Trails of

Charmlee Natural Area in Malibu (AKA Charmlee Wilderness Park)


Looking down on the Malibu Coastline from the Charmlee Natural Area

Overview

This is a beautiful area that overlooks the Malibu coastline. Its trails traverse environments that include meadows, mustard fields and oak groves. There are lots of shady and restful areas and rocky outcroppings with good views of the scenery below. The trails are well used but not crowded and are generally firm and have gentle slopes, althrough there are some exceptions. This is a perfect place for an easy hike or bike ride for novice to intermediate mountain bikers. Because it overlooks the coast, it can be substantially cooler than more inland areas on hot days when the breeze is blowing in from the ocean.

The Nature Center is only open on the weekends. Trailmaps are available at the parking area.

Map Key

  Printable map (1.2 MB)

 Aerial View


Looking north-west over Charmlee. This view is from Google Earth

Trailheads

a. Main parking area. Access is from Encinal Canyon Road, 4 miles from the Pacific Coast Highway. There is a fee to park here ($4 as of September 2008) Map and Directions.
b. At the side of Encinal Canyon Road, about 4.7 miles from the PCH. Map and Directions.

Trails

Download the GPS tracks to help you find your way. All trails are included in this GPX file.

[1] Potrero Road / Lulu Carr Road T1.5 , T3.5

Description This dirt road starts at Encinal Canyon Road north of the park, runs through the park on the west side, then continues on as the Long Hill Trail that ends at Vista del Preseas in Malibu. There are gates at Encinal and Three Parks Trail to keep motorized traffic off. In this section, the slope is quite gentle and the tread is wide and mostly firm, but there are some rutted stretches. You can follow the main road or take the steeper roads to the tops of the hills; all but the northern-most hill have roads on both sides. Between the Water Tower Trail and Meadow Ranch Trail, the road steepens a little and isn't as even, but is still firm. However, at Meadow Ranch Trail where the road turns right (when heading south), it gets considerably steeper, rocky and a little loose. From here down the rating becomes T3.5 After the first hill the tread becomes somewhat better, but the trail gradually narrows until it becomes the Long Hill Trail. There may be a homemade sign at the Meadow Woodland Trail indicating that the Long Hill Trail is a dead end, but you can easily get out at the bottom.

Technical Rating T1.5 , T3.5

 Length (miles)

 1.5

Climb (feet)

 90

Descent (feet)

 450

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

[2] Long Hill Trail T3.5

Description This trail is a continuation of Portrero Road, a singletrack that becomes somewhat overgrown in the spring with mustard. It ends at a water tank at the end of Vista del Preseas in Malibu. This is a private neighborhood so don't plan to park your car here if you do this trail as a shuttle. The trail isn't so steep that a strong intermediate mountain biker can't ride up it. Anyone with the techincal skills to ride down the whole trail is probably strong enough to ride up it as well.

Technical Rating T3.5

 Length (miles)

 0.45

Climb (feet)

 10

Descent (feet)

 330

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

[3] Three Park Trail T1

Description This short, moderately steep dirt road connects to Potrero Road from the parking lot, passing the Nature Center on the way. The tread is firm and wide.

Technical Rating T1

 Length (miles)

 0.25

Climb (feet)

 110

Descent (feet)

 0

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[4] Old Ranch Road T1.5

Description This trail heads south from the parking area to Meadow Ranch Trail at the Old Ranch Foundation site. It's almost wide enough to be considered a fireroad. The tread is pretty firm and smooth, but there are a few small rocks. This is a good trail for novice riders.

Technical Rating T1.5

 Length (miles)

 0.25

Climb (feet)

 60 (north to south)

Descent (feet)

 20

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[5] Botany Trail T3.5

Description This is a very pretty trail that starts from the Old Ranch Road near the parking area and winds through an oak forest, then back to Old Ranch Road near it's south end. The trail is very well travelled. The northeast section is mostly smooth and firm but there are a few big rocks that almost completely block the trail. The south segment is moderately steep and rocky but firm and wider. Novice mountain bikers will want to walk their bikes along much of this trail.

Technical Rating T3.5

 Length (miles)

 0.35

Climb (feet)

 90 (north to south)

Descent (feet)

 45

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[6] Botany Cutoff Trail T2

Description As the name suggests, this trail connects the Meadow Ranch Trail to the Botany Trail. It is broad, almost a fireroad, and mostly smooth and firm with a gentle slope. However, the bottom 50 feet are steeper and rocky. A novice mountain biker will want to walk this short section.

Technical Rating T2

 Length (miles)

 0.1

Climb (feet)

 0 (north to south)

Descent (feet)

 30

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[7] East Meadow Trail T2

Description This short singletrack connects the Meadow Ranch Trail to the Fire Ecology Trail. The tread is firm but this trail seems to be less well used than the others and is a little overgrown. This is another good trail for novice mountain bikers.

