Phantom Trail Hike From Mulholland

phantom trail view south

View from above Phantom Trail trailhead, south over Malibu Creek State Park

Spring is such a wonderful time to go hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains. It had been a while since I took myself on a good long hike, so yesterday I chose to return to a pretty section of trail that I went to once a few years ago: the Phantom Trail starting at Mulholland and heading north.

IMG_5265

For an easily accessed trail that takes you away from the world, this is a really good choice. You can also get there from the south end of Liberty Canyon – just park on the road and trek in, passing through a wide meadow and veering off to the right to connect with the Phantom Trail. But I’ve been on that section of Liberty Canyon several times (it’s my go-to for a quick escape) and I wanted to try the other approach.

Parking for Phantom Mulholland

Park at a wide spot in the road on the south side of Mulholland just under 2 miles west of Las Virgenes. The trailhead is on the north side of the street. Switchbacks take you up the shaded hillside – maintenance has just been done and there was freshly cut green brush on the sides of trail – and get you quickly up above Mulholland with a nice view of your car.

IMG_5343

The trail heads north with some mildly challenging climbs but they are short and not too rocky. The main trail winds around to the side of the steepest climbs but you can choose to take the hard way up – and get the better views.

IMG_5272

Other portions of the trail are pretty overgrown – they are absolutely beautiful and beckoning but make sure you do a tick check when you’re done with your hike.

IMG_5268

Right now the wildflowers are in bloom and in the sections where the trail dips into little valleys, mature mustard plants light the way for you like beacons on a runway. Yellow daisies (actually it’s a common sunflower – who knew?), mariposa lilies, and of course poppies and plenty of others light up the hillsides everywhere you look.

IMG_5256Mustard flower runway

IMG_5280

IMG_5303Common sunflower

IMG_5330

IMG_5328

IMG_5335Mariposa lily

I hiked north up the Phantom Trail and turned west in the meadow where if you go straight you go up into Liberty Canyon. Along the ridge to the west you dip into more colorful little valleys and then up at the crest there are amazing views of the mountains beyond.

IMG_5293

IMG_5310

I think this is Ladyface but I’m really bad at identifying these peaks. Could be Ballard Mountain too. Anyone know?

I hiked in for about 2 hours, stopping a few times to find geocaches or to take pictures or to nurse my eye (bending down to pick something up a random stick stabbed me in the eyeball. Fortunately I think it will be fine.). I decided to turn around when I came to this steep downhill stretch:

IMG_5318

Even though I am perfectly capable of this short descent, I didn’t want to push my luck. Had to be safe and sound and back to pick up the kids from school. So, I took the road less likely to lead to injury alone in the wilderness – I went back the way I came. Without stopping, it took me an hour to return to the trailhead.

IMG_5309

Cairn says you’re going the right way

I measured the distance on Google Maps and it looks like in total I hiked less than 4 miles! But it felt like a lot more! I didn’t see one other human on the trail the entire time I was out there. It was a really nice break from my busy life – nobody out there but me, the lizards, birds, and bugs.

(Side note – my friend Andrea just published a post about hiking and included some pictures of me geocaching. A little dorky but her post has great pix of Griffith Park and I love to spread the love of hiking!)