Trails of

Leo Carrillo State Park and Arroyo Sequit
including Nicholas Flat


Looking north over Nicholas Flat with Yerba Buena Rd and Ezt Meloy Mtwy in the distance

Overview

This area is dominated by two features: the Malibu coastline and the south flank of Boney Mountain including Sandstone Peak and Yellow Hill. From most trails, you'll have a view north to the mountains or south to the coast. In some locations you'll see both together.

When using most of the trails in this area, you'll pass few, if any other people along your route. The seeming remoteness belies their proximity to homes all all sizes, from trailers to humongous hilltop mansions. Even so, the trails are generally in good shape and well maintained.

Some of the trails in this area will become part of the planned Coastal Slope Trail.

The Charmlee Natural Area is included on the map here to show its proximity to other trails, but it has a web page of its own to properly show all its trails.

Map Key

  Printable map (1.2 MB)

 Aerial View


This view is from Google Earth. Hover over the trails to find their locations.

Trailheads

a. Yellow Hill Fireroad Trailhead, on Mulholland Highway, 0.1 mile north of the PCH. There is only room for a couple of cars here. Map and Directions
b. Leo Carrillo State Park on the PCH. There is lots of parking here, for a fee. Map and Directions
c. Malibu Springs Trailhead on Mulholland Hwy. There is only room for a couple of cars here. Map and Directions
d. Nicholas Flat Trailhead at the west end of Decker School Road. Be careful not to confuse this street with the nearby Decker School Lane. There is room for several cars here. Map and Directions
e. Parking for the Arroyo Sequit area, just off of Mulholland Hwy, on Mason Rd. Map and Directions
f. Potrero Trailhead, on Encinal Canyon Road. There is room for several cars here. Map and Directions
g. Charmlee Natural Area parking. There is a fee to park here. Map and Directions

Geocaches in the area

Trails

[1] Yellow Hill Fireroad T2.5 to T3.5


Part of the trail overlooks Mulholland Hwy

Description This is an abandoned fireroad, much of which has become a singletrack. Parts of it are severly rutted, particularly near the bottom, so it is much more interesting than a typical fireroad. Jumps have been built about a quarter mile from the bottom. About 1.4 miles from the bottom is a gate with a No Tresspassing sign. According to the National Park Service trail maps, this whole trail is open to the public. The gate is easy to get around; use your own best judgement as to whether you pass through. (September 2013 update: Sometime in the past few months, a bulldozer has gone through, flattening and widening the road. The current state is T1.5 )

The trail starts on the west side of Mulholland Hwy about 200 yards from the PCH. It climbs quite steeply and consistantly, but not too steeply for a strong mountain biker to ride up. Most of it faces the ocean and you can watch kite surfers where you can see the coast near the bottom. The best views are on the way down when you're facing the ocean. This trail avoids the ridgeline, but there are some steep spurs that go up the ridgeline and that give great panoramic views of the coast and hillsides. The road ends at the back yard of a private home that has a gated driveway, so there is no access from the top.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

In April 2008, there was much evidence of new trailwork off the west side of the trail. Those areas are shown as dashed lines on the map.

Technical Rating T2.5 to T3.5

 Length (miles)

 3.0

Climb (feet)

 1650

Descent (feet)

 50

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

[2] Yellow Hill Loop Trail T2.5 to T3.5

Description Like the Yellow Hill Mtw, this is an old road that has become narrow through overgrowth. As of April 2008 it was overgrown beyond what is shown on the map at the top of this page, but it is destined to connect to the future Coastal Slope Trail and so it will form a true loop.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating T2.5 to T3.5

 Length (miles)

 0.7

Climb (feet)

 50

Descent (feet)

 320

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

[3] Nicholas Flat Trail HO T3.5


Looking up the Nicholas Flat Trail from the Ocean Vista Trail. To the left down and up the ridge is the Nicholas Flat Trail. Down to the right is Willow Creek Trail.

Description This very popular trail has one end next to the parking area in Leo Carrillo State Park and the other end at the west end of Decker School Road. From Leo Carrillo, it starts with a long an fairly steep climb for about 2 miles, then crests and heads downhill. It crosses the Pond Trail 2/3 of a mile before reaching the Decker School Rd trailhead.

The trail on the Malibu side is quite open, rutted to various degrees, with low chaparral on the hills. Towards the top where it isn't quite a steep, the tread is much more even, but there are a few rocky steps, and the chaparral closes overhead to provide some nice shade. Being essentially a ridgeline trail, there are great views in three directions until the chaparral gets too tall to see over. But soon you start to descend to Nicholas Flat and can see the meadows and lake, with mountains a few miles to the north.

