A pair of state parks have turned the land around Malibu Creek into a haven for hikers and history buffs.
Fifteen miles of trails take you into rugged back country that's a paradise for wildlife in the Santa Monica Mountains. One path in Malibu Creek State Park, formerly the 20th Century Fox movie ranch, leads to the film site of the "MASH" TV series.
Down at the seashore where the creek runs into the ocean, birds have found sanctuary at Malibu Lagoon State Beach. It's also a repository for artifacts, now on display in the Adamson Beach Home, a national historic site.
You're invited to tour the 10-room Spanish-Moorish house and spend time in its multicar garage that's been turned into the Malibu Lagoon Museum. Visitors learn about Chumash Indian times, the rancho era, the arrival of the railroad and the coast highway and the establishment of the Malibu movie colony.
Name Spelled Backward
The regal home belonged to Rhoda Adamson, who founded a Los Angeles dairy and spelled her first name backward to name it Adohr Farms. Her house is renowned for its one-of-a-kind decorative tiles made at Malibu Potteries in the late 1920s.
To recall Rancho Malibu's early days and explore the seaside and mountain parks, drive west from Los Angeles on Interstate 10 to Santa Monica and exit north onto California 1/Pacific Coast Highway.
Continue along the ocean past Malibu Pier, then turn left at the traffic light at Cross Creek Road to the entrance and parking area for Malibu Lagoon State Beach.
Entry is $3 per car on winter weekends when the lot is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; on weekdays, park outside and walk in.
It's for the Birds
In recent years the lagoon was dredged of debris and its shores replanted with vegetation to attract resident and migratory birds. Since then more than 250 species have been seen, including marbled godwits, killdeer, cormorants and blue herons.
Marked pathways cross bridges to sites for bird watching and also lead to the public beach at Malibu Point. Park signs describe the lagoon's bird and plant life, as well as the history of surfing along the state beach. There are picnic tables, too.
By reservation you can visit the Adamson house and museum across the lagoon. Go back on Pacific Coast Highway and just beyond the bridge, look right for another entrance to Malibu Lagoon State Beach and the museum.
This coastal place is called Vaquero Hill, named for the cowboys who bedded down there while running cattle on Rancho Malibu in the 1800s. Up to 50 persons can join free 90-minute tours that begin there Saturdays at 9:30 a.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Call 456-8432. Donations are welcome.
Bottle Glass Windows
Tours enter the furnished home through an archway of marble and colorful Malibu ceramic tiles. The entry door is hand-carved teak with bottle glass windows. Inside a highlight is the tile floor that resembles a Persian rug with fringed border.
After seeing the house, gardens and beachfront swimming pool, the docent-led tours end in the museum where photos, documents and mementos bring more Malibu history to life. You'll learn about Rhoda Adamson's mother, May Rindge, who built the Castle on the Hill, an area landmark that's now the Serra Retreat.
Before following Malibu Creek into the mountains, pack a picnic or pause for lunch. Along PCH is Alice's restaurant at Malibu Pier, and Don the Beachcomber. Or try Baja Cantina, the Godmother or other eateries in the pleasant shopping complexes on Cross Creek Road.
Head west on the coast highway to Malibu Canyon Road, then turn right past the Malibu campus of Pepperdine University and ascend through the fire-blackened gorge into the Santa Monica Mountains.
Continue straight on Las Virgenes Road (not Las Virgenes Canyon Road) to the left-side entrance to Malibu Creek State Park. It's open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Day use entry is $2 per car; no dogs permitted.
Much of the virgin land that makes up this 6,000 acres was formerly owned by Ronald Reagan, Bob Hope and 20th Century Fox Studios. The scenic terrain still serves as a background for film makers, and you're welcome to watch the action.
Rangers at the entrance station can tell you if a movie company is shooting in the park. Most everywhere you go will be on foot, because most park roads are closed to vehicles.
If you want to reach the former set of "MASH," it's a 2 1/2-mile hike from the parking lot. Only a burned-out Jeep and ambulance remain after a brush fire swept the location in 1982.
A shorter one-mile walk takes you to the park visitor center, a mini-museum with movie memorabilia as well as natural history, geological and Indian displays. Hours are 1 to 4 p.m. weekends and holidays only. Information: (818) 706-1310.
Trout for Fishermen
Keep an eye out for bird and animal life along the way. Beyond is Century Lake, stocked with trout that find their way into Malibu Creek and attract fishermen.
To see more of the area by car, continue north on Las Virgenes Road and turn left (west) on Mulholland Highway. After three miles, turn right on Cornell Road and look left for a sign to Paramount Ranch, now part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
Hollywood has used this setting for hundreds of movies, and you can stroll through a mock Western town. TV shows and commercials are still made there. Tours of the ranch and Western set, as well as nature walks, are held on some weekends.
Call (818) 888-3770 weekdays for details. Paramount Ranch is open daily from dawn to dusk without charge.
Continue north on Cornell Road, then go right on Kanan Road to join the Ventura Freeway (U.S. 101) back to Los Angeles.
Round trip from Los Angeles for hiking and history in the Santa Monica Mountains and at the Malibu seashore is 79 miles.
Readers are advised to confirm the hours of attractions, restaurants, etc., before embarking on any trip.