A dense canopy of alder, oak and sycamore trees shades the canyon's year-round stream making this open-space park a pleasant outing in any season.
Many parkgoers enjoy the park's easy International Trail along the canyon bottom but those looking for more of a challenge might want to try the Sostomo Trail.
Starting near the ruins of the Tropical Terrace House at the back of the canyon, the multi-use Sostomo Trail makes a 4-mile loop through the chaparral.
The trail heads aggressively up the canyon wall, at first following Solstice Creek then climbing to a vista point and eventually looping back along the canyon's steep, western ridge. Once out of the sheltered canyon bottom, the path takes you through a dense ceanothus forest and crosses the creek twice before reaching the loop to the vista point.
Directions: Solstice Canyon Park is off Corral Canyon Road in Malibu. From Highway 101 Agoura, take Kanan Dume Road 12 miles to Pacific Coast Highway and turn left, south, toward Los Angeles. Take PCH approximately 3 miles to Corral Canyon Road and turn inland. Drive 50 yards to a large white gate fence on the left side of the road. Enter the park and pay the parking fee. Pass the parking area by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy office and park in the over-flow parking lot about 1/2 mile up the road on the far side of the wooden bridge.
What you'll need: Be sure to wear sturdy hiking boots. Bring sunscreen, a hat or visor and at least two quarts of water per hiker. Dogs on leash are welcome on the park's multi-use trails.
Distance and level of difficulty: Today's hike on the Sostomo Loop Trail is a 6 mile round trip. The first and last part of the hike along the International Trail that follows the park service road are quite easy but the single-track trail up the canyon wall is a moderately-strenuous climb with an elevation gain/loss of 800 feet.
Step by step:
1. This outing begins by following the International Trail along the park service road about a mile from the over-flow parking lot to the Tropical Terrace House. Look for the signed Sostomo Trail to start on the west side of the road just before you get to the ruins. Take the single-track trail up the hillside about 1/4 mile to the first stream crossing. Pick-up the trail on the far side of the creek as it continues uphill through the chaparral for another 1/2 mile before coming to the second stream crossing.
2. On the far side of the creek the trail passes the rock walls of a time forgotten homestead as the path continues on its way to the ridgeline. Before long you will come to the Sostomo Loop, take the trail to the right and you will come to a small meadow known as the Sostomo Overlook. (Trail ribbons indicate the path through the grassy meadow.) The trail continues toward the ocean for about a mile before making a counter-clockwise loop around the ridge top. It then drops down through Deer Valley on its way to the main trail.
3. Once back at the signed loop trail, retrace your way back down the hill the way that you came.
Optional: While it is not a designated trail, I have noticed that many hikers return via the creek bed from the second stream-crossing. This rock-hopping route is indistinct and full of poison oak but the waterfall in the gorge is well worth the effort.
What you'll see: Solstice Canyon is the quintessential coastal canyon. The year-round stream provides ample water to support this 550-acre park's numerous plant communities and a diverse wildlife population. Watch for movement in the tree canopy above the streambed and you will see squirrels using the huge branches as we would use the freeway to drive around town. Also look for birds busy building nests and attracting mates.