The giant coreopsis is the showiest wildflower in Southern California, and it’s strutting its stuff right now along the sandy trails of Point Dume Natural Preserve in Malibu. On a 2-mile loop hike, you can not only walk through fields of brilliant yellow specimens—some of them chest high and taller—but also dip down to pristine beaches and tide pools, and possibly crown your visit with a gray-whale sighting.
To see the best of everything, start at the east end of the parking area (“east” here means the direction of Santa Monica) and walk out toward the point, taking your first left (at the tide pool interpretive sign) and heading down 102 stairs to a quiet sandy beach. Here you can stroll for a half-mile or more, check out the tide pools, or just lounge on the sand. Back at the top of the stairs, continue your clockwise traverse by bearing left at the next intersection, which puts you on a boardwalk that leads to a bench out on the nose of the point.
Here you can scan the ocean for gray whales. Resuming the loop, you’ll have another chance to drop down to Zuma Beach, right at the spot where the Statue of Liberty poked out of the sand in the final scene in Planet of the Apes. Before you loop back to your car, pick up the high trail that you skipped when you did the boardwalk. This leads through truly giant coreopsis to the crown of the point and a sweeping view of Santa Monica Bay and the upper Malibu coastline.
BONUS: Because the point faces south, you can get a great view here of both sunrise and sunset over the Pacific.
To get to Point Dume Natural Preserve, take Pacific Coast Hwy. (CA-1) to Heathercliff Dr. and turn toward the ocean. Make the first left on Dume Dr., follow it about a mile to Sea Lion Pl., and turn right. Make the next left on Birdview Ave. Follow that road (the name changes to Cliffside Dr.) about 0.3 mile to a small two-hour parking area on the right. If it’s full, continue past the lot to Grasswood Ave. and turn left. You’ll find legal street parking up this road, about 0.25 mile from the trailhead.