Trails of

Will Rogers State Historic Park, Temescal Gateway Park
and Rustic Canyon
(south-eastern area of Topanga State Park)

 


The Rustic Canyon Trail runs along the streambed

Overview

This area encompasses the south-east section of Topanga State Park. This is a very popular area, in part as you might expect being so close to Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica and Los Angeles. And Will Rogers State Historic Park is the original home and ranch of Will Rogers, a popular entertainer in the early 1930's.

The area has quite a diversity of trails. There are typical ridgeline trails, like the Temescal Ridge Trail that connects Topanga State Park with Temescal Gateway Park. Probably my favorite is Rustic Canyon Trail, passing through a streambed, making it inaccessible during the wet months. Possibly the most significant trail is Rogers Road as it forms the east end of the Backbone Trail.

Many of the trails in this area are open only to hiking.

Official Websites

Map Key

  Printable map (1.1 MB)

 

 Aerial View


View of the south-east part of Topanga State Park, looking not quite due north. Temescal Gateway Park trails are in yellow, Will Rogers trails are light blue, Rustic Canyon Trails are brown, Topanga State Park trails are purple, and Sullivan trails are light green. This view is from Google Earth

Trailheads

a. Main parking area at Will Rogers State Historic Park. There is a fee to park here. Map and Directions
b. Main parking area at Temescal Gateway Park. There is a fee to park here. Map and Directions
c. Temescal Ridge Trailhead and parking at the top of Calle Deborah. Map and Directions
d. Bienveneda Avenue Trailhead and street parking. Map and Directions
e. Sullivan Fireroad. Map and Directions
 

Trails

[1] Temescal Ridge Trail

Description This very popular trail leads from the parking area in Temescal Gateway Park north-west to the Hub Junction in Topanga State Park. There are a number of connections to Pacific Palisades. Being a ridgeline trail, there are many spots with great views down into Santa Monica to the south-east and Pacific Palisades to the south-west. The width and smoothness of the tread varies from section to section. It starts off as a broad singletrack at the south end. At the access spur down to Calle Deborah, it generally broadens to fireroad width. At Trailer Canyon Fireroad, it is absolutely a fire road. The tread is generally firm, and over the fireroad sections is pretty smooth, T1 ; the section between the Leacock Memorial Trail and Temescal Canyon Trail is the steepest and probably the most rocky and rutted - T3.5 . Other than these sections, it is about T2.5  overall. As you climb, there is less and less shade. Below the Leacock Memorial Trail, this trail is about a third shaded by tall chaparral. Above that, there isn't so much shade.

About 2.3 miles from the bottom, there is an access spur that leads to a parking area with restrooms on Calle Deborah. The top 100' of this access trail is fairly steep, somewhat loose and rutted. Below that is a concrete walkway.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating T1  to T3.5 ; HO for the southern 2.0 miles, otherwise multiuse

 Length (miles)

 5.7 to Hub Junction; 7.6 to Dirt Mulholland

Climb (feet)

 1800; 2050

Descent (feet)

 200; 680

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

[2] Temescal Canyon Trail
[2a] Temescal Canyon Road

Description This extremely popular trail starts at the parking area in Temescal Gateway Park and travels north along the steep-sided canyon before climbing up to Temescal Ridge Trail. At the bottom, you have a choice of taking a roadway that winds through the park facilities, or a bypass singletrack trail to the west. A bridge crosses the stream where the trail begins to climb to the ridge. From this bridge, you can see a small waterfall upstream and small quiet and accessible pools of water downstream. Most of the trail is shaded, by oak trees in the canyon and by tall chaparral higher up. The tread is firm and generally not very rocky.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating T2.5 HO

 Length (miles)

 1.6 (via the bypass singletrack)

Climb (feet)

 900

Descent (feet)

 100

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

[3] Bienveneda Trail

Description This trail climbs from the intersection of Bienvendeda Avenue and Via Floresta in Pacific Palisades to the Temescal Ridge Trail. A photo of the trailhead of this popular trail is to the right. It starts off moderately steep, but becomes more of a contour trail where it intersects with the Leacock Memorial Trail. The tread is quite firm and not rocky. About half the trail is shaded by tall chaparral.

There is lots of parking on the street at the trailhead.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating T2 HO

 Length (miles)

 0.9

Climb (feet)

 650

Descent (feet)

 100

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

[4] Leacock Memorial Trail

Description This short, quarter-mile long contour trail connects the Bienveneda Trail to the Temescal Ridge Trail. The trail is nearly level so there is very little climbing, and it is quite shady. The tread is firm and not rocky.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating T2 HO

 Length (miles)

 0.25

Climb (feet)

 50 (estimated)

Descent (feet)

 50 (estimated)

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

[5] Temescal - Rivas Canyon Trail (AKA Temescal - Will Rogers Connector)

Description This singletrack trail leads from Will Rogers State Historic Park to Temescal Gateway Park. From the east (Will Rogers) end, the trail drops into the pretty and very shaded Rivas Canyon. This section of the trail is popular with equestrians as well as hikers. The trail starts to climb out of the canyon through a series of tight switchbacks. There's a sign at the bottom of the switchbacks indicating that this section of the trail is unsafe for horses. The climb up and the descent to Temescal Gateway Park are quite shady with tall chaparral; only the top of the ridge has no shade.