The Ocean Vista Trail heads up a little hill, 0.8 miles from the bottom, to give a good view of the coast and the park below. The slightly longer and less steep Willow Creek Trail meets this trail at the same spot. You may find that trail a little easier to get to the Ocean Vista Trail.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating HO T3.5

 Length (miles)

 3.5

Climb (feet)

 1770

Descent (feet)

 300

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

[4] Willow Creek Trail HO T2.5

Description This trail starts at the same place as the Nicholas Flat Trail in Leo Carrillo State Park, but it goes around the bottom hill to the east. It meets the Nicholas Flat Trail 0.9 miles later where the Ocean Vista Trail starts. This trail is not quite as steep as Nicholas Flat Trail and has views into an undeveloped canyon, so it may be a preferable way to get to the Ocean Vista Trail. Also, because it faces east, the noise of traffic on Mulholland is blocked. When combined with the bottom of Nicholas Flat Trail, it makes a nice loop of less than 2 miles.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating HO T2.5

 Length (miles)

 0.9

Climb (feet)

 500

Descent (feet)

 20

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

[5] Ridgeline Trail NB T3.5

Description This trail is basically an upward extension of the Malibu Springs Trail that connects to the Nicholas Flat Trail. The elevation profile is shown with that for the Malibu Springs Trail.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating NB T3.5

 Length (miles)

 1.2

Climb (feet)

 300

Descent (feet)

 300

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

[6, 7] Pond Trail, Meadow Trail NB T3.5

Description This trail starts at the Nicholas Flat Trail about 1/3 mile from the Decker School Rd trailhead. It bears south, through some marshes and a meadow next to a small year-round lake. At the point where it turns 90-degrees right (north-west), there is a spur trail that climbs up on the rocks that form a natural dam that contains the lake. It's well worth taking this little spur - on hot days, it's cool with the lakewater under the shade of oak trees that grow on the dam. And the south face of the dam forms a pretty nifty cliff! Many people just hike to the dam for a picnic or to watch the ducks for awhile before heading back.

From the lake, the trail turns north-west, running along a small treed ridge next to the meadow. To the west of the Nicholas Flat Trail it becomes the Meadow Trail, skirting the north edge of another meadow before ending at the Ridgeline Trail.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating NB T3.5

 Length (miles)

 0.75

Climb (feet)

 240 (Starting at Nicholas Flat Trail and going to the Ridgeline Trail)

Descent (feet)

 60

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[8] Malibu Springs Trail to Nicholas Flat NB T2.5 to T4


Looking over Mulholland Hwy. The bottom of the Grotto is on the left

Description This underappreciated trail is not used as much as it should be, perhaps because of the limited parking at the bottom which makes the trailhead easy to miss. The trail starts on Mulholland Hwy and winds up to Nicholas Flat with moderate steepness. It is almost directly across from the bottom end of the Grotto, and you'll see more and more of it as you climb. With some binoculars, you can see the trees and rocks below the Grotto and the Canyon View Trail behind.

The lower section of the trail is all that's left of an old, tree-lined forest road. It's very shaded here but has very little poison oak. About 40% of the way up, the forest gives way to waist-high chaparral. At the boundary between NPS land and Leo Carrillo State Park, you can bear left onto a section (AKA South Trail; 8a on the map above) to get to Decker School Road. There are two spurs that lead to Decker School Rd, about a quarter mile from the Nicholas Flat Trailhead. During tick season, they hang onto the tall grass that overgrows this trail, so watch out for them! Alternatively, head right on the Ridgeline Trail to continue climbing a little way, soon crossing the Meadow Trail and finally meeting the Nicholas Flat Trail.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating: Mostly NB T2.5 with some sections up to T4

 Length (miles)

 1.9

Climb (feet)

 1200

Descent (feet)

 30

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

[9] Nicholas Ridge Motorway T1.5

Description This fireroad heads east from the Nicholas Flat Trail where that trail turns west. It starts by climbing slightly through a meadow, then turns south and downhill along the ridge towards the ocean. It overlooks Decker Canyon Road to the east. It ends at a private club at the bottom.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating T1.5

 Length (miles)

 2.1

Climb (feet)

 150

Descent (feet)

 1230

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

[10] The Arroyo Sequit Loop Trail NB HO T2.5

Description This short loop of 2 miles provides probably the most tranquil hike in the area. On the backside of the loop, the hills block the sound of traffic on Mulholland Hwy and other roads so all you can hear is the water in the small creek alongside the trail. From the parking area, the first 0.2 miles is a paved driveway (Mason Rd) that leads to the ranger buildings. Turning left, the road becomes dirt and quite rutted. There is a grassy area to the left of the road used to set up telescopes to view the stars. About a third of a mile from the parking, the Nature Trail segment of the loop starts on the right. It is somewhat rocky and rutted at the beginning, but it is mostly quite firm, smooth and wide. About a half mile from the parking, the trail heads downhill towards Reeder Canyon Creek. In several places it the trail is washed out where the creek used to flow under it. You'll have to jump down a couple of feet, then back up on the other side, to cross. At one point you'll hear and then see a large waterfall off to the left. At the end of the Nature Trail, the trail forks. A short spur leads west (left) to Bardman St while the main trail heads up a steep switchback section. If you look back while climbing back up to the start, you'll see some huge white satellite dishes come into view. The loop ends with a short hike across a meadow to the ranger buildings, then back down the driveway to the parking.

In addition to the loop trail, another trail cuts across the meadow from one side of the loop to the other. It is about a quarter mile long, with 100 ft of climbing when travelling from west to east, and only a few feet of descent.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating NB HO T2.5

 Length (miles)

 2.0 (starting at the parking area, hiking the loop and returning to the parking area)

Climb (feet)

 400

Descent (feet)

 400

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

This profile shows a "lollypop" loop (Mason Rd, the black segment, is traversed twice - once out and then back at the end). The direction of the loop is clockwise, heading left at the ranger's house from Mason Rd. The colors correspond to the colors on the topo map.

 

 

This page was last updated October 3, 2013

 

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