Exploring Malibu Creek/Paramount Ranch, California.

Malibu Creek State Park and the adjoining Paramount Ranch in Southern California can make a tenderfoot feel like a cowboy. Although the name sounds like you’re at the beach, visitors actually are in the Santa Monica Mountain range, just northeast of the Pacific Ocean.

The park is located about 25 miles west of Los Angeles, and it’s difficult to imagine all this open space so close to the city. Malibu Creek State Park is 7,000 acres big with over 30 miles of horseback riding (and hiking) trails for all levels of experience.

Malibu Creek State Park is 7,000 acres big with over 30 miles of horseback riding (and hiking) trails for all levels of experience. There’s even a Western town to visit!

The backdrop of these mountains was used for many Hollywood Western movies and TV shows. There’s even an old Western town with a hitching post to tie your horse and enjoy lunch.

This region in the Santa Monica Mountains has many areas to explore. In addition to the big sweeping vistas of mountain ranges, there are windy and rocky trails through the hills. Or you can check out the creeks and ponds, and the wide-open meadows. The best part is it’s open year-round as this part of California has good weather even in winter!

The Chumash Indians lived in the area for thousands of years because of the plentiful water and food. Their village of Talepop was situated in the northeast section of the park.

Trail Rides
Trail rides can begin at the parking lot near the Visitor’s Center off Las Virgenes Road, which is between the Pacific Coast Highway 1 and Highway 101. Besides those on horses, hikers, bikers and bird-watchers use the park. It can be a little crowded when you first enter with hikers, bikers and riders all traveling the same path, but it thins out dramatically as you ride farther into the hills.

If the mountain ranges here look familiar, think helicopters. Besides the Westerns shot at this location, much of the TV show “M.A.S.H.” was filmed here, including the opening scene of Radar watching the incoming “choppers.” You can ride to the old set, although most of original buildings are gone.

Besides the Westerns shot in the Santa Monica mountain range, much of the TV show “M.A.S.H.” was filmed here, including the opening scene of Radar watching the incoming “choppers.”

It’s about a 1-1/2-hour ride from there to Paramount Ranch, which actually belongs to the National Park Service. Along the way, riders pass Century Lake, where many types of waterfowl migrate in winter. The movie, “How Green Was My Valley,” was filmed nearby as was some of the old “Tarzan” movies.

Signs will point you to Paramount Ranch, the site of the Western town. Follow them to Cage Creek (narrow and steep) or Lookout Trails (great views of the park) to Yearling Trail. The trails can alternate from wide to narrow, so be prepared. Also it’s easy to make a wrong turn and end up on some side trail. We’ve done that a few times, but the scenery is fantastic wherever you end up.

Paramount Ranch
If you manage to hit all the right trails, horseback riders will pass the Reagan Ranch Ranger Station and cross Mulholland Highway. It’s a four-way stop for cars so there shouldn’t be anyone whizzing past you and your horse. Once across, there’s a trail and then a wooden bridge leading into Paramount Ranch. Once at the ranch, you’ll feel like you’re back in time. You also can start your ride here and work back to the State Park. Or if you just want to visit the ranch, there’s a parking lot outside the ranch off Mulholland Highway.

Our posse of five on horseback sauntered into Paramount Ranch complete with Livery Stable and General Store. The set was last used for TV’s “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.” Maybe we looked liked we belonged as one young man wondered if we were toting six-shooters. Our horses tied to the hitchin’ post also attracted visitors asking for pictures. We obliged while eating lunch on the wooden sidewalk.

Beyond the town is Backdrop Trail — so named because there are no telephone lines or distinctive features visible against the hills. It’s a great spot for making movies or for riding. Other interesting rides include Phantom and Liberty Canyon Trails, which are big open spaces north of the main park.

There’s plenty of room for horse trailers at both entrances. The parking areas are big with easy turn-arounds. Toilets, picnic tables and water are available near both lots and there are hitching posts for the horses. There also are several portable toilets along the lower trails. There is a small entrance fee for all guests.

For more information contact:
Malibu Creek State Park
1925 Las Virgenes Road
Calabasas, CA 91303
(http://www.csp-angeles.com/sites/mcsp.html); or the National Park Service at 805-370-2301.

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