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Malibu Creek State Park: Lake Vista Ridge, the Forest Trail, and September Wildflowers

View of Castro Peak, Malibu Creek, and Malibou Lake from Lake Vista Ridge.
View from “Lake Vista Ridge.”

I took a few tentative steps into the dense brush and stopped. It was just too overgrown. I backtracked a few feet to the overlook at the top of Lake Vista Trail and reconsidered. If it was this overgrown all along the ridge, it was going to take a long time to get to the summit.

First sun on Lake Vista Butte and Ridge in Malibu Creek State Park.
First sun on Lake Vista Butte and Ridge.

I was trying to get to the top of “Lake Vista Butte,” a high point along a prominent ridge of volcanic rock that stands between Reagan Ranch and Malibu Creek. The ridgeline and summit provide a unique perspective of Malibu Creek, Century Lake, Goat Buttes, Malibou Lake, and much of Malibu Creek State Park.

I dove back in, walking on top of a dense mat of dried deerweed and then working around a thicket of laurel sumac. Even if it was buried in a tangle of chaparral, it helped to know there was a path along the ridge. As I worked east along the ridgeline, the path would briefly emerge, only to disappear under another mass of scrub and brush.

Wishbone bush blooming in September in Malibu Creek State Park.
Wishbone bush blooming along Lake Vista Ridge.

In places, enterprising orb-weaver spiders had constructed intricate webs across remnants of trail. Their artwork was easy to spot in the morning sun, and even though their webs blocked the trail, they could not be disturbed. At least the spiders were out in the open. A rattlesnake could be anywhere in the rocks and brush and might not be kind enough to give a warning.

The route along the ridge wasn’t technically challenging, but like the spider’s web, required patience to complete. Low in the sky, the morning sun complicated the route-finding, making it more difficult to see sections of the trail and link them together.  Far outweighing these inconsequential difficulties were the exceptional views of Malibu Creek State Park’s crags, canyons and mountains while traversing the ridge.

The Forest Trail along Century Lake in Malibu Creek State Park.
The Forest Trail along Century Lake.

As often happens, the return to the Lake Vista Trail took less time than the ascent. Back at the overlook, I began retracing my steps down the Lake Vista and Deer Leg Trails and over to the top of the Cage Creek Trail. I was headed down to Malibu Creek to check the condition of the Forest Trail.

The Forest Trail is the “Walden Pond” of Malibu Creek State Park. Bordered by Century Lake on one side and the steep slopes of a rocky butte on the other, it is a contemplative place and one-of-a-kind habitat. It is home to towering coast redwoods, sprawling live oaks, sweet-smelling California bay, and water-loving California sycamores. Deer, ducks, bullfrogs, herons, hawks, falcons, and other wildlife may be seen here.

Fallen trees have been accumulating on the Forest Trail for months. On my last visit, following T.S. Hilary’s passage, another large oak had fallen near the beginning of the trail, making it unusable. Today, I was happy to find that the trees had been cleared, and the Forest Trail could be followed to its end at Century Lake Dam.

Here are a few photos taken along the way, including some wildflowers that usually don’t bloom this time of year.

Some related posts: Exploring the Lake Vista Trail and Ridge, Malibu Creek State Park Redwoods: Fighting the Drought

Afternoon Run on the Forest and Lost Cabin Trails in Malibu Creek State Park

Creek monkeyflower along the Lost Cabin Trail.
Creek monkeyflower along the Lost Cabin Trail.

The seasonal bridge across Malibu Creek is back! No sketchy log to test your balance or thigh-deep water to wade through — just walk across.

This afternoon I’d returned to Malibu Creek State Park to check on the bridge, count the surviving coast redwoods on the Forest Trail, and see what was happening on the Lost Cabin Trail.

When running the Bulldog Loop a couple of weeks ago, I did a quick check of some of the redwoods on the Forest Trail but skipped the back half of the trail. Today, I crawled through the downed trees blocking the trail and checked the rest of the trees.

I counted seven surviving redwoods. Several of these are  multi-tree groups consisting of two or more trees. These family groups  were counted as one tree. One of the trees, and perhaps more, was naturally germinated. Most of the trees looked healthy, but appearances can be deceiving.

