18 December 2011

Lower Solstice Canyon

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area


Locate the trailhead.

From the time we hiked the upper canyon area, I'd wanted to hike the lower canyon. I didn't then know what was there. The folks at Hike the Geek planned to go there and at first I'd remembered wanting to go. After reading a little bit about it, I remembered that I had actually got up there one afternoon and done a couple sketches although I didn't have the camera that previous time. I decided I would go again anyway.

Trails make a number of loops of different sizes and further trails hike up the canyon after the loop. The largest loop is about 3 miles with a high road and a low road. The high road gives views of the ocean and odd houses in the neighboring canyon and an overview of the canyon. The low road passes by old ruined cabins with more just off it. Little waterfalls tumble down the canyon near the largest ruins of an elaborate estate. A couple signs give a little history for the most substantial ruins. Continuing up the canyon past the top of the loop finds more cascades and tumble down ruins.

We got collected and started up the low road through the canyon. We quickly came upon the local flock of escaped parrots and their descendants. We wandered past cabin ruins along the wide, rather well kept single lane of dirt road. We quickly came upon the scattered ruins and little waterfalls at the end of the road and started poking around the area.

a segment of the local parrot flock
Parrots in the branches of a sycamore tree.

good stone walls in an otherwise burned down cabin
The first ruin easily recognizable as a cabin. The Park Service tries to keep it locked away from vandals and folks it might throw rocks at.


good road and surrounding scenery
The very fine dirt road that serves as trail down in the canyon.

house and grounds at the end of the road
We go poking around the ruins of an elaborate house. Some of the areas are difficult to tell if they were mean to be outside or inside areas. There seem to have been one or two fireplaces in every room.

one wall standing, and another one
Fireplace, wood storage bin, and stove all built into the stones. Sink and oven relics complete making it look like this was a kitchen.

little waterfall behind the ruins
Following a path past the ruins by the stream quickly comes to this cute little waterfall.

A well used and signed trail goes up the left side of the stream to a little waterfall. Looking over, it is clear that many paths lead up and down the stream area on the far side although these are all use trails. Crossing over at the bottom of the pool and climbing up, I found more built up areas and chimneys. From there, a trail headed up the stream, dropping in for looks at the water features along the way. I didn't go very far up it. I followed it down instead of crossing back over and found the ruins of a worshipping area. It was quite extensive and included some statuary. Continuing along the trail it got fainter as it finally connected up with a switchback on the trail going up via a clamber down 4 feet of roots.

more broken down buildings
More ruins found across the stream from the main house.

statues in an alcove
Statuary in the cabin inside an elaborate bit of ruins that is mostly behind me as I take this photo.

the rest of the worship area
Some more of the ruins found near the statuary.

Turning up the high road back, we found ourselves on a steep, but not overly so, trail. It climbed up the hillside to travel above the rocks seen high along the east side of the canyon walls. As it climbed, it gave an increasingly good overview of the elaborate home that once stood below. We made our way back to the parking lot by this route. Nearing the end, colorful and elaborate houses that are not in ruins come into sight in the next canyon. The trail joins and crosses a road that climbs the hill to service some areas. It passes an old windmill that once worked at some job but now can do nothing and drops back down to the parking lot. Finishing up, people dispersed.

the layout of the elaborate home
Some of the extensive grounds that were once a house and gardens.

rocks up high on the eastern wall
Another look at the rocks up on the eastern side of the canyon that the trail climbs up and over.

mostly colorful houses
Houses in Malibu, clinging to the cliffs and cantilevered a ways over the edge.

Looking up the hill beyond the ruins while climbing up the trail to return, we say a large standing chimney. We could see hikers passing by it on the trail that starts at the road just before it passes a bridge and ends. It looked like somewhere that might be interesting to go and I was feeling like the hike was too short as everyone took off and had a few more hours before I needed to leave. I decided to see it after all and made my way back up the road with a couple diversions along the way. A bit of road comes in from the left and I checked out up it to find there was once a cabin up there. I crossed over the bridge on the right to see the old cabin there better, then followed that road around to a bit of trail that connected with an older route of the road. I continued on the old road coming back to the current road shortly before the trail started climbing to the left of the road.

old steps on the hillside
A few old steps mark a former cabin site in a nice location.

old cabin site with plenty of services
This cabin seemed to have plenty of luxuries.

some old equipment
Some old equipment left out by the cabin.

The trail snakes up the side of the canyon past a water tank and then drops back into the canyon to cross over to the other side and climb some more. It passes right next to the chimney I saw from the far side. The metal detritus of the cabin is still there and a bit of the garden still blooms. I continued a little further up and sketched a little before coming back down. As I crossed the creek, I decided to follow a bit of trail up the creek, which was a picturesque section.

chimney along the trail
More of the fingerprint of people on the canyon.

random bits of metal
Some beds and a stove that once furnished a cabin.

a bit of garden left over from populated days
Sometimes it's the garden that lasts the longest.

another cabin site
Another cabin site up behind the site that is mostly chimney.

purple and peach flowers by the trailside
Flowers along the trail side.

pool and ferns and great rocks
Water was dribbling from the ferns into the pool below.

more great rocks
I love the way these rocks have eroded into ledges.

a tree making its way in the world
It may be burned out and struggling to find a place for its roots, but this tree was still growing.

Back to the road, I followed it back down and made a few more detours along the way. I went back up by the one cabin and looked around there finding the old electrical hookup and some trail going up the canyon behind it. I didn't have time to explore very far up it, though. I went along above the road where there wasn't much route anymore. It eventually gets down to another spur of road used for storage then back down to the main road.

As I was just about to the parking lot, the trail forks and I took the right side. This took me along on the far side of the creek past the parking lot to a gate on the entry road. I finished up walking back up the entry road.

5 parrots in a tree
The parrots were back as I came down the road.

big black birds
I found a couple ravens sitting up in the dead branches of an oak tree.

flowers that change a lot as they age
Some more flowers along the trail.

And then with minutes to spare before I would be late, I took off home. This area may be a small space, but it has many spots to explore.




©2011,2012 Valerie Norton
Posted 16 January 2012

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