The Grotto Trail - Santa Monica Mountains

                                                                                   Photo Credits: Elizabeth Pruett

Are you in LA for the weekend and want "to boldly go where [you’ve never] gone before?"  Try hiking the Grotto Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains.  It winds through the hills above Malibu. The Circle X Ranch is the jumping off point.

The trail wends its way down to the West Fork of the Arroyo Sequit.  In the spring, there are lots of lavender wild flowers and butterflies.  Maybe they should have called it The Lavender Trail.  It has a Mediterranean ecosystem, and the landscape is dotted with coastal sage scrub, mixed chaparral, and as you get down to the Grotto, ferns.  Go early in the morning. The trail gets hot later in the day, and remember, it is a reverse hike.  You climb an elevation of 500 feet up from the bottom of the trail as you come back.  With the drought, there is little or no water in the Grotto now, but it’s still a beautiful hike.  We didn’t know, we didn’t make it to the end of the trail, as someone, rolled off the trail into a ‘briar patch’ of scrub brush. That’s what you get for ‘walking on the edge.’  So, don’t be like me, and walk on the inside edge of the trail.

Circle X Ranch is 5.4 miles up Yerba Buena Road from Malibu.  Yerba Buena comes into PCH, just west of where Neptune’s Nest Restaurant is on Pacific Coast Highway.  You can also come in from the valley by taking Kanan Road off the 101.  Look for the sign for Circle X Ranch.  The address is: 12896 Yerba Buena Road, Malibu.

P.S. Watch out  Itchy & Scratchy, there's Poison Oak there, so wear long pants and shirts. Remember the rhyme, "Leaves of three, let it be."

Well, pack some snacks, bring a water bottle and jump into your car.  Here we go.

 Circle X Ranch sits below Exchange Peak.

Circle X Ranch sits below Exchange Peak.

 Looking out to the left as you walk down from the ranch house ranger building.

Looking out to the left as you walk down from the ranch house ranger building.

  Monarch butterflies fly around the wildflowers.

 Monarch butterflies fly around the wildflowers.

 Twin trees provide refreshing shade.

Twin trees provide refreshing shade.

 Oh! Could these be the Ents?  See their arms waving.  They may begin to walk.

Oh! Could these be the Ents?  See their arms waving.  They may begin to walk.

 Make a wish with the lovely lavender Wishbone Bush.

Make a wish with the lovely lavender Wishbone Bush.

 Here's a closer look.

Here's a closer look.

  See the bee gathering his pollen.

See the bee gathering his pollen.

 Lush grass and the trail wending its way over the hills.

Lush grass and the trail wending its way over the hills.

 The trail continues past the trees.

The trail continues past the trees.

 Grass covers a little rise.

Grass covers a little rise.

 The hill behind is peeking over.

The hill behind is peeking over.

 A lichen covered crooked twig.

A lichen covered crooked twig.

 Sign to the Grotto Trail surrounded by lavender flowers and grass.

Sign to the Grotto Trail surrounded by lavender flowers and grass.

 Looking back...

Looking back...

 around the bend.

around the bend.

 This is the trail heading home.

This is the trail heading home.

 Look at this little guy taking in the sun.

Look at this little guy taking in the sun.

 The day can't be complete...

The day can't be complete...

 Without a trip...

Without a trip...

 To the beach.

To the beach.

 Malibu at the end of the day. 

Malibu at the end of the day.