Coast redwood on the Crags Road Trail on the way to the M*A*S*H site in Malibu Creek State Park
Coast redwood along the Crags Road Trail

One redwood is just a few feet from the Crags Road Trail. It’s on the right side of the trail, just past the seasonal bridge, when going west on Crags Road toward the M*A*S*H site. The unique conifer is easy to spot among the other trees.

The start of the Lost Cabin Trail is on the left as you enter the M*A*S*H site going west on Crags Road. Like the Forest Trail, it is less used and isolated but has a character all its own. Today, the Lost Cabin Trail was a trove of brightly colored wildflowers.

Here are a few photos taken along the way.

Some relate posts: Wonderful Wildflowers, a Seasonal Bridge, and a Cranky Rattlesnake on the Bulldog Loop; Lost Cabin; More Malibu Creek Flooding

Wonderful Wildflowers, a Seasonal Bridge, and a Cranky Rattlesnake on the Bulldog Loop

Canyon sunflowers covering a hillside in Malibu Creek State Park that was burned in the 2018 Woolsey Fire
Canyon sunflowers covering a hillside burned in the 2018 Woolsey Fire

Update May 5, 2023. Did a run this afternoon in Malibu Creek State Park and the seasonal bridge across Malibu Creek on the Crags Road Trail is back in place!

As I approached the M*A*S*H site, I could see some people taking photos. I stopped to say hi, and without skipping a beat, one of them asked, “Did you wade across the creek?”

He was asking about the creek crossing where Crags Road crosses Malibu Creek upstream of Century Lake and east of the M*A*S*H site.

Prickly phlox along the Tapia Spur Trail in Malibu Creek State Park
Prickly phlox along the Tapia Spur Trail.

There’s a substantial log spanning the creek at the moment, and I wanted to answer that I danced across it with my eyes closed. But instead, I explained that I decided to wade — and for sure keep my phone dry — rather than take a chance of falling uncontrolled into three feet of water, ker-splash.

Speaking of which, this morning, I talked to a mountain biker who saw the bridge pulled off to the side of the creek before any flooding had occurred and thought it may have been hauled away. Good news! According to the Malibu Creek Docents, the bridge is seasonal and was designed to be portable. It was removed and stored before this Winter’s rain. It is expected to be reinstalled when the threat of flooding is over — which should be soon.

Vinca growing at the base of a coast redwood in Malibu Creek State Park
Vinca growing at the base of a coast redwood along the Forest Trail.

After crossing Malibu Creek and before continuing to the M*A*S*H site, I took a quick detour on the Forest Trail. Bordered by Century Lake on one side, and steep, rocky slopes on the other, the Forest Trail has a character all its own. It’s a wonderful place to observe, reflect, and enjoy nature. It’s also home to several coast redwoods. Unfortunately, less than half the trees originally growing along the trail survived the 2011-2015 drought. This morning, a redwood that died several years ago had fallen and was partially blocking the trail near its halfway point.

As has been the case in most of Southern California this Spring, the wildflowers on this run were spectacular. Canyon sunflower was particularly prevalent, with many thousands of the bright-yellow blossoms covering the hillsides burned in the 2018 Woolsey Fire.

Very dark Southern Pacific Rattlesnake on a fire road in Malibu Creek State Park
Southern Pacific Rattlesnake on Castro Peak Mtwy fire road.

Also exciting was my first rattlesnake encounter of 2023. I was running down Castro Peak Mtwy Fire Road from the Bulldog “T” when I saw something in the road that looked like a partially exposed root. As I neared, I could see it was a very dark — almost black — Southern Pacific Rattlesnake.

The snake was stretched out straight on the road, basking in the sun. As I approached, it did move, and it did not rattle. Usually, snakes in this state are pretty docile, and I can cautiously walk a few feet behind them. Yikes! This one was super-aggressive. In the blink of an eye, it turned and moved toward me, doubling back on itself. I jumped a mile! It coiled but still did not rattle! It must have recently emerged from its Winter hideaway.

Here are a few photos (primarily wildflowers) taken on the Bulldog Loop.

Some related posts: More Malibu Creek Flooding; Bulldog Training Run; After the Woolsey Fire: Malibu Creek State Park Redwoods, M*A*S*H Site and Bulldog Climb

Also check out the M*A*S*H site web page.