Best Things to Do in Malibu Creek State Park: Camping, Hiking Trails, Activities and Tips

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Are you ready to explore the natural splendor of Malibu Creek State Park? Nestled in the heart of the Santa Monica Mountains, this park is a haven for enthusiasts of the outdoors, offering a plethora of activities from serene camping spots to exhilarating hiking trails.

Best Things to Do in Malibu Creek State Park
Best Things to Do in Malibu Creek State Park

Whether you’re looking to unwind under the stars or challenge yourself on rugged paths, our guide dives deep into the best experiences Malibu Creek has to offer. Discover essential tips and captivating activities that will make your visit unforgettable.

Join us as we uncover the hidden treasures of one of California’s most beloved natural escapes.

See also: Best Things to Do in Malibu Beach, California

Exploring the Park’s Natural Beauty

Hiking Trails

Popular Trails: Malibu Creek State Park is a hiker’s paradise with numerous trails that cater to all skill levels. The Rock Pool Trail is a must-visit, leading you to a stunning natural pool surrounded by cliffs, perfect for a refreshing dip or a serene picnic. Another favorite is the Malibu Lake Trail, a moderately challenging 6.4-mile route that offers breathtaking views of the lake, mountains, and rock formations​.

Malibu Creek State Park Hiking Trails
Malibu Creek State Park Hiking Trails

Difficulty Levels: Whether you’re a novice or an experienced hiker, Malibu Creek has something for everyone. For an easy trek, the Rock Pool and Century Lake Trails span 4.5 miles with minimal elevation gain, making them accessible and enjoyable for all ages. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, the Backbone Trail Loop is an intense 7.7-mile hike with over 2,000 feet of elevation gain. This trail promises spectacular vistas but be sure to bring hiking poles for the steep sections​.

Scenic Highlights: As you wander through the park, keep your camera handy for the many scenic spots. The volcanic rock gorges and the panoramic views from the Backbone Trail are truly awe-inspiring. Century Lake is another picturesque spot, often reflecting the surrounding peaks in its tranquil waters​.

Rock Climbing

Best Climbing Spots: Rock climbers flock to the Planet of the Apes Wall, a well-known spot offering routes that challenge climbers of all skill levels. This area, named after scenes filmed for the iconic movie, features several bolted routes and is a favorite for both bouldering and traditional climbing​.

Safety Tips and Gear Recommendations: When climbing, safety should always come first. Make sure to bring a helmet, climbing shoes, and a harness. It’s also wise to climb with a partner and let someone know your plans. The rock formations can be tricky, so a good grip and careful foot placement are essential. Always check your gear before starting your ascent to ensure everything is in good working condition​.

Wildlife Watching

Common Wildlife: Wildlife enthusiasts will delight in the diverse species that call Malibu Creek State Park home. Expect to see deer grazing in the meadows, a variety of birds including hawks and woodpeckers, and small mammals like squirrels and rabbits. Keep your eyes peeled for the occasional bobcat or coyote as well.

Best Viewing Times and Locations: The best times for wildlife watching are early morning and late afternoon when animals are most active. The trails near Malibu Creek and Century Lake are prime spots for sightings, offering a serene environment where wildlife feels safe to emerge. Bringing binoculars can enhance your viewing experience, especially for birdwatching.

See also: Best Things to Do in Laguna Beach, California

Water Activities


Rock Pool: One of the best spots to cool off in Malibu Creek State Park is the Rock Pool. Nestled between dramatic volcanic rocks, this natural swimming hole offers a refreshing escape. The Rock Pool is an easy 2.4-mile round-trip hike from the main parking lot, making it accessible for families and casual hikers alike. Pack a picnic, find a shady spot, and take a dip to beat the California heat. Just remember, the pool can get crowded, especially on weekends and hot afternoons, so arriving early is a good idea​.

Malibu Creek State Park Swimming
Malibu Creek State Park Swimming

Safety and Regulations: While the Rock Pool is a fantastic spot for swimming, safety is paramount. Diving or cliff-jumping into the pool is illegal due to the varying depths and submerged rocks that pose serious risks. Always keep an eye on children and avoid swimming alone. Additionally, make sure to pack out all trash to help preserve this beautiful area. Lifeguards are not on duty, so swim at your own risk and be mindful of your surroundings​.


Fishing Spots: Malibu Creek State Park offers serene fishing spots at Malibu Creek and Malibu Lake. These areas are perfect for a relaxing day of casting your line and enjoying the natural beauty around you. Malibu Lake, in particular, provides a peaceful setting with stunning views of the surrounding hills and wildlife​.

Permits and Regulations: Fishing in California requires a valid state fishing license for anyone aged 16 or older. You can purchase a day pass or an annual license online or at local sporting goods stores. Keep in mind that fishing regulations are strictly enforced to protect the local ecosystem, so be sure to check for any seasonal restrictions or special regulations before you head out. Adhering to catch limits and practicing catch-and-release can help maintain the park’s fish populations for future visitors​.

