, it might be better to walk counter-clockwise so you are in the shade on the way up.
Temescal Gateway Park Views
The climb is steep, but not too hard (unless you do this on a hot day – then I guess you’d melt). In no time at all you’ll find yourself up above the posh houses of Pacific Palisades.
You get gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean as well as Los Angeles.
Views of Los Angeles
We did this hike in March and I was pleasantly surprised by how lush and green the area was – there were so many wildflowers! This was our first view of LA – it’s not a bad way to see the city for the first time!
The trail soon enters Topanga State Park. The views down to Temescal Canyon as you hike higher are gorgeous! Rainclouds passed over while we walked, so it made the scenery even prettier. I love the contrast of bright sunshine next to moody skies.
Temescal Ridge Trail
The trail we followed is a loop. Start along the Temescal ridge trail, hiking up multiple bumps. The path is always easy to follow, just a bit dusty.
The trail leads to multiple view points at the top of each bump.
How steep is it?
Some parts of this hike were great for a workout! It is mostly an easy (but constant) climb, with some extra-steep moments to get your heart beating.
I LOVED how any wildflowers were in bloom in the springtime! The entire mountain seemed to be sprinkled with the cheerful yellow flowers of California brittlebush. I also loved the purple nightshade, desert wishbone flowers and the crazy spikey balls of the California Manroot.
Detour to Skull Rock
Before we turned onto the downhill Temescal Canyon trail, we saw something called “skull rock” on my map, just half a mile further into Topanga State Park. I am always keen to see cool rocks, so we went off on a detour to climb up to it. Can you see the skull?
This might just be us… but we thought the other un-named rock looks like a capybara. Cabybara rock should totally be added to the Californian maps now too!
I climbed up and around the Skull Rock to peek at the ocean through its eye.
However my favourite view of the day was from Capybara Rock. It’s easy to climb up behind and sit on the capybara’s back.
We headed back down from the rock formations and rejoined the Temescal Canyon loop.
The views continue to be beautiful while you are up high. Then the trail descends down into Temescal Canyon for a pretty walk through the forests back to the parking area.
Temescal Canyon base
Once you make it to the far corner of the canyon, there’s a bridge over a small creek with a trickle-like waterfall. It’s just enough water to keep the canyon full of beautiful oak and sycamore trees. This part of the trail was quite busy and there was a lady being filmed posing in her short shorts and animal print bra. I thought they might not appreciate it if I took photos of the semi-clothed photoshoot, so here are some photos of the base of the canyon.
Temescal Canyon Panoramas
I’ll finish with a few photos of the loop. It seemed like we chose pretty well for our first American hike.
The Temescal Canyon Loop was a brilliant introduction to hiking in California. It’s pretty stunning considering we’d only been in the USA for a few hours at this point. It just shows it is easy to find great hikes near LA!