On the western margin of the Santa Monica Mountains the mountains begin to dwindle and valleys widen as Los Angeles turns into Ventura County; this is called Point Mugu. Mugu has drawn attention from people for hundreds of years, beginning with the Chumash people to the Hollywood studios of today. The park is far enough from Los Angeles that most beach goers end up at a more southern park and the visitor traffic is even sparser on the trails. This relative isolation is what makes Mugu so special.
What Makes It Great
The ocean’s marine layer defines Point Mugu’s terrain. With more moisture in the air, the soil becomes a warmer shade of brown and the grasses are a brighter green. The moisture means the trails are less dusty and grip a bit better than elsewhere. The best ride through Mugu is predominantly fire road climbs with single-track descents.
It is fitting that the ride starts at the beach. You can park in Sycamore Canyon, but only after paying a steep day use fee. Just north of the Sycamore entrance you can park on Pacific Coast Highway for free (just look for the long beach and enormous sand dune on the east side of the road). Begin by riding south on PCH and then turn left into the Sycamore Canyon Campground. Stay on the main road through the campground, at the end of the camping area the road turns to the Sycamore Canyon fire road. Continue onto the fire road, but after a quarter mile turn left onto Overlook Trail. This trail will climb up atop the bluff and then continue along the ridge.
The first section is a series of small switchbacks up the ridge: the Scenic Trail intersection is at the top, stay on Overlook. Ride along the ridge for 3.5 miles. This stretch has views of the valley below and the high peaks up at Circle X Ranch. After 3.5 miles you will encounter the Backbone Trail on the right. This is a small part of the famous 65-mile long ridge trail that traverses the entire Santa Monica Mountains. Backbone is a single-track trail that drops you down into the valley via a brilliantly fun descent. At the bottom you encounter the Sycamore Canyon fire road where you have the option of either turning right to return to your vehicle or continue exploring the park to the left. Two Foxes and Guadalasca trails are a ton of fun and just to your left.
Who is Going to Love It
Everything in Point Mugu can be ridden quite fast, be it the moderate fire road climbs or the decent down the spine on Backbone. If you love relatively technical trails, but like going really fast, then this is your kind of place. There a countless opportunities to go and explore, too. The first time here you feel somewhat childish as you maniacally roam looking for the next turn.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Park entrance is on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) just south of the town of Oxnard and north of Malibu. Parking is free on PCH, so, if you’re coming from LA; continue past the entrance at Sycamore Canyon and park around the next bend along an extensive stretch of beach. Ride back south and enter the park, continue through the campground along the main road. At the end, the road turns to a dirt fire road.