Best Trailhead to Start the Bulldog Loop?

Goat Buttes and Century Lake and Gorge in Malibu Creek State Park.

There are several places runners can start the Bulldog Loop: the main parking lot at MCSP, Piuma & Malibu Canyon, and Malibu Canyon & Mulholland are all popular starting points.

One of the best trailheads for starting this loop is often overlooked — the Cistern Trail and Phantom Trail trailhead on Mulholland Highway. Starting at this trailhead adds about 1.5 mile and 500′ gain/loss to the standard 14+ mile loop. Less than a quarter-mile into the run this variation passes one of the best viewpoints in Malibu Creek State Park. 

The run begins on the Cistern Trail on the south side of Mulholland and follows that trail about a quarter-mile to the Lookout Trail junction. At the junction the route turns right on the Lookout Trail and follows it about 0.4 mile to the Cage Creek Trail, which leads down to Crags Road and the regular Bulldog Loop. Near the end of the loop, after climbing a hill and passing the spur trail down to Century Lake, the Lookout Trail is taken from Crags Road back up to the Cistern Trail and car.

Much of Malibu Creek State Park and the route of the Bulldog Loop can be seen from the Cistern Trail at the beginning of the run. There are excellent views of Reagan Ranch, Brents Mountain, Goat Buttes, Century Lake and Gorge on the way down the Cistern Trail and climbing back up the Lookout Trail at the end of the loop.

The run can be easily extended by tacking on the Yearling and Deer Leg Trails in the Reagan Ranch area or by doing the Phantom Loop when the Grasslands Trail & Crags Road junction is reached after passing the MCSP parking lot.

The title photo is of Goat Buttes and Century Lake & Gorge from this morning’s run of the loop.

Some related posts: Century Lake, Dam and Gorge on Malibu Creek, Malibu Creek State Park Scenic Loop, Vertical Relief