A Lush Riparian Canyon in the Santa Monicas
Solstice Canyon is a lush riparian canyon in Malibu, in the Santa Monica Mountains. The Santa Monica Mountains stretch about 40 miles from Hollywood at the east end, to Ventura County at the west end. This is a popular, family-friendly hike, with ruins of an old mansion called the "Tropical Terrace", a perennial creek, a perennial waterfall, and if you're a little more adventurous, breathtaking ocean views.
This hike is a 3.2 mile loop combining the the Rising Sun Trail and the Solstice Canyon Trail. I will describe this hike going CCW starting with the Rising Sun Trail. The perennial creek flows all the way to the trailhead, and it's a great way to start your hike. From the north side of the parking lot head up the set of stairs on your right to get on the Rising Sun Trail. You'll start getting some nice views of the Pacific Ocean right away as you climb. You'll get almost all of your AEG on this trail, but it's nothing too steep. The whole Rising Sun Trail is also very exposed, with little to no shade. The trail is well-maintained and easy to follow. You'll slowly ascend the east side of the canyon, checking out all the crazy mansions up in the hills.
About a mile into the trail you'll start descending into the canyon through a series of switchbacks. You'll start to see the ruins of the Tropical Terrace below you, obscured by all the huge oaks, sycamores, and non-native tropical plants, including some palm trees. The ruins are very cool to see, and are very photogenic and well-preserved. It must have been amazing living in a place like this. The Tropical Terrace was owned by Fred Roberts, a wealthy owner of a chain of grocery stores in the Santa Monica area. Fred and his wife, Florence, commissioned renowned architect Paul R. Williams in the early 1950s to design their dream retirement home. Solstice Canyon was known for frequent wildfires, and unfortunately the Tropical Terrace met its demise in 1982.
The creek runs right next to the ruins, and you'll see a sign directing you just upstream to the waterfall. The Roberts family had a view of this waterfall right out their back window. The small, cascading waterfall is maybe 25 ft tall, with a small pool at the bottom. It's a very nice, serene area. When you've had your fill of the waterfall, head to the west side of the ruins and take the mostly-paved Solstice Canyon, which is really a wide fire road, back to the trailhead. It's just over a mile back to the trailhead, and is very pleasant and shaded most of the way. You parallel the creek to your left the whole way, and it's lined with huge old oaks and sycamores. Most people just hike this trail up to the ruins and back, which is about 2.5 miles round trip and 400 AEG. There are a few interpretive signs along the way that give you some history of the area, and there are some ruins of another small stone house that burned down in 2007 that you can check out. You'll be back to the parking lot before you know it.
If you want those spectacular ocean views, you can extend your hike in a couple ways. Immediately when you start heading back from the ruins on the Solstice Canyon Trail you'll see a sign for the Sostomo Trail on your right. This trail will immediately take you up and out of the west side of the canyon, then down to a creek crossing and back up again. It's fairly steep and a heck of a workout... you'll climb about 1000 ft in just over a mile.
You'll meet a junction with the Deer Valley Loop Trail, which is another optional 1.3 mile loop that will just bring you back to this point. The signs here are a bit confusing, but no matter which way you go you'll end up back at this spot. Watch out for signs marking private property. Keep heading south on Sostomo to an absolutely breathtaking panoramic ocean view. From here you can keep following Sostomo and loop back around on Deer Valley, or just return the way you came. On our trip we did the entire loop and our hike came to about 7.5 miles and 2000 AEG.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.