Palo Comado Canyon to Simi Peak Hike in Oak Park

If you're looking for a challenge, consider hiking from the Palo Comado Canyon Doubletree Road Trailhead to the 2,405 foot elevation Simi Peak in Oak Park. This is about a 4 to 4 1/2 mile trek each way with a 1,200 foot elevation gain to the top that is well worth it if you have the time and the energy.

Mind you, this particular stretch of trail, the Palo Comado Fire Road, I've rarely seen more than a handful of hikers and runners on over the years. I usually see more cyclists up here than anything. Part of the challenge is that it can get pretty hot up here on these trails as most of them get full exposure to the sun. So do bring plenty of water and wear sunscreen unless it happens to be a rare, overcast day. No restrooms either.

A quicker, easier path to the panoramic Simi Peak, the highest point in the Simi Hills, is via the China Flat Trailhead.

So if you're up to the challenge, park your car near the trailhead on Doubletree Road , just east of Clear Haven Drive, in Oak Park. From the 101, take Kanan to Sunnycrest Drive, and make a right. Sunnycrest becomes Doubletree after it veers left. The trailhead is on the right.

About a half mile from the trailhead gets you to the Palo Comado Canyon Trail, where you'll head north (left).

About a half mile from the trailhead gets you to the Palo Comado Canyon Trail, where you'll head north (left).

The Palo Comado Canyon Trail is fire road, so it is nice and wide.

The Palo Comado Canyon Trail is fire road, so it is nice and wide.

Eventually, after a bit of a grueling climb (this hike is not kid friendly if you ask me), you'll reach this corral area. Continue west (left).

Eventually, after a bit of a grueling climb (this hike is not kid friendly if you ask me), you'll reach this corral area. Continue west (left).

Follow the direction of the signs toward the Simi Peak Trail and you're on your way.

Follow the direction of the signs toward the Simi Peak Trail and you're on your way.

Follow the direction of the sign towards Simi Peak. The only challenge is that you have to go with your gut at some point as the signs stop.

Follow the direction of the sign towards Simi Peak. The only challenge is that you have to go with your gut at some point as the signs stop.

The trails get narrower and a bit more technical as you head your way to the peak. Wear good shoes.

The trails get narrower and a bit more technical as you head your way to the peak. Wear good shoes.

You've reached your destination when you see this.

You've reached your destination when you see this.

You are now at Simi Peak, the highest point of the Simi Hills. The round marker on the right is from the Ventura County Surveyor. In background is Lindero Canyon Road headed south.

You are now at Simi Peak, the highest point of the Simi Hills. The round marker on the right is from the Ventura County Surveyor. In background is Lindero Canyon Road headed south.

Fancy, green highlighted map (courtesy National Park Service).

Anthony C. Beilenson Interagency Visitor Center in Calabasas

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The Anthony C. Beilenson Interagency Visitor Center is located at King Gillette Ranch, 26800 Mulholland Highway, Calabasas. It opened to the public in June 2012.

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The Visitor Center is jointly operated by the National Park Service, California State Parks, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.

It features exhibits and interactive displays, the work of local artists, tours of sustainable features and a native plant garden. There is a tremendously comprehensive exhibit covering things to see and do within the Santa Monica Mountains.

The Visitor Center was formerly the horse stable for the Gillette Mansion. It retains some of its original design while achieving LEED Platinum certification as the first "net zero" visitor center in the National Park Service. Cool! (literally and figuratively)

Visitor Center staff and volunteers are very friendly and helpful and have a ton of information to share to help you enjoy what we have in our backyard.

There's also gift shop in the center with a variety of items including books, handmade items, kids' items and more.

Call 805-370-2301 or visit www.nps.gov/samo/planyourvisit/visitor-center.htm. Open 9am to 5pm year-round, except Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.

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Arroyo Sequit Site - Santa Monica Mountains in Malibu Hills

The National Park Service maintains a relatively small site called Arroyo Sequit in the Santa Monica Mountains, located at 34138 Mulholland Highway in Malibu. It is a bit off the beaten path, about 2 miles west of Decker Road. It is also easy to overlook coming from the east, as there doesn't appear to be a sign (like the sign below if you're coming east on Mulholland from the other direction).

