Trip Log: Malibu Creek Death March


Welcome to a brand new feature on Year Of The Scout that you may come to know as Shawnté’s Ridiculous Trip Reports Written In Pursuit Of Earning The Explorer Badge:

#1. Go on five all-day exploration trips under proper leadership, using three or more different types of transportation.

#7. Help keep a log of at least one of your trips. This may include sketch maps, photographs, sketches, diary, or collections of interesting things found along the way.

Since I’m a grown woman, I’m going to assume that I can be my own proper leader and that in lieu of a paper log, this (web)log will suffice. Onward!


Trip: Malibu Creek Death March

Mileage: 14.5  // Time: 7 hours with breaks

Hiking Party: Shawnté, Co-Scout, The Dane, Warden, and The Pilgrim

Upon learning that one of my friends (“The Pilgrim”) is preparing to walk the historic Camino De Santiago trail in Spain, I offered to hike with her and suggested one of my favorite long-mileage trips in the Santa Monica Mountains – a sweaty 14.5-mile circumnavigation of Malibu Creek State Park that I affectionately refer to as the Malibu Creek Death March (see elevation profile above). Surprisingly, she agreed.

I wrangled my Co-Scout and her husband (“The Dane”), along with my friend/bandmate (“Warden”) and instructed them to pack 3 liters of water, ample food, plenty of sunblock, and lots of layers, then crammed them all into my Honda Civic (“Maxine,” since we’re handing out jaunty nicknames) and burned asphalt to beautiful Malibu Creek State Park.

We parked and walked to the group campground, hopping on the unpopulated Tapia Spur Trail. For 1.2 gloriously easy miles, we ambled along, discussing The Pilgrim’s origin story and The Dane’s laser eye surgery, among other Important Trail Talk. From there, we slipped into tiny Tapia Park, popping out the other end at Las Virgenes Road, then played a quick round of Frogger across traffic, pausing at the Backbone trailhead to reapply sunscreen and mentally prepare for the steep, relentless fire road agony ahead. Sweat was low; spirits were high.

Then we walked uphill. A lot. Like, forever. The Dane blazed ahead, fueled by a seemingly inexhaustible supply of Nevertired, leaving the four of us to chat and suck wind, suck wind and chat. We did this for two miles, until The Dane finally voiced what we were all thinking, “I’m kind of done with this uphill.” You and me both, buddy. 

Salvation arrived at just around the 5-mile mark in the form of a well-placed picnic table:


Right after I took this picture, a wasp-hornet-thing flew straight into the half-inch opening in my bag of trail mix, causing me to completely overreact by whipping said bag across the dusty plateau, sending Trader Joe’s very best flying through the air. The Dane valiantly shooed off the winged beast, allowing me to stop imagining what it would feel like to be stung in my tender mouthflesh.

The Backbone Trail segment had a few more uphill treats in store, but after about 2.5 more miles of sweat-soaked suckfest, we reached a series of rock formations and caves and hunkered down with a pile of warm, melty stuff loosely referred to as “lunch.” It was our time to relax, to be at peace, to…

…listen to someone play steel drums.


I believe The Dane was none too sad when we hiked away from the Malibu Creek Rasta Hoedown. I assured the group that after one last mile of incessant leg torture, we’d reach the intersection with the Bulldog Motorway and would begin our descent. If you ever decide to hike this trail, this is what you’ll see when you reach this blessed trail junction:


Hallelujah! Rocky heaven on high! My quads quaked with gratitude (and exhaustion).

Downhill presents its own set of challenges, of course, so I encouraged The Pilgrim to try out my hiking poles, which she did with equal measures focus, intensity, and stoicism. We stepped, strode, and slipped ever downward, sweating bullets and discovering brand new forms of silliness. We also saw a horse, which startled the living daylights out of me, although I did encourage Co-Scout to “Go talk to that horse!” since she’s working on her Horsewoman Badge.


Just over 12 miles in, we reached a clearing that houses remnants from the old TV show M*A*S*H. Running on fumes, we meandered around, trying to avoid contracting tetanus.


We then planted ourselves at a picnic table where we sucked down the last of our water, replenished our depleted calorie banks, and in our collective delirium – with The Dane as judge and jury – began compiling a list of homonyms (i.e. words that are spelled and pronounced the same, but mean completely unrelated things, like “mole”). We liked this game so much that we spent our last 2 or so miles of trail coming up with homonyms. In fact, we now have a new band called 2 Miles Of Homonyms – here is our band portrait:


The Pilgrim is not amused.

About seven hours after we started, we caught sight of Maxine, glimmering in the late afternoon sun. We stretched and sagged, but mostly smiled and laughed, reflecting on what turned out to be an incredibly awesome day on the Malibu Creek Death March. Mission accomplished!


  1. […] there was the Malibu Creek Death March, followed by a taste-testing of Joshua Tree National Park. Then, because I am a complete sucker […]

  2. Great hike in a beautiful place. If you go back to Malibu Creek, check out the Forest Trail on the west side of Century Lake. They planted a bunch of coast redwoods along the lake, which have gotten pretty big. The rest of the woods there and cool and dense. Nice spots along the lake to sit and space out.

  3. Thanks for the tip – as many times as I’ve been to Malibu Creek SP, haven’t taken that specific trail and had no idea there were coastal redwoods there – will definitely check it out!

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