Deep in the Santa Monica Mountains the grotto is a fun but short hike to an amazing boulder-filled canyon where an elliptical cave sits. A stream in these mountains called the west-fork of the Arroyo Sequit filters into the grotto creating a shrine-like pool of water at The Grotto’s entrance. A short 3 mile hike with 450 feet of elevation gain will complete the hike to The Grotto and back.
Begin the hike by parking at the Circle X Ranch Visitor Center located at: 12896 Yerba Buena Road, Malibu, CA 90265, or use these coordinates: 34.109292, -118.937438
Time: 2 hours (enough to explore the grotto)
Distance: 3 miles
Elevation Gain: 450ft
Dogs Allowed: Yes, until the trail disappears and goes down to the grotto
Shaded: Party, but Fully in the canyon bottom
After parking, follow the signs and descend down a campground access road to the trail. Much of this trail to the last stretch of the hike is kid-friendly.
The large access road will make a few bends, but some well posted signs will keep you on the right path as the single-track trail comes into view.
As you hike this trail you may immediately spot some poison oak to your right. During this season (fall) the poison oak takes on a reddish hue and can be easily spotted. As long as you don’t stray from the path, it should be easy enough to avoid the plant.
The trail bobs in and out of the shade as it follows a ridge down to the canyon bottom. The trail is somewhat hilly until the decent begins but nothing too difficult. The more difficult part awaits as the hiker will have to climb back up the trail after viewing the grotto. Continue down the path down into the canyon with some excellent views of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Monica Mountains.
At this point the decent of 450 feet will begin, until reaching the grotto. The canyon bottom is a beautiful reward after this hearty decent.
Follow the trail farther down the canyon until you see this field of boulders.
This is where dogs are not allowed past, the somewhat treacherous boulders have to be navigated down to canyon bottom where The Grotto awaits. Half past this boulder field a huge cave like structure can be explored but is a 10-foot drop down a precarious cliff. Make the easy decent down the right side of the boulder field down to The Grotto.
Inside the grotto is knee deep water and during the spring a seasonal waterfall would be seen falling from the left of the huge boulder. Hang out here for a good minute, the cave really sets a tone and the area surrounding is quite beautiful.
From here it’s worth it to hike a little farther to view the rest of the canyon, but only for a few minutes or so. It becomes so filled with brush and trees, which becomes quite uncomfortable to hike. Turn back to complete the journey. The hike back is more difficult than the hike in so if needed take your time making the trip back to your car. Views of the mountains will (hopefully) lead to some inspiration. Enjoy!