Sign coming eastbound on mulholland; no such sign that I could find coming westbound.

Sign coming eastbound on mulholland; no such sign that I could find coming westbound.

The site features a 1 1/2 mile nature trail with rolling hills, wildflowers and I've been told a stream (though I did not find it in my visit there). 

Quite a small parking area at this remote location

Quite a small parking area at this remote location

It is quiet back here, so if you're looking for a peaceful stroll, check it out. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the Arroyo Sequit from the 101 via Westlake Boulevard/Decker Canyon.

CLICK HERE FOR OVER 50 LOCAL HIKES AND TRAILS IN VENTURA COUNTY AND SURROUNDING AREAS

There's an area with several benches that is used for astronomical observations. However, I contacted the college and was told it has been many years since these took place.

Southwest of the Arroyo Sequit you can see some very large satellite dishes. This is the Triunfo Pass Earth Station satellite tracking station owned and operated by AT&T. The three satellites measure 106 feet across and about 11 stories tall, so they are hard to miss!

Triunfo Pass Earth Station nearby

Triunfo Pass Earth Station nearby

Learn more about the Arroyo Sequit, including a site map, on the National Park Service website at www.nps.gov/samo/planyourvisit/arroyosequit.htm.

Channel Islands Boat Rides - Island Packers

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Since 1968, Island Packers has provided reliable, enjoyable transportation between the Ventura/Oxnard Harbors and the Channel Islands National Park & Marine Sanctuary.

Island Packers has scheduled trips departing out of the Ventura and Oxnard Harbors and is the only exclusive boat concessionaire with authorization to transport guests to the Channel Islands National Park. Three 145-capacity catamarans and one 80-passenger mono hull vessel provide half and whole day trips year round to the Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands, with trips to the Santa Barbara, Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands from mid-April through the fall months.

On a personal note, we've been on Islands Packers boats a number of times and they are a class act. Great service and responsiveness.

Marine Wildlife Cruises (which do not land on the island) depart from the Harbor for 3 hour narrated cruises along the shores of Anacapa or Santa Cruz Island within the Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary. Highlights include sightings of sea lions, harbor seals and marine bird life, along with the opportunity to view whales and dolphins during the channel crossing. Island Packers also offers whale watching cruises - which, depending on the time of year, are a once in a lifetime opportunity to see some of the Pacific's most magnificent creatures. While pods of dolphins can be seen nearly year-round, whales are a far more seasonal bunch:

  • Late December-Mid April: Gray whales
  • April-September: Humpback and Minke whales
  • Summer & Fall: Giant Blue whales- not only the earth's largest mammal, but thought to be the largest known animal ever to have existed.

Whales aren't all these cruises have to offer, however. A trip to the Channel Islands can also mean sightings of rare birds! Though difficult, pelagic birding can be incredibly rewarding - but the real treasure trove is on the Islands themselves.

The following highlights can be found during the nesting season:

  • The rare Blue-footed and Brown boobies, usually found off of Baja California
  • Easy-to-spot nesting birds: Brown Pelicans, Western Gulls, Pelagic, Brandt's, and Double Crested Cormorants
  • Smaller visiting nesters: Scripps's Murrelet, Cassin's Auklet, Pigeon Guillemot and the scarce Ashy Storm Petrel

Santa Cruz Island is also home to the gem of the Channel Islands birding community - the Island Scrub-jay! The Island is the only place in the world this bird is found, and is highly sought after for avid bird enthusiast's 'life lists.'

For schedules, directions, tickets and more information, visit www.islandpackers.com, or call (805) 642-1393. Office hours of operation are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily.

Island Packers has two locations:  Ventura Harbor, 1691 Spinnaker Drive, Suite 105B, Ventura and Channel Islands Harbor, 3600 S. Harbor Boulevard, Oxnard.

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Malibu Sportfishing Pier

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The Malibu Sportfishing Pier is located at 23000 Pacific Coast Highway. Just north of the pier is Surfrider Beach and Malibu Lagoon State Beach. You can go sport fishing in a 48 foot boat or you can fish off the pier. 

