The Temescal Canyon Gateway Park trail to Skull Rock is by far one of my favorite hikes in Los Angeles, which is why I am perpetually amazed that so many people seem to not know about it. Conveniently located just a few minutes North of Santa Monica in the Pacific Palisades, “Temescal”, as it is known to those who frequent the park, has everything a nature and fitness lover could wish for. The 141-acre park is composed of three major trails that include lush canyon pathways, scenic ridge-top vistas, and a small creek with a waterfall.
The Viewpoint Trail, the Temescal Canyon Trail, and the Temescal Ridge Trail come together to form “the loop”, a 2.6 mile tour of the canyon and ridges that is the most popular route in the park and gives hikers the opportunity to enjoy an intense wilderness workout or a peaceful (and, at points, steep) walk through nature, depending on their mood. I could not even begin to count how many blissful hours I’ve spent listening to the sounds of birds, crickets, the wind in the trees and the crunch of dirt and gravel under my feet as I’ve wandered up and down through the hills in the park.
If I’m pressed for time, I stick to the loop, but if I have an additional half hour or so to spare, I always include the extra trek up to Skull Rock, a striking set of sandstone rock formations at the top of the Temescal Ridge Trail. Once there, I make my way through the chaparral-lined pathways and scramble up the grooves in the rock to sit on the top of the cranium-shaped
goliath and enjoy breathtaking views of Los Angeles from Downtown to Palos Verdes and even out to Catalina on a clear day.
So if you’re looking for a quick way to escape from the city life, or an outdoor alternative to a session at the gym, cruise down Sunset Boulevard to Temescal Canyon Road and make your way up to Skull Rock. Just be sure to remember who sent you as you realize that this amazing enclave of natural beauty has been right there under your nose all along.