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Hiking: Santa Monica Mountains

On the Trail of Many Languages

October 02, 1994|JOHN McKINNEY

"Think globally, act locally" could be the motto for builders of the new Solstice International Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains above Malibu.

The self-guided interpretive trail leads hikers along a year-round creek and introduces them to the flora and history of the Santa Monica Mountains. Interpretive pamphlets are available in English, Spanish, Korean, Japanese, Tagalog, Cantonese and Mandarin.

The idea behind the trail, a joint endeavor of the Southern California chapter of the Pacific Asia Travel Assn. and the nonprofit Mountains Conservancy Foundation, is to introduce the local wild lands--what park professionals call "the other L.A."--to visitors and residents from Asian and Pacific Rim countries.

The path itself is a narrow country road--suitable for strollers and wheelchairs--which offers an easy family hike in the shade of grand old oaks and towering sycamores.

Solstice Canyon Park, which opened on the summer solstice of 1988 and came from land privately owned, is enjoyable year-round, but autumn and winter are particularly good times to ramble through the quiet canyon.

In autumn, enjoy the fall color display of the sycamores and in winter, from the park's upper slopes, look for gray whales migrating past Point Dume. Milk thistle, castor bean and other assorted non-native plants were eliminated when the park was built. Picnic areas and a visitor center were added. Now, with the Solstice International Trail, Solstice Canyon Trail has to rank among the top nature parks in the Southland.

Directions to trail head: From Pacific Coast Highway, about 17 miles up the coast from Santa Monica and 3 1/2 miles up-coast from Malibu Canyon Road, turn inland on Corral Canyon Road.

At the first bend in the road you'll leave the road and proceed straight to the very small Solstice Canyon parking lot. Beyond this small lot, the park access road continues to a second, larger lot. There is a $5 park entry fee.

The hike: Stop at the Visitor Center, pick up a trail brochure in the language of your choice, then join signed Solstice International Trail. The brochure, keyed to two dozen numbered posts along the path, describes everything you see en route , from sage to sycamores. About halfway along, you'll pass the 1865 Matthew Keller House and in a few more minutes--Fern Grotto.

The road travels under the shade of oak and sycamore. Palms, agave, bamboo and bird of paradise and many more tropical plants thrive in the garden. A waterfall, fountain and an old dam are some of the other special features found in this paradisiacal setting known as Tropical Terrace.

Across the creek from Tropical Terrace is signed Rising Sun Trail, which climbs a ridge for rewarding canyon and ocean views. The two-mile trail offers an excellent, but more difficult return route to the trail head.

Solstice International Trail Where: Solstice Canyon Park, Santa Monica Mountains. Distance: 3 miles round trip. Terrain: Gentle canyon, year-round creek. Highlights: Best nature trail in the Santa Monica Mountains, complete with interpretive brochure in a half-dozen foreign languages. Degree of Difficulty: Easy. For More Information: Mountain Parks Information; tel. (800) 533-Park.

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