The pier was originally built in 1905 and first became open to the public 1934. It is currently operated by the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

In the latter part of 2013, Malibu Farm Pier Cafe opened at the end of the pier. Malibu Farm Restaurant & Bar is open at the beginning of the pier, closest to PCH. 

To fish off the pier, either bring your own fishing gear or rent it from Malibu Beach Supply Co. at the end of the pier. They rent fishing rods and sell bait. Call 310.456.8031 for more information.

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Learn more about the Malibu Pier at www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=24409 and at www.malibupiersportfishing.com.

China Flat Trail in Oak Park

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China Flat Trail can be reached off Lindero Canyon Road in Oak Park, between King James Court and Wembly Avenue. The trail sits below Simi Peak, at 2,405 feet, the tallest peak in the Simi Hills. Learn more at www.lamountains.com/parks.asp?parkid=83.

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My kids particularly enjoy exploring the sandstone caves pictured above and below. Beautiful views abound hiking up here. It does get a little rocky and steep at times so just be aware. It is about two miles to the top, making it about a 4 mile hike, unless  . Hike another .8 mile to Simi Peak.

Mysterious caves the kids enjoy exploring

Mysterious caves the kids enjoy exploring

Here's a gate near to the top of the trail that tells you you are close to your destination

Here's a gate near to the top of the trail that tells you you are close to your destination

Follow the trail to reach the China Flat area

Follow the trail to reach the China Flat area

You can also get to China Flat from the Palo Comado Trail 

You can also get to China Flat from the Palo Comado Trail 

Sure is pretty up here when it is green!

Sure is pretty up here when it is green!

View from Simi Peak towards Oak Park

View from Simi Peak towards Oak Park

Map excerpt courtesy of National Park Service

Map excerpt courtesy of National Park Service

Over 150 Movie Theater Screens Around Ventura County

Here's a handy list of 19 movie theaters with over 150 screens throughout Ventura County andadjacent areas. Click the links for theater websites and/or showtimes.

Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village, Agoura

Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas at The Promenade at Westlake (100 Promenade Way, Westlake Village)  (8 screens). Book your tickets in advance and from your seat, order anything from standard movie snacks to full dinners!

Carmike (Muvico) Thousand Oaks 14, 166 West Hillcrest Drive at The Oaks Mall. Tickets available at www.carmike.com/ShowTimes/Theater/320 or call 805.494.4702.

Muvico was purchased by Carmike Cinemas in November 2013 but continues to operate as Muvico...however...AMC announced on March 3, 2016 that it has acquired Carmike and as a result there may be additional changes in the future.

Regency Janss Marketplace 9, 255 North Moorpark Road, Thousand Oaks CLOSED ITS DOORS ON DECEMBER 31, 2015 but Regal Cinemas is coming soon..

Muvico Thousand Oaks
Century Riverpark 16 at The Collection at Riverpark

Century Riverpark 16 at The Collection at Riverpark

Plaza Stadium Cinemas 14 in Downtown Oxnard

Plaza Stadium Cinemas 14 in Downtown Oxnard

Carbon Beach in Malibu

The Carbon Beach coastline as seen from the Malibu Pier

The Carbon Beach coastline as seen from the Malibu Pier

Carbon Beach is perhaps the most expensive 1 1/2 mile strip of beach in the world, located roughly between the Malibu Pier and just east of Carbon Canyon Road. 

The beach is wide, with lots of dry sand, making it particularly pristine and desirable, but public access is fairly limited, there are no public restrooms and dogs are not allowed.

According to the California Coastal Commission, in addition to "Public Access Easement" areas, "the public has the right to use all lands seaward of the ambulatory mean high tide line." Huh? This is no different than other beaches in California.

The access point on the west side of Carbon Beach is called the Zonker Harris* Access Way at 22670 Pacific Coast Highway, between Nobu Malibu (22706 PCH) and 22664 PCH (McDonald's is right across the street). 

* Opened in 1983 and named after the hippie Doonesbury character who worships the sun.

You can also park at the Malibu Pier and walk to Carbon Beach. It is about a half mile.

There is also public parking available on the upper floor of 22601 PCH on summer weekends and holidays.

