Conditional Hiking Los Liones Trail to Parker Mesa

  • Apr 13, 2013 · 7:30 AM

Level: Beginner Intermediate


I did this hike last year and it was terrific!


Yes the distance is a bit long but it's a fun hike and you will definitely get a nice workout.


A 7.3 mile hike from the Pacific Palisades to a popular overlook in Topanga State Park. The first part of this hike – the Los Liones Trail – is one of the most lush riparian canyons I’ve seen in the Santa Monica Mountains. It’s gently graded, moderately shady, and definitely worth a look even if you have to fight crowds. Afterward, the trail meets up with the system of fire roads in Topanga State Park, and makes a relentless ascent to Parker Mesa (1525ft).


On a clear day, you’ll get amazing views of the Santa Monica Bay, and often inland as far as the San Bernardino Mountains.


The Basics:

- Distance: 7.28 miles
- Elevation Gain: 1292 feet
- Time: About 3-4 hours
- Trail Condition: Excellent. Most of Topanga State Park consists of wide fire roads with the occasional firebreak spur. All trails are clearly marked, and most have distance markers at major junctions. The Los Liones Trail is one of the most beautiful single-track trails I’ve seen in the Santa Monica Mountains.
- How To get There: From the Pacific Coast Highway, turn east onto Sunset Blvd. and left onto Los Liones Drive after 0.3 miles (the turn comes up quick, and it’s not a major intersection – so be careful!). The trailhead is clearly marked about 0.6 miles down Los Liones Drive, just before it makes a sharp turn to the west. There are several parking areas closer to Sunset Blvd, which have a short trail connecting them to the Los Liones Trail. You do not need to pay to park on the street inside Topanga State Park here.


The Notables:

- Easy access for West LA, Santa Monica, and the Pacific Palisades
- Beautiful, lush canyon in Los Liones Trail and a decent elevation gain workout on the fire roads
- Great views of the Pacific Coast and far inland on clear days


Parker Mesa is a popular overlook of the Pacific Coast in Topanga State Park, but most people reach it on fire roads from the Park’s western entrance. For a much better look at the varied landscapes inside Topanga State Park – and for a much more intense workout – this southern approach is a more interesting route.

The Los Liones Trail starts on Los Liones Drive in the Pacific Palisades at a clearly marked gate. This is a popular trail, but there’s plenty of free street parking, as well as two spillover lots near picnic areas and restrooms.


The Los Liones Trail starts out inconspicuously enough, looking like just about any other coastal Southern California trail – but as the single-track route winds its way over several short hills and and through the scrub, it starts to take on a character all its own.



Eventually, the trail gets shadier and incredibly lush. At parts, the entire canyon floor is covered in a carpet of ivy – it looks almost like kudzu – and I bet it’s an amazing place to hike during the spring blooms.




The Los Liones Trail continues for 1.3 miles, gradually opening up to a small viewpoint at the junction with the East Topanga Fire Road.


From here, you’ll probably be able to get some great views of the Santa Monica Bay, and perhaps even inland toward downtown, depending on the air quality.

Keep left at the junction to continue on the Fire Road, which now begins a long and seemingly arduous incline as it meanders north through the State Park. The gain is steady and steep in parts, but it’s manageable – about 600 feet in the next mile – and there are plenty of great views to go around.



This is the bulk of the trail, and since the terrain isn’t as varied as it was on the Los Liones Trail, it can seem a bit monotonous. If you want to add a bit of variety (and make the trail more strenuous), most of the small peaks and bumps do have use trails that march across the summits instead of avoiding them like the fire road.

Continue on the fire road until you reach a three-way junction at about 3.2 miles. Take the clearly marked fire road to Parker Mesa for another half mile as it heads west along a ridge. There are a few ups and downs here, but nothing too bad. You’ll also have some great views into the parks more rugged interior, but the main draw are the sights from Parker Mesa itself.

While the Mesa can seem crowded at times, you’ll always have something to look at in the distance. On this day, I could see from Santa Barbara Island all the way to the distant San Bernardinos. The day after a rain, the views would probably be even better.

When you’re done resting and soaking in the views, return back the way you came.






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  • Lisa K

    Mr Organizer, you probably can't or won't, but any of these "beginner intermediate"hikes in the afternoon would be awesome. Some of your members are fat and need "conditioning". o.o

    April 13, 2013

    • Jay

      I really do prefer early morning hikes. Parking is much easier and it's less crowded. On top of that, the weather is much cooler. Since we finish earlier, you can go back to bed afterwards!

      1 · April 15, 2013

    • Lisa K

      :( I could only attend early hikes if I stayed up all night or had a human alarm clock. Hiking in the heat is not so fun so I understand mornings are better. =/

      April 15, 2013

  • kevin

    Thank u to Jay for organizing the hike.

    April 13, 2013

    • Jay

      Thanks again Kevin for coming out so far away to join us!

      April 15, 2013

  • Christine

    Nancy: can you post or send me your cell #? We are waiting for you, 15min. How far are you?? Please send me your contact.

    April 13, 2013

  • Jay

    This will be an early morning, quick in and out workout. We will start promptly to finish early. So please don't be late! And I suggest you pack some food and snacks since there's a great picnic spot with a terrific panoramic view overlooking the ocean!

    April 10, 2013

    • Jay

      But your friend may want to check if dogs are allowed there.

      April 10, 2013

    • Jay

      Can't they just leave the dog at home for a short time? And by the way, nice catch on that photo. lol

      April 11, 2013

  • Kim P.

    Thanks Jay for scheduled the day which I can't make it =(.

    April 8, 2013

    • Jay

      Are you joining us Christine?

      April 9, 2013

    • Christine


      April 10, 2013

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