See also: Best Things to Do at Crystal Cove State Park: Camping, Hiking Trails And Activities

Camping at Malibu Creek State Park

Campground Overview

Types of Campsites: Malibu Creek State Park offers a variety of camping options to suit different needs. There are 56 individual campsites that can accommodate tents, trailers, and RVs up to 30 feet. Each site can host up to 8 people and includes amenities like a picnic table, food locker, grill, and fire ring.

Malibu Creek State Park Camping
Malibu Creek State Park Camping

For larger groups, the park has a group campsite that can accommodate between 9 to 60 people and up to 30 vehicles. This group site is a walk-in, tents-only area situated about 100 yards from the parking lot​.

Campground Facilities: The campground is well-equipped with amenities to make your stay comfortable. Facilities include restrooms with flush toilets, hot showers (operated by tokens purchased with $1 bills), potable water stations, and an amphitheater.

There’s also a dump station for RVs. Each campsite features a picnic table, food locker, grill, and fire ring. The communal bathrooms are well-maintained, and the campground also offers laundry services​.

Booking a Campsite

Reservation Process: Reservations can be made up to six months in advance and are highly recommended, especially during peak seasons. You can book a site online through ReserveCalifornia or by calling 1-800-444-PARK (7275). The reservation system allows you to secure a site for specific dates, ensuring you have a spot when you arrive​.

Peak Seasons: The best times to visit Malibu Creek State Park are during the spring and fall when the weather is mild, and the scenery is particularly beautiful. Summer is also popular, but sites can fill up quickly, so early booking is essential. Winter is quieter, but still a great time to visit if you prefer a less crowded experience​​.

Camping Tips

What to Pack: Ensure a comfortable and enjoyable camping experience by packing the essentials:

  • Camping Gear: Tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and a camping stove.
  • Clothing: Layers to adjust to changing weather, sturdy hiking boots, and swimwear for the Rock Pool.
  • Food and Cooking Supplies: A cooler with perishable food, non-perishable snacks, cooking utensils, and a portable grill if you prefer not to use the site’s grill.
  • Safety Items: First aid kit, insect repellent, sunscreen, and a map of the park since cell service can be spotty​.

Campfire Safety: To safely enjoy a campfire, follow these tips:

  • Firewood: Purchase locally to prevent the spread of invasive pests. Collecting wood in the park is not allowed.
  • Fire Rings: Use the designated fire rings at your campsite.
  • Supervision: Never leave a campfire unattended and ensure it is fully extinguished before going to bed or leaving the site. Pour water on the fire and stir the ashes until they are cool to the touch​.

Camping at Malibu Creek State Park provides a wonderful mix of natural beauty, outdoor activities, and historical sites, making it a perfect getaway for both relaxation and adventure. With well-maintained facilities and a range of campsite options, visitors can enjoy a memorable experience in this scenic California park.

See also: Best Things to Do in Carmel Beach California

Family-Friendly Activities


Best Picnic Spots: Malibu Creek State Park offers several great spots for picnicking, each equipped with picnic tables and scenic views. The main picnic area near the visitor center is perfect for families, featuring easy access to restrooms and parking. For a more secluded experience, try the spots near Century Lake and Rock Pool, where you can enjoy your meal amidst the beauty of the oak woodlands and volcanic rock formations​.

Picnic Essentials: To make your picnic day perfect, here are a few essentials to bring:

  • Blanket and Chairs: While there are picnic tables, a blanket can be handy for spreading out under the trees.
  • Cooler with Food and Drinks: Pack plenty of snacks, sandwiches, fruits, and beverages. Remember, alcohol is not allowed in the park.
  • Reusable Utensils and Plates: Help keep the park clean by minimizing waste.
  • Sunscreen and Hats: Protect yourself from the sun, especially during summer.
  • Trash Bags: Ensure you pack out all your trash to keep the park pristine for other visitors.

Junior Ranger Program

Program Details: The Junior Ranger Program at Malibu Creek State Park is a fantastic way for kids to engage with nature and learn about the environment. The program includes a variety of activities such as guided hikes, educational talks, and interactive games designed to teach children about the park’s history, wildlife, and ecology. Kids can pick up a Junior Ranger booklet from the visitor center, complete activities to earn badges, and participate in ranger-led sessions.

Benefits for Kids: Participating in the Junior Ranger Program offers several benefits for children. They gain hands-on experience with nature, learn important conservation principles, and develop an appreciation for the outdoors. Earning badges provides a sense of achievement and encourages them to continue exploring and learning. Additionally, these activities help foster a love for the environment and can be a fun and educational experience for the entire family​.