The trail down to Temescal Gateway Park is a little narrower and more rocky than the climb up from the east. As you approach the bottom, the trail forks. The north fork (brown on the elevation profile below) is much steeper and rocky, with a number of tall steps. This section of the trail rates  T4 . The south fork is like the rest of the trail.

Overall this is a very pretty trail, and is quite popular.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating T2 T2.5 HO

 Length (miles)

 2.4

Climb (feet)

 600 (west to east)

Descent (feet)

 500

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

[6] Inspiration Point Loop Trail

Description This fire road loops from near the polo fields, up to Inspiration Point (photo at right), and back. It provides access to Rogers Road, the east end of the Backbone Trail, and the Betty Rogers Trail. Inspiration point provides a commanding view of Santa Monica Bay in the distance.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating T1

 Length (miles)

 1.8

Climb (feet)

 250

Descent (feet)

 250

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

[7] Betty Rogers Trail

Description This short singletrack contour trail loops around below Inspiration Point. It connects to the Inspiration Point Loop Trail at both ends and near the middle is a spur that leads up to Inspiration Point. The spur is steep, rutted and somewhat loose, a real contrast to the main trail that is firm and mostly level. This shaded, quiet trail provides a pleasant change from the broad and busy Inspiration Point Loop fireroad.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating T2.5 HO

 Length (miles)

 0.4

Climb (feet)

 50 (estimated)

Descent (feet)

 50 (estimated)

     Back to the Top

 

[8] Will Rogers Trail

Description This trail provides a shortcut up to Inspiration Point from the parking area. Being half as long, it is correspondingly twice as steep as the Inspiration Point Loop Trail.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating NB

 Length (miles)

 0.33

Climb (feet)

 200

Descent (feet)

 zero

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

[9] Rustic Canyon Trail

Description This is the most interesting trail in the area. Part of it goes through the creek that flows year-round in the bottom of Rustic Canyon and part of it is steeped in history. All of it is heavily shaded by oak and sycamore trees and very pretty. There is a steep climb out near the north end to get to Rogers Road. Because of the terrain, this trail is not for everyone, but if you're a little adventurous, it won't disappoint you! To get a good idea of what's in store, look at the Rustic Canyon photo gallery.

This trail runs generally north, then north-west, from the east end of the polo field in Will Rogers State Historic Park to its end as Camp Josepho, a Boy Scout facility. There are really three sections to this trail. Starting at the polo field, the singletrack trail of the first section heads downhill to the bottom of Rustic Canyon. It can be a little overgrown, but the tread is pretty firm. It follows along the back of some houses. This section of the trail is rated T2 HO

Once at the bottom of the canyon, the trail essentially disappears. The route from here is upstream, sometimes along the rocks at the edge of the water, sometimes along a little trail near the stream, and sometimes hopping along rocks in the middle of the stream. If the water isn't too high, it's not difficult to hike this section and keep your feet dry, but some people will find it easier just to walk through the water. Being wet and cool all year, you will have to watch out for poison oak that grows in many places along the trail. Here the trail is rated T5  HO

This section of the trail ends at the dam and waterfall, as seen in the picture to the right. To get around the dam, backtrack a couple of hundred feet or so and look for the trail to continue on an old road on the west side of the stream. It's a little overgrown so it's easy to miss. From here to Camp Josepho, the trail is much easier, with a firm tread, a very gentle slope and much less poison oak. Along the way are several old buildings and other structures, reported to be part of the compound of a group of Nazi sympathizers during the 1930's and early 40's. This section of the trail is rated T2 HO

There are several trails and steep staircases that lead out of the canyon to Sullivan Ridge to the east. Not all of these have been explored by this website.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating T2 and T5 HO

 Length (miles)

 2.6

Climb (feet)

 400 (from Will Rogers State Historic Park to Josepho Camp)

Descent (feet)

 200

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

[10] Josepho Drop Trail (AKA J-Drop)

Description This At the bottom of J-Drop in Rustic Canyon, there is a sign that states "Backbone Trail 0.4 Miles." While factually correct, we can be thankful that the trail is actually 0.7 miles long and does not go straight up the ridge to Rogers Road (Backbone Trail).

J-Drop connects the Rustic Canyon Trail about 0.4 miles from the north end at Camp Josepho to Rogers Road. The trail starts off nicely at the bottom, but soon becomes very steep, very rutted, rocky and loose. The lower third is quite shady from tall chaparral.

Even though this trail is closed to everyone except hikers, mountain bikers find it makes a convenient connection between Rogers Road and Sullivan Canyon.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating T5 HO

 Length (miles)

 0.7

Climb (feet)

 620

Descent (feet)

 zero

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

This page was last updated June 22, 2011

 

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