The Carbon Beach West Public Accessway is at 22466 PCH. Funny, Google Maps actually refers to this as Billionaires Beach Public Access.

The Carbon Beach East Public Accessway is at 22126 PCH (in between 22140 PCH and the property at 22126 PCH - this is the property owned, or possibly now previously owned, by David Geffen).

And there you have it. For a pdf map from the California Coastal Commission showing public beach access at Carbon Canyon, click THIS LINK.

Paradise Falls Hike - Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks

Perhaps the most popular destination in Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks is Paradise Falls. There are a variety of trails and ways to get to Paradise Falls. Here's a quick and easy 1 mile route.

Park in the main trailhead at the west end of Avenida de los Arboles. Take the Mesa Trail about a 3rd of a mile until you see the sign below, where you'll turn left.

Another third of a mile and you're at the teepee, where you'll find another clearly marked sign pointing you in the direction of Paradise Falls.

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You turn right down the hill and take a short walk to the following sign.

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Hike down some switchbacks and stairs and you're almost there.

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And wallah! You're at the following sign, where you'll be reminded that these year-round falls are partially fed by urban run-off, making them something you may not want to jump into.

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But Paradise Falls is fun to get to and see. A full-on roughly 40 foot waterfall a mile away from civilization in Thousand Oaks.

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You can walk back the way you came or hike back up the trail above the Falls and loop back up to the teepee via the Wildwood Canyon Trail.

King Gillette Ranch in Calabasas

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The 588-acre King Gillette Ranch (26800 West Mulholland Highway, Calabasas) is situated adjacent to Malibu Creek State Park. This scenic parkland at the lower end of the Las Virgenes Valley is a haven for larger mammals of the Santa Monica Mountains and offers a rare unspoiled view of California’s rich archaeological, cultural, and historic resources, including a Chumash settlement, and nationally significant structures designed for razor magnate King C. Gillette in the 1920’s by Wallace Neff, architect of California’s Golden Age.

View of King Gillette Ranch from Inspiration Point, south of the Gillette Mansion

View of King Gillette Ranch from Inspiration Point, south of the Gillette Mansion

A short, somewhat steep roughly 1 mile hike from the parking area south of the Gillette Mansion leads to a knoll with 360-degree views—including the famous rock formations of Malibu Creek State Park. This is referred to as Inspiration Point. You will love the spectacular views from up there.

View from Inspiration Point west towards Malibu Creek State Park

View from Inspiration Point west towards Malibu Creek State Park

Other activities include strolling, bicycling, photography, and picnicking. King Gillette Ranch is owned and managed by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority in cooperation with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area unit of the National Park Service, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, and California State Parks.  More information at lamountains.com/parks.asp?parkid=670 or call the Anthony C. Beilenson Interagency Visitor Center at 805.370.2301.

Directions from the Conejo Valley: Take Hwy 101 (Ventura Freeway) to the Las Virgenes/Malibu Canyon exit. Head south on Las Virgenes Road and continue to Mulholland Hwy, about two miles. Turn left onto Mulholland Highway and immediately look for the King Gillette Ranch entrance on the right.

Ranch Center Road, Wood Canyon Fire Road and Other Trails in Northern Point Mugu State Park

Northern Point Mugu State Park map image courtesy National Park Service

Northern Point Mugu State Park map image courtesy National Park Service

Point Mugu State Park in the Santa Monica Mountains stretches from Newbury Park to the ocean, over 14,000 acres of land and 70 miles of trails. Visit this link for more information.

If you ever get the time and energy, consider exploring the trails in the northernmost section of Point Mugu State Park. To access these trails, you can start at Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa in Newbury Park and make your way up Big Sycamore Canyon Road, then, down, down, down the big paved hill into the canyons of Point Mugu State Park.

The descent down into the canyon on Big Sycamore Canyon Road is pretty steep. Watch for cyclists. Boney Mountain is seen in the distance.

The descent down into the canyon on Big Sycamore Canyon Road is pretty steep. Watch for cyclists. Boney Mountain is seen in the distance.

The descent into the canyon is about 3/4 mile. From there, you'll go another mile or so until you see a fork in the road. If you go straight (veering slightly left), you'll continue down Big Sycamore Canyon Road towards PCH. But if you turn right, you're on Ranch Center Road, a gradual, steady climb up an old, paved hill.