Plan Your Trip to Malibu Creek State Park

Getting There

Directions and Transportation Options: Malibu Creek State Park is conveniently located just 25 miles from downtown Los Angeles. If you’re driving, take the US-101 North freeway and exit at Las Virgenes Road. Head south on Las Virgenes Road (which becomes Malibu Canyon Road) for about three miles until you see the park entrance on your right. It’s an easy drive that offers some beautiful scenic views along the way.

For those using public transportation, options are somewhat limited but doable. You can take a Metro bus from downtown Los Angeles to Thousand Oaks and then switch to a local bus or taxi. Alternatively, there are trains from Union Station to nearby cities like Chatsworth, where you can then take a taxi to the park​.

Park Hours and Fees

Operating Hours: The park is open daily from 8 am to 10 pm, giving you plenty of time to explore and enjoy its natural beauty. The visitor center is typically open on weekends from noon to 4 pm, where you can pick up maps, learn about the park’s history, and join guided tours.

Entrance Fees: There is a day-use fee of $12 per vehicle, which covers parking for the entire day. For pedestrians and cyclists, the entrance fee is $3 per person, and children under 16 can enter for free. If you plan on visiting frequently, consider the California Explorer Vehicle Day Use Annual Pass, which costs $195 and grants access to most California state parks​.

Facilities and Amenities

Restrooms and Water Stations: Malibu Creek State Park is well-equipped with restrooms and water stations conveniently located throughout the park. These amenities are clean and regularly maintained, ensuring a comfortable visit. There are restrooms near the main picnic areas and campgrounds, as well as at the visitor center​.

Parking and Accessibility: Parking is plentiful with several lots available, including spaces for RVs and trailers. The main parking lot is near the visitor center, and from there, you can easily access the major trails and picnic areas. Parking costs $12 per day. For those with disabilities, there are accessible parking spaces and restrooms throughout the park, ensuring everyone can enjoy the natural beauty of Malibu Creek State Park​.

Tips for a Great Visit

Best Times to Visit

Seasonal Tips: To enjoy the best weather and avoid the crowds, plan your trip to Malibu Creek State Park during the spring or fall. From March to May, the park is vibrant with wildflowers and mild temperatures, making it ideal for hiking and wildlife watching.

Fall, particularly from late September to November, offers cooler temperatures and fewer visitors, creating a more peaceful experience.

Summer is peak season, with warm weather perfect for swimming but also larger crowds and hotter hiking conditions.

Winter is the off-season, with colder temperatures and minimal crowds, offering a quiet retreat for those who don’t mind the chill​.

What to Bring

Essential Gear and Supplies: Packing the right gear is key to a comfortable visit:

  • Clothing: Wear layers to adjust to changing temperatures. Bring a hat and sunscreen for sun protection, especially in summer.
  • Footwear: Sturdy hiking boots are essential for tackling the park’s varied trails.
  • Camping Gear: If camping, pack a tent, sleeping bags, a camping stove, and extra blankets for cooler nights.
  • Food and Water: Carry plenty of water, especially if hiking, and bring snacks or a picnic lunch. There are water stations available, but it’s good to have your own supply.
  • Safety Items: A first aid kit, insect repellent, and a map of the park are crucial. Cell service can be spotty, so a map will help you navigate the trails.

These tips will help you have a fantastic and safe trip to Malibu Creek State Park, ensuring you enjoy all the natural beauty and activities it has to offer.

See also: Best Things to Do in Hermosa Beach California

Final Thoughts on Best Things to Do in Malibu Creek State Park

As we wrap up our exploration of Malibu Creek State Park, it’s clear that this stunning locale offers something for everyone. From the tranquil campgrounds to the adrenaline-pumping hiking trails, your adventure here promises to be as enriching as it is exciting.

Whether you’ve come to reconnect with nature, push your limits, or simply soak in the breathtaking vistas, Malibu Creek State Park delivers an unforgettable experience.

FAQs on Best Things to Do in Malibu Creek State Park

What state is Malibu Creek State Park located in?

Malibu Creek State Park is located in California, United States. It preserves the Malibu Creek canyon within the Santa Monica Mountains. The park spans 8,215 acres and was established in 1974.

What was filmed at Malibu Creek State Park?

Malibu Creek State Park has been the backdrop for numerous film and TV productions, including the original “Planet of the Apes” movie and the beloved TV show “MAS*H”. The park continues to be a popular location for filming due to its scenic beauty.

How long is the Malibu Creek hike?

Malibu Creek State Park offers hikers 15 miles of streamside trails within its 37 miles of trails across 8,000 acres. The park features diverse flora, including Oak Savannah, Sycamores, and Redwoods.

What animals can be found in Malibu Creek?

Visitors to Malibu Creek State Park can encounter a variety of wildlife, including parakeets, quails, vultures, hawks, woodpeckers, lizards, coyotes, deer, rabbits, snakes, frogs, and numerous small bird species.

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