Technical Rating T2

 Length (miles)

 0.17

Climb (feet)

 10 (west to east)

Descent (feet)

 30

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[8] North Meadow Trail T1.5

Description This short trail has a wide, firm tread and climbs gently from the Fire Ecology Trail to the Meadow Ranch Trail. Surprisingly, the climb is a little more difficult than expected.

Technical Rating T1.5

 Length (miles)

 0.12

Climb (feet)

 0 (west to east)

Descent (feet)

 65

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Eastern end of the Reservoir Trail where it joins the Overlook Loop Trail, seen from the old reservoir

[9] Reservoir Trail T3

Description This mostly doubletrack trail runs along the south edge of the meadow and connects to a number of trails. This will probably be part of any loop route around the park. It is a little rockier and steeper in some sections than most of the other trails. The trail is highest in the middle, next to the old reservoir, dropping off on both sides. The steepest, most rutted section is just east of the reservoir, on the way to the overlook.

Technical Rating T3

 Length (miles)

 0.5

Climb (feet)

 120 (northwest to southeast)

Descent (feet)

 110

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[10] Overlook Loop T2.5 , T4

Description The Overlook Loop trail leads from the intersection of the Reservoir and Fire Ecology Trails at it's west end to the Fire Ecology Trail, passing the Malibu overlook on the way. The section west of the overlook is pretty easy, rated at T2.5 , but the other end is a different story. North from the overlook to the Fire Ecology Trail is very steep and uneven, T4 . Access to the overlook is easiest by way of the Reservoir Trail or the very south end of the Fire Ecology Trail. The overlook provides great views into the backyards of the houses along the Malibu coast. Bring your binoculars!

Technical Rating T2.5 , T4

 Length (miles)

 0.25

Climb (feet)

 60 (north-east to south-west)

Descent (feet)

 50

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[11] Meadow Ranch Trail T1.5

Description This fireroad, running from Potrero Road at the northwest to the Reservoir Trail in the south is the main artery through the old ranch. It is broad and very well travelled. Generally the tread is firm but there are a few sandy spots to add a little challenge to those on their bikes. Towards the south end it gets a little more rocky, but it's plenty wide to ride around them if necessary. This is another good trail for less experienced mountain bikers.

Technical Rating T1.5

 Length (miles)

 0.6

Climb (feet)

 85 (north to south)

Descent (feet)

 160

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[12] Old Ranch Foundation Trail T3

Description This short singletrack leads to the old Ranch Foundation site. There is a fork about half way down. The left fork leads to the old foundation and the right fork leads to an overlook of the meadow. This is a good place to take in the view, perhaps while having a snack or lunch.

Technical Rating T3

 Length (miles)

 0.1

Climb (feet)

 10 (north to south)

Descent (feet)

 20

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[13] West Meadow Trail  T2

Description This smooth and firm singletrack runs along the west edge of the meadow, next to a large grove of oak trees. It starts at Meadow Ranch Trail in the north and ends at the Reservoir Trail in the south. This trail is used to access both ends of the West Loop Trail. Novice bikers should like this trail if they're comfortable with singletrack.

Technical Rating T2

 Length (miles)

 0.3

Climb (feet)

 41 (north to south)

Descent (feet)

 65

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[14] Meadow Woodland Trail T2.5

Description This very pretty trail runs from Potrero Road to the West Loop Trail. The eastern third of the trail is through an oak grove were there may be a little poison oak creeping onto the trail. There is a very short steep part at the east end just before it joins the West Loop Trail.

Technical Rating T2.5

 Length (miles)

 0.25

Climb (feet)

 55 (north-west to south-east)

Descent (feet)

 65

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[15] West Loop Trail T2

Description Both ends of this well-travelled singletrack trail pass through shady oak groves and then descend moderatly into the chaparal and mustard fields below. Two-thirds of this trail is roughly a contour trail to loop back to the other end, but there is some climbing in both directions. The tread is mostly firm and even.

Technical Rating T2

 Length (miles)

 0.65

Climb (feet)

 180 (north to south)

Descent (feet)

 150

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[16] Water Tower Trail T3

Description The trail starts at the top as a gravel road that leads from Potrero Road to the water tank. A singletrack skirts the fence around the tank and continues down to Old Ranch Road. It's a lot of fun to ride down with a mostly firm tread but a few short drops over rocks. There are some nice sandstone boulders at the top from which to enjoy the view. Beginner riders should avoid this trail.

Technical Rating T3

 Length (miles)

 0.25

Climb (feet)

 25

Descent (feet)

 60

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[17] Fire Ecology Trail T2.5

Description The Fire Ecology Trail runs along the edge of an oak forest on the east side of the meadow, from the Botany Trail in the north to the Reservoir Trail in the south. It is a well-travelled and wide singletrack with mostly smooth and firm tread. The northern third is moderately steep and a little uneven with a couple of big rocks but most of it has a gentle slope and smooth tread.

Technical Rating T2.5

 Length (miles)

 0.6

Climb (feet)

 45 (north to south)

Descent (feet)

 170

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This page was last updated July 26, 2012

 

Thanks for looking at Steve's guide to trails in Ventura County, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) and other locations.