The ghost story for Phantom Trail in Malibu Creek State Park actually sounds more like the story your grandfather told about his walk to school—uphill both ways. That’s because there is a mountain in the middle of the 4.5-mile (round-trip) trail with dips at both ends. Unlike grandpa, you won’t have to trudge through sleet and snow, just crisp autumn atmosphere with panoramic views over the Santa Monica Mountains. The first leg of the trail looks out on the rugged Goat Buttes in Malibu Creek State Park. Further up the trail, you’ll discover views over the canyon-cradled city of Agoura Hills. When the trail isn’t crossing scenic open ridges, it plunges into dense, dark oak woodlands where a sudden gust of wind can produce a ghostly howl. Don’t retreat! Keep going to the end of the trail on an eerily quiet stretch of Liberty Canyon Road. The trees on this part of the trail are turning yellow and orange, signally autumn in Southern California. Just like the Phantom, these colors are elusive, so go see them before they’re gone!
The trailhead is located on the north side of Mulholland Hwy., 1.9 miles west of Las Virgenes Rd. near the main entrance to Malibu Creek State Park. It’s easy to drive right by the sign at the trailhead, so be alert. Hike across Phantom Trail to Liberty Canyon Rd. and turn around. You will pass through several marked junctions with an old firebreak path. No dogs.