Juncture of Big Sycamore Canyon Road (left) and Ranch Center Road (right).

Juncture of Big Sycamore Canyon Road (left) and Ranch Center Road (right).

This is one section of Ranch Center Road. As you can see, this is a pretty old road that was used by the ranchers who lived here before the land was acquired by California State Parks.

This is one section of Ranch Center Road. As you can see, this is a pretty old road that was used by the ranchers who lived here before the land was acquired by California State Parks.

You are highly unlikely to see a lot of people down here. You might see a couple cyclists from time to time, but hikers/runners in these quiet areas are, from my experience, pretty rare in appearance. It feels like you're going to the middle of nowhere.

You will also notice that there are several trails that connect with the road, including, from east to west, the Sin Nombre Trail, Sage Trail, Ranch Center Fire Trail, Coyote Trail and, finally, the Wood Canyon Fire Road trail. All of these trails will either take you back to Big Sycamore Canyon Road or other trails that will allow you to do a loop back up to Rancho Sierra Vista. You can add another 4 miles to your adventure by checking out the Guadalasca Trail that connects to the Wood Canyon Fire Road. See detailed map here.

Old water tank seen at the juncture of Ranch Center Road (paved) and Ranch Center Fire Road (trail).

Old water tank seen at the juncture of Ranch Center Road (paved) and Ranch Center Fire Road (trail).

After you pass the water tank seen above, you continue downhill towards the remains of some old ranch houses. Pretty much everything has been demolished but you'll see some vintage items still on hand, along with signs warning you to stay outta there.

You've reached what used to be the Ranch Center.

You've reached what used to be the Ranch Center.

Not sure if this would sell on Craigslist.

Not sure if this would sell on Craigslist.

The old ranch house area is at the juncture of Ranch Center Road and Wood Canyon Fire Road. I particularly enjoying running down Wood Canyon Fire Road as it is so quiet and there is nice tree coverage.

More Wood Canyon Fire Road

More Wood Canyon Fire Road

Wood Canyon Fire Road runs south until it connects with the "Loop Trail" (west) or continues east back towards the Two Foxes Trail (parallels Big Sycamore Canyon Road) and then Big Sycamore Canyon Road, where you can veer back up north towards Newbury Park. 

DOZENS AND DOZENS OF TRAILS IN AND AROUND VENTURA COUNTY

Sandstone Peak Hike in Malibu

Views from Sandstone Peak trail towards lake sherwood

Views from Sandstone Peak trail towards lake sherwood

Sandstone Peak is the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains at an elevation of 3,111 feet. It is also one of the most beautiful hikes you will ever do, with sweeping views out to the Pacific Ocean and Channel Islands and inland to the Conejo/Simi Valleys.

From the Conejo Valley, take Westlake Boulevard south until it becomes Decker Canyon, make a right on Mulholland, then right on Little Sycamore Road, which becomes Yerba Buena Road, with an endpoint of Sandstone Peak Trailhead. The trailhead is just west of Circle X Ranch, 12896 Yerba Buena Road, Malibu, which formerly was a Boy Scout camp.

Visit the National Park Service website at www.nps.gov/samo/planyourvisit/circlexranch.htm for more information about the Circle X Ranch area and a printable pdf map of the trails that will get you to Sandstone Peak, including the Mishe Mokwa Trail, Grotto Trail and the Backbone Trail.

There are several ways of getting to Sandstone Peak. The most direct way is the trailhead directly up to Sandstone Peak (takes about an hour) and the other is via the Mishe Mokwa Trail, which takes you to Split Rock, through a loop that connects you to the Backbone Trail to Sandstone Peak. This trail will give you views of "Balanced Rock" that you'll see pictured below. Once you reach Sandstone, you'll find a steep staircase that will take you to the peak.

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Balanced Rock

Balanced Rock

Balanced Rock from another angle

Balanced Rock from another angle

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The unofficial name bestowed on Sandstone Peak by the Boy Scouts is "Mt Allen"

The unofficial name bestowed on Sandstone Peak by the Boy Scouts is "Mt Allen"

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