Nicholas Flat Trail – Leo Carrillo State Park

Location: Leo Carrillo State Park
Elevation Gain: 1800 feet
Mileage: 7.5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Type: Out and back

Nicholas Flat Trail is located just across Leo Carrillo State Park. The area offers easy to moderate hiking, a small pond and views of Malibu and the Pacific Ocean. 45 minutes away from Santa Monica, 30 minutes away from the Valley. You could go across the street right after your hike and jump in the ocean of course according to weather, but we have perfect weather here in Southern California!


Leo Carrillo State Park is only a 30 minute drive from Santa Monica.


From the south (Santa Monica) take 10 West to PCH (CA-1 North). Once on PCH drive 27.3 miles. The park will be on your right after the Decker Road (hwy 23) intersection. You will know you have driven past the park if you hit Mulholland.
From the valley, take Kanan Rd. exit off hwy 101. Take Kanan Rd. south for 6.5 miles. Turn right onto Mulholland and drive 0.9 miles until taking the fork to the left onto Encinal Canyon Rd. Drive 8.5 miles to PCH and turn right. drive 3 miles and the park will be on your right.

There is $14 parking across the street at Leo Carrillo State Park. If you do not want to pay that price, there is parking along PCH for free. Careful to read signs before you leave your car for a few hours. I would recommend going a bit earlier as parking is very scarce even at 8 in the morning.

Nicholas Flat Trailhead is a little bit past the entry kiosk.

Nicholas Flat Network

Recommended Gear

Nothing new, we wanted to get out of the city again but just a quick close by hike! This hike is nearly 45 minutes away from where we live, therefor thought it would be a cool new trail to explore. Luckily we did some reading before and headed there right before 7am and fairly close parking spot. We must of been the 10th person or so to park. We had been doing hikes that were a little easier, so we decided to find a bit more challenging one with a little more elevation gain and mileage.

The beginning of the hike starts a little bit past the entrance to the park. There are restrooms and water available at the campground just after the kiosk station and before the trailhead. The trailhead to look for at the beginning is Camp 13 and a short distance later there will be a junction with signs for Nicholas Flat Trail and Willow Creek Trail. This is a very popular hike to do a loop around as these two trail join up again later in the hike.

We took Nicholas Flat Trail heading a little bit towards the north. The trail almost immediately climbs quite steeply. The higher we got in elevation, the more we climbed, the better the views got (although for us it was a very misty morning in April and we didn’t know this until we were on our way back down after the sky cleared up).

The 1,800 feet elevation wasn’t the most gradual, but we finally reached more of an open area where we went steadily looking for Nicholas Pond. This area is a great place to have lunch or a small picnic before heading back down. I was expecting the pond to be empty

We went back to the top and with a view of the hills below had lunch there and headed down as the sun beat down on us. The way down was eventful as we passed many hikers coming up (we were alone in the morning) and the views became more and more clear. Since it was spring, the wildflowers were blooming.

Note to self: wear pants next time because of ticks! Nothing happened to us though, just a precaution.

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