Located in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in Southern California, Point Mugu State Park, also known to locals as Sycamore Canyon features more than 70 miles of hiking trails and five miles of pristine ocean shoreline surrounded by the rocky bluffs and jagged pinnacles of the Boney Mountains State Wilderness Area.
The natural environment creates a variety of adventures for swimmers, surfers, anglers, cyclists, hikers, and photographers, within the park. The park can be easily accessed from the north in the Native American Indian Culture Center and from the south by historic Pacific Coast Highway.
Don’t forget to check out the Satwiwa Cultural Center while you’re visiting the park. The entire area was once home to a thriving Chumash community, and the center provides a great idea of what life was like for original Californians.
There is usually a traditional Chumash dwelling, constructed near the center, and they often have lectures and workshops. Once you’ve grabbed your hiking map from the Center, you’ll want to hit the trails. To get to the trailhead, drive up Highway 1 about 32 miles from Santa Monica. Walk past the campground entrance through the campground to a locked gate. The trail begins on the other side of the gate.
Lots of mountain bikers cruise through the lower trails on the weekends. Still, higher up the Sycamore Canyon Trail, you’ll find a peacefully wooded canyon, among a multitude of majestic old sycamores. The lower branches are stout and crooked, a pure delight for tree climbers young and old. Hawks and owls roost in the upper limbs, so be careful not to disturb them.
Point Mugu State Park Hiking
The trail follows the canyon on a gentle northern path across Point Mugu State Park. To hike the trail, follow the creek. Winter rains can cause the stream to rise to make crossing difficult. Underground water keeps much of the creek-side vegetation green year-round, so this is a great place to hike any season.
One-half mile from the campground, you’ll spot Overlook Trail, which switchbacks to the west up a ridge and then heads north toward the native tallgrass prairie in La Jolla Valley. Make a note of this trail, because it’s an optional return route.
A second half-mile of nearly level canyon walking brings you to another significant hiking trail that branches right-Serrano Canyon Trail –an absolute gem with great views.
Another comfortable mile of walking beneath the sycamores brings you to a picnic table shaded by a grove of large oak trees. The oaks might be the right turnaround spot for a family with small children. The total round trip distance would be a little over four miles, so plan accordingly.
Continuing up the canyon, you will pass beneath more of the giant sycamores and soon arrive at Wood Canyon Junction, the hub of six trails that lead to all corners of the park. Bear left on signed Wood Canyon Trail, and in a short while, you will reach Deer Camp Junction. Drinking water and picnic tables suggest a lunch stop.
Oak trees predominate over the sycamores along Wood Canyon Creek; the scene here is for lovers, as some of the trees have large clumps of mistletoe in the upper branches.
Finally, if you have time, another great place to hike is the Sycamore Canyon fire road. It will take you through the mountains to the beach. It’s a relatively easy hike on the main stretch, but there are all kinds of offshoot trails that can provide a challenge for any experience level.
Point Mugu State Park Camping
There are two campgrounds at Point Mugu State Park. Thornhill Broom Beach Camping, where you park your RV or pitch your tent directly on the beach. Sycamore Canyon Campground features views of the ocean. There are no real amenities; there are some restrooms and showers. It a bit on the “ruffling it“ side, but still enjoyable.
One of the many reasons people come to the Point Mugu State Park is to watch the millions of monarch butterflies that migrate south to the damp coastal woodlands of Central and Southern California in the fall.
The park is one of the best places in Southern California to observe the arriving monarchs with their beautiful brownish-red wings with black veins, which is the campground located in Big Sycamore Canyon at Point Mugu State Park. Point Mugu SP Campground Reservations
Overall, Point Mugu State Park is secluded and quiet. At night, you will fall asleep to the sound of crickets and frogs. While it is frigid even in the summer months, the rest and peace away from the city make it worth it.
Getting to Point Mugu SP
Located about an hour drive from Malibu, allow for a 1.5-hour drive from Los Angeles, Orange County, or the Valley. Try it out for your next adventure.