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Murphy Canyon: History Hidden in an LA Canyon

In the Details by Ashley Berry

I’ve always been fascinated by old, dilapidated homes. There’s something mysterious and intriguing about buildings that were once vibrant with life before being abandoned, so when I heard that there was a hike in West Los Angeles that offered the opportunity to explore ruins of homes from the early 1900s, I knew what my next hiking adventure would be.

Murphy Ranch was built in the Pacific Palisades in the 1930s by a group of Nazi-sympathizers, but the community of homes created as a refuge for individuals hoping for a German takeover of the U.S. during WWII was raided and shut down in 1941. After standing empty for nearly two decades, the community was briefly turned into an artists’ colony for another couple of decades before its final demise thanks to the Mandeville Canyon Fire in 1978.

Murphy Canyon Ruin with Graffiti

These days, the remains of the abandoned buildings within the canyon serve as sights for local hikers and surfaces on which graffiti artists leave their masterpieces. Despite having a slightly eerie atmosphere due to the bizarre backstory, the canyon is lushly beautiful and quite expansive. Although I only had a few hours to peruse portions of the trails on my first expedition into Murphy Ranch and the surrounding canyon, it would be easy to spend an entire day wandering the various pathways through hillsides and lower parts of the enclave, examining the curious remnants of history such as foundations of homesteads with bathroom and kitchen fixtures but no walls, or a rusty, old truck wedged into a ravine. With two sets of stairs that run from the fire trail down into the base of the canyon, the trails are approachable for hikers of all levels. So, whether you’re an avid trail explorer or a hardcore history buff, Murphy Ranch is hidden gem that is not to be missed.

Murphy Canyon Hike in Los Angeles

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