Zuma Beach! Zuma Canyon! I just love saying the word Zuma. Gimme a Z, gimme a U, gimme an MMMMM, gimme an A. By the way, Zuma is the Chumash word for both abundance and peace.
In our seven years coming to California, Hannah and I have never been to Malibu, just an hour south of Carpinteria. Malibu lies 28 miles due west of Los Angeles, hugging 21 miles of shoreline on the Pacific Coast Highway. A year ago, the Woolsey Fire (November 2018) and subsequent damaging flooding closed many canyon trails in the area.
On this last Tuesday in January 2020 with the Zuma Canyon Trail open for business, we jump on The 101 to Oxnard and then drive west to the Pacific. With the steeply rising Santa Monica Mountains to our east, we tool along the Pacific Ocean shoreline heading for sunshine and blue skies on the hiking trail. Like the opening number of La La Land, it’s Another Day of Sun.
As an exclusive enclave of oceanside mansions and uber-mountain homes, Malibu is a town of 13,000, home to Easy Rider’s Jack Nicholson and to America’s favorite berry, Halle Berry. Taking a left on Bonsall Drive at Zuma Beach, we have trailhead parking for thirty at Zuma Canyon.
On an immediately obvious single track trail, we have lush green leafy plants guiding us into the canyon. The black skeletal remains of oaks and sycamores bear testament to the destructive Woolsey Fire. Followed by winter rains in 2019, the landscape is alive with fresh branches sprouting from the riverbed trees as well as there are bushes in full bloom, all regenerating in one year’s time. By the way, the fire began in Woolsey Canyon inland from Malibu.
Billed as a hike of 2.8 miles round trip, the trail is well-marked until it leads us across the dry riverbed. The parched stretch of rock and stone reminds us of what we would see hiking in the Arizona desert. Knowing that we are going up the canyon, we don’t find it difficult to cross the dry creek bed and find the trail on opposite side.
After about a mile the trail peters out. Gone girl. We can only guess where it once was. Bushwhacking along the creek going from one side to another, we learn from another hiker that there was once a lake at creek’s end. Today, there is a meandering mini-creek through the boulders of the now narrowing canyon.
Knowing we cannot lose our way, we enjoy the rock scrambling and stepping in and around the mountain creek.
Returning for the trailhead, we take to the Zuma Loop high above the creek bed with a panorama of the dry arroyo that yells Arizona from the mountain tops. In less than two hours, we are back at the trailhead and ready…
… to feast on our Subway subs with potato chips for lunch at Zuma Beach.