Hike to Skull Rock in Temescal Gateway Park
Climb to new heights and huge views on an adventure hike to a quirky quarry overlooking the ocean in Pacific Palisades. It’s a 4.75-mile loop hike with an 1,100-foot ascent to Skull Rock in Temescal Gateway Park.
Head out on the trail, keeping left at trail junctions via switchbacks under oaks. As the shade disappears, coastal chaparral takes over, along with panoramic views looking over Santa Monica and Malibu to the west, and Temescal Canyon to the east. On clear days you can see Catalina and the Channel Islands.
After 2.25 miles (following signs for Temescal Ridge Trail and ignoring signs for the Temescal Canyon Falls), you’re at the marquee spot: Skull Rock and its boulder buddies—many of which are very easy rock scrambles up to round-the-compass views.
Skull Rock itself has a secure rope attached on the back, so adventurous (and experienced) climbers can scale the granite face for a truly amazing picnic spot. Heading back the way you came, follow signs for the falls and descend into the canyon, where shade can be a welcome respite on hot days. (The downhill here can be knee-buckling, so be sure to wear good treads.)
Reaching a small bridge, there’s sometimes a trickle of falls, but in dry seasons it’s not much to be excited about. The trail flattens and continues south, passing a grove of massive coast live oaks. Arriving at Temescal campsite and retreat center, take the paved road to the right, which reconnects to the original trail, and close the loop. Rock steady!
To get to the Temescal Gateway Park lot and trailhead, take Pacific Coast Hwy. to Temescal Canyon Rd. After just over 1 mile, you reach the intersection with Sunset Blvd. The parking lot is just north of Sunset on your left. Park at the lot ($10 day pass), or find street parking and access the trailhead via the southwestern corner of the lot behind a pristine patch of grass. Dog-friendly!
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