Here’s one to put in your Stranger Flings file: a hike that’s also a peek into the history of several Angeleno residents and their ties to the Third Reich. This weird chapter lingers in what remains of Murphy’s Ranch in Rustic Canyon, once the 1930s and ’40s lair of Norman and Winona Stephens and various other Nazi sympathizers.
The 3.85-mile (round-trip) hike starts on the Sullivan Ridge Fire Road in Pacific Palisades, where you’ll spot an iron gate and an opening in a chain-link fence on your left. Enter and find yourself looking over a seemingly endless staircase that will take you down to the canyon floor. Watch your step as you descend about 200 feet on steep, warped stairs. When you reach the bottom, head left and you’ll begin seeing the graffiti-marked remnants of the Nazi hideout.
While much of the former compound was demolished in 2016, you can still explore some crumbling ruins among the oak and sycamore trees. Continue walking along the main path to pass concrete gardens now overgrown with grass. Keep going to reach the largest structure still standing, the boarded-up concrete powerhouse. Once you’ve snapped enough pictures, head up the adjacent stairwell, turn right, and climb the next stairwell to find yourself at the massive water tower.
Take one final flight of stairs back to the fire road and head back the way you came to leave this strange relic behind and return to the here and now.
From Sunset Blvd. in Pacific Palisades, turn north on Capri Dr. and continue about 0.6 mile until you reach Casale Rd. Look for parking in the residential neighborhood. On foot, proceed west on Casale to the start of Sullivan Ridge Fire Rd. After 0.4 mile, you’ll reach a gate across the road. Enter through the gate and continue to the trail described above. Dog-friendly!