It is no surprise that one of the most beloved preserved spaces in LA County was conserved by one of Hollywood’s most beloved stars. Leo Carrillo, a 1950’s TV star made famous by his role on the show Cisco Kid, can be thanked for much of Southern California’s conserved space. His most notable public acquisition as a conservationist is the famous Hearst Castle in San Simeon, CA. For this and other notable work, the State of California gave his name to this beautiful park.
What Makes It Great
The Park itself is more well know for the camping, its beautiful beaches and the surfing that you can do right out from the main point, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other fun things to do there. There are a few nice hiking trails that start right from the campground that will keep you busy for the better part of a day. The best option to consider is called Nicholas Flat Trail.
The trailhead is between PCH and the campgrounds check-in-booth, about 150 feet from the booth; hard to miss. The trail begins mildly on an easy inclined single-track trail that starts to gain elevation at a surprising rate. In about ¾ of a mile, you will reach a beautiful viewpoint that will give stunning views of the Pacific Ocean to the South, and the Santa Monica Mountains to all other directions. This first section is a great way to get awesome views without putting too much time in.
If a more substantial hike interests you, this trail continues for many more miles up into the mountains. Nicolas Flat trail will continue into neighboring Nicholas Flat Nature Preserve. The trail retains the same single-track look and feel so be careful not to slide off the side of the hill.
The trail can get hot, as it is exposed for almost the entire time, but the silver lining is the ocean is always there when you get back to your car, and it is rarely too cold to take a dip in the beautiful Pacific (just don’t plan on being in the water for too long).
Leo Carillo is a great place for an overnight getaway or a daytrip. If you are interested more in the whole Leo Carillo State Park experience, including details about the campground.
Who is Going to Love It
All hikers will enjoy this spot. You can make the out and back trip as long as you want, and the entire thing offers great views and exciting terrain. You will especially enjoy this spot if you are a hiker who can handle a little bit of heat, some thin and sometimes loose trails, and some awesome views. You will not forget the Pacific Ocean views that you get really throughout the trail. Go at sunset, you will not be disappointed, but be sure to bring a flashlight for the way down, that is of course if sunsets are something that interests you.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The entrance to the campsite is on the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1), 28 miles north of Santa Monica. For day use, you can park in the state park’s lot for a day fee or for free if you can find a space along PCH (make sure you keep an eye out for the few no-parking signs).