La Jolla Valley

La Jolla Valley lies tucked into the westernmost end of the Santa Monica Mountains in Point Mugu State Park. This rare valley features wide open grasslands that somehow escaped development and now remain protected. The La Jolla Valley Loop Trail also features great ocean views, as well as views of Boney Mountain.

Distance: 7 Miles
Elevation Gained: 800′
Difficulty: Moderate
Critters: Rabbits, hawks,

Get there like this. Note: Park on PCH to avoid paying the day-use fee.

For the last hike of 2012, I joined my friends Sean and Taylor for a leisurely 7-mile trek through the La Jolla Valley Loop. La Jolla Valley has long been one of my favorite hikes in the Santa Monica Mountains, and I had been craving a return to the area for a while. Add in a perfect post-storm day, and a chance to hike with Sean and Taylor, and this hike made a fitting end to a great year on the trail.

The trailhead starts at the beach, where one can also branch off to the excellent Ray Miller Trail. The network of trails in Point Mugu Park is both varied and extensive, so this trailhead can be the jumping off point for a number of different adventures. The one we chose started at the La Jolla Canyon trailhead, and we followed it up La Jolla Canyon, down into La Jolla Valley, and then back along the Canyon, where we enjoyed some great ocean views.

This is an excellent introductory hike for people new to this area as well as for people new to hiking. There is a bit of incline at the initial climb into the canyon, but after that, the trail is pretty much flat. There are great views, peace and quiet, and cool breezes coming off of the ocean at every step. During the late spring, the grass here grows overhead, while the numerous sagebrush and sage plants give off spicy aromas at every turn.

Winter is also an inviting time, since the sunlight is rarely ever overwhelming, but the ocean keeps things from getting too cold. Due to the angle of the sun, the light here is almost always beautiful during the winter, and it lends a deeper beauty to the already idyllic scenes.

This area is a big part of why I became so interested in hiking in the first place. While the rest of the Santa Monica Mountains feature fine hiking spots, nowhere in the range is the landscape left as unaffected as here. This is all for the best since some of the most scenic and memorable spots lie on the extreme west end, including Boney Mountain, Sycamore Canyon, Serrano Canyon and Valley, and La Jolla Valley.

And with this, I conclude a year that was great for so many reasons beyond hiking. I moved, proposed, changed jobs, excelled at school, maintained old friendships, started new ones, and, of course, hiked a lot. I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to do all of those things, and I’m very fortunate to have so many great things in my life.

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