Charmlee Wilderness Park

In every issue, we'll introduce you to one spectacular Malibu hike. With over 500 acres, spring wildflowers, gorgeous sunsets and sweeping ocean views, we think Charmlee isn't a bad place to start.


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Written, Photography by Julie Wuellner

We headed out to Charmlee Wilderness Park around 4 pm, the sun was still shining, there was a light ocean breeze, and the birds were chirping overhead. It was the perfect day to get out of the office and unwind in nature. Charmlee was easy to find, there is a giant sign that clearly marks the park entrance, and the only fee was a $4 parking fee that we paid once we got there. The park was almost empty, in fact, we only passed one other pair of hikers on our way out. Since Charmlee is dog-friendly, we brought our friend’s corgi, Gus, who trotted along the well-maintained trails happily. It did not take us very long to reach the ocean overlook, 15 minutes along relatively easy trails and through a giant sloping meadow. Once we made it to the ocean overlook, we were able to watch the sun slowly set over the ocean and turned the entire park into magnificent fields of gold. The views were absolutely incredible! From atop the mountain, we could see the clouds starting to roll in over the ocean below us. It truly felt like we were on top of the world!

“There are lots of great places to hike in Malibu, but there is definitely something special about Charmlee. It has a surprisingly varied network of trails, and most of them are moderate enough for hikers of all abilities” editor-in-chief of Modern Hiker and author of “Day Hiking Los Angeles,” Casey Schreiner tells us in an interview. “The Coastal views are some of the best in Southern California, and there’s always something interesting going on there, whether it’s at the nature center or on a ranger-led hike.”

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Charmlee first opened to the public in 1981, and after being traded in a land-swap is managed by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. The park is located in western Malibu, 3 miles south of Ventura County line. From PCH, Charmlee is a quick 4 miles up Encinal Canyon Road. The Park is clearly marked by a sign reading, “Charmlee Wilderness Park.” Make sure you get there early enough as the small parking lot can fill up quickly on the weekends, especially in the summer. While Charmlee is gorgeous all-year round, it is best to visit earlier in the year. “This park really shines in the winter and spring, though, when rains bring back a lush carpet of green grasses and explosions of wildflower color appear in front of the Pacific Ocean,” Schreiner tells us. Aside from individual hikes Charmlee also offers a whole host of activities. Throughout the year there are many ranger and docent-led hikes. In the spring, Charmlee has wildflower hikes, and all year long there are monthly full moon hikes. The full moon hikes are docent-led and start around 5 pm. They are free of charge, aside from the $4 parking fee, and open to all age groups and experience levels.

We definitely recommend Charmlee Wilderness Park if you are looking for fun trails for the whole family or simply a peaceful and scenic spot out in nature. Check back next issue for another great Malibu hike! MM

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Holly Bieler