We had actually taken a hike here once before. It was a hot, humid August afternoon, and while we were equipped with hats, sunscreen, and water bottles, there was only so much walking that was going to get done on that smoldering, end of summer day. Even with a reprieve from the heat in the air conditioned Visitors Center, complete with taxidermed rodents and models of indigenous tribal villages, we still couldn’t see fit to drag ourselves beyond Century Lake, a reservoir of water atop a steep hill.

This time, however, things were different. It was a cool, windy day, lunch was eaten in the car before we started out, and the goal was set: the far end of the main trail, to a place known as the “MASH site.” This seemed to be a goal for a lot of people hiking that day, although for different motivations than us. We had heard that it was a good hike. And indeed it was.

Starting out, the terrain looks pretty typical for the area—rolly hills, willowy trees here and there—that’s about the way it is up until the lake. After the steep, dusty climb to the top of the hill, the backup plan to turn around and go home kicks in. But keep going; it’s worth it. The path slopes downward into a small valley, sheltered on one side by a wall of stratified rock. Being that it’s springtime, the earth is green and buzzing. Orange poppies and other wildflowers dot the meadow grass like confetti.

After crossing a bridge over the creek, the path changes flavor dramatically. It becomes rocky and rough as it follows alongside the water. Interesting stones are strewn about, waiting to be studied. I happened upon a small rock with a clearly discernable clam shell fossil on its surface. This was especially exciting to me as I used to collect rocks and fossils when I was a kid and had always wanted to find a fossil myself. I took a picture of it, but then put it back on the path (for you to find.) There was also rose quartz, volcanic rock, and composite rock. As my daughter declared: “this place is full of wonders.”

The focal point of the trail, where everyone pauses a moment to admire the landscape before heading back, opens out into another valley, this time surrounded by imposing ridges reaching into the sky. Two rusted vehicles, a jeep and an old army ambulance sit along the path, remnants of the t.v. show that was once filmed here. We sat down at the picnic table by the jeep and watched a group of mountain bikers challenge each other to bike up a very steep dirt mound. Another group of hikers settled inside the jeep like little birds and ate their sandwiches. The wind started kicking up sand, so we decided to head back, finding the return hike much faster.

The full hike does require a few hours to do at a comfortable pace. It’s about 4 ½ miles of walking. Driving time really depends on traffic, but should take about 35 minutes from West LA when taking the 10 to the PCH to Malibu Canyon Road (it’s a right turn at Pepperdine.) Folks from the Valley come from the Calabasas side on Las Virgenes Road.