Homer's Travels: Hiking Ventura County #42: Zuma and Trancas Canyon

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Hiking Ventura County #42: Zuma and Trancas Canyon

Last Thursday I hiked Zuma Canyon down in Malibu. I Arrived just around sunrise and caught some amazing shots of the sun. Besides this the hike was pretty vanilla - interesting but nothing special. The hike begins at the end of Busch road. The path is an Up-Down-Up-Down-Up loop.
I started up the Zuma Ridge trail which is a dirt road that winds up the ridge. On Thursday the Santa Anna Winds were blowing something fierce. Normally the Santa Annas are warm, dry desert winds but in the wee hours of the morning they are bracing, dry desert winds that chill you to the bone. The wind was probably in the 20 to 30 mph range with gusts in the 45 to 55 mph range. As the trail wove its way up the ridge I walked in and out of the wind. There were parts where the wind made me stagger a bit. When I entered the wind it would try to steal my hat but the dork strap worked pretty good. Only once did the hat actually fly off my head before the strap stopped it. When the wind couldn't steal my hat it decided to become bothersome by alternately flipping the brim up making me look like Gomer Pyle and down blindfolding me.

This portion of the trail went relentlessly up. From the road I could see sweeping ocean vistas. The wind kept the skies clear and you could easily see Santa Catalina, Santa Barbara, and San Nicholas Islands.

Near the top I passed the Trancas-Edison road on the left. A little ways further, 2.7 miles from the trailhead, I reached the gated Zuma-Edison road on the right. This is the high point of the first ascent having climbed 1,455 feet from the trail head.

I turned right and walked down the Zuma-Edison road. The road switchbacks down the canyon wall. Here the road is lined with small trees and tall brush. The wind was less fierce in the canyon but you could hear that it was still there from the moaning, creaking, and scratching noises the trees made.

At the 4.43 mile point I reached Zuma Canyon creek. This was the bottom of the first decent - 1,078 feet from the peak. I sat on a rock and took in the sounds of the running water. I looked at my watch and it wasn't even 9:00 am yet. Since this was near the half way point, I pulled out my sandwich and ate a very early - 2 hours early - lunch and rested.

I crossed the creek and started up the second ascent. There were rocks on the road that reminded me of the Romero Canyon Road I was on
the week before. The road climbs up to the top of a ridge and gives you some more views of the ocean before turning inward. The ascent ends after climbing 989 feet.

At the 6.31 mile point you reach the intersection of the Zuma-Edison road and the Zuma Canyon Connector trail. This trail is a 1.3 mile single trail that connects the Zuma-Edison Road with the Kanan-Edison Road. I liked the fact that I was off the road and on a 'real' trail.

After you turn right onto the Kanan-Edison road it passes a junction with the Canyon View Trail on the right and another junction further on with the Ocean View Trail. I took a right and followed the Ocean View Trail.
This trail offers more ocean views (duh!) before it switchbacks down into Zuma Canyon. The trail is washed out in areas and you can tell the trail becomes a river when it rains. This made it a little tough on the ankles and knees and was difficult to navigate.

The trail bottoms out at the creek bed, a 1,600 feet decent. I was surprised to find no water since there was water upstream.

I crossed the creek at about the 9.21 mile point. The trail hits another trail where you turn left and then make a quick right to get on the Ridge-Canyon access trail that switchbacks up the side of the canyon about 300 feet taking you back to the trailhead.

The total distance of this hike was 9.72 miles. I did this hike in a record (for me) of 4.5 hours. Normally this length of a hike takes me over six hours. I didn't feel like I was running or anything. I was surprised I was done so fast.

One other note, mostly to myself. At the 6 to 6.5 mile point, three miles from the car, I realized that I had not locked my car. For those last three miles I was imagining getting to the trailhead and finding my car stolen. I can be paranoid at times. Turns out the car was safe and I had nothing to worry about. So, the note to myself is: don't forget to lock the car when you hike.

While the views were pretty cool, the entire hike seemed rather ho-hum to me. I've had similar feelings on other hikes - Oh, there's another chaparral covered hill. Oh, there's another beautiful Ocean Vista. Oh, there's another forested canyon. Most of the hikes I have done have something that pops. This one really didn't. It was nice enough and I don't regret doing it but I was not wowed. As a result, I didn't take many pictures this hike.
The few that I took are here.


  1. Wind can do some amazing things to the views around here and allow you to see for miles. That said, I absolutely loathe wind. I'd rather hike in the rain than a strong wind!

    A lot of creeks disappear at canyon bottoms you'll find, even when there's water upstream. In the lower parts of canyons, the water flows underground through the gravel deposits, occasionally popping up here and there as they go over solid rock.

    Great hike, cool pictures!

  2. GH: The wind was a little tough in spots. Not sure I would prefer rain though. To each his own I guess.

    That's what I thought when I saw the dry creek bed. It did surprise me since the creek was running pretty good upstream.