The Forest Trail

The Forest Trail is the hidden gem of Malibu Creek State Park. This .5 mile trail branching off of Crags road feature dense stands of bay, oak, and willow, as well as some planted coast redwoods from which the trail gets its name.Taken from the Grasslands Trail, the south bank of Century Lake is a lovely destination for a easy-to-moderate day hike.

Distance: 5.3 Miles
Elevation Gained: 700′
Difficulty: Moderate
Time: 2:45
Critters: Cranes, Coots, Quail, and Hawks

Get there like this.

Note: If you park at the Grasslands Trailhead, you don’t have to pay the state park fee.


Going back home means visiting a lot of people that I’ve known for a very long time. There is my family, and there are friends that I’ve known for going on 20 years. There’s always a sense of comfort that goes with this, so going home is the emotional equivalent of eating a big dish of lasagna. I go away feeling full, comfortable, and all warm in the belly. The same holds true for the old hiking spots, of which the Forest Trail is one of my all time favorites.

Back when I used to work at the Trader Joe’s in Agoura Hills, I would get up at 3:15am for the 4am-12 shift. I’d work that 5 days per week. Afterward, I was usually so drained that I would come back to my apartment and fall asleep. This led to a pretty unhealthy sleep cycle, and I would mitigate it by taking hikes immediately after getting off of work. As Malibu Creek State Park was on the long route home, I would frequently stop here on the way home and hike the 5 miles out-and-back to Century Lake.

Century Lake was formed around the turn of the 20th century when the original land owners dammed off Malibu Creek. They planted a row of coast redwoods along the south bank of the creek, and now the hundred year old trees have grown substantially. One tree stands at what appears to be at least 80-100 feet. All around these trees are massive spreading live oaks with a smaller, but denser understory of bay laurel. This dense patch of woodland creates the “forest” for which this trail is named.

The “forest” and the placid lake, with its resident population of coots and flotilla of lily pads present one of the most tranquil spots in all of the Santa Monicas. Several cool, shady spots on the south bank of the lake offer a chance for rest and repose, which was the main reason I would come here. Working that shift at that job at that time was a relatively challenging stretch of life, and I think I came to the Forest Trail so much for relief and to recharge after so much physically draining effort and a sense that I was adrift.

Resting here didn’t give me a sense of direction so much as a place to recharge. However, coming to this spot so often, along with a few other classics like the Bulldog Trail in Malibu Creek State Park and the 92 Trail in Topanga Canyon State Park provided the spark that started this hiking craze of mine. The world is full of secrets like this, and since my life gained its current traction, I have devoted an enormous amount effort toward finding those spots. The results have been tremendously gratifying.

When I hike, I return home recharged. Nature isn’t the only thing, nor is it the primary thing that keeps me afloat, but it is significant. I learned the importance at places like the Forest Trail. I keep relearning it every time out, as each hike offers its secrets and its tranquil moments.

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