Solstice Canyon Falls (also called Roberts Ranch Falls) is a tiny 30ft waterfall in the coastal Santa Monica Mountains.
This was one of the easier waterfalls to visit. It was so easy, in fact, that we had enough confidence to bring our daughter here multiple times (once as early as three or four months old). I think the most challenging thing about it might be trying to find a parking spot, especially if you got a late start on the weekend (like we did on our last few visits).
Julie and I have done this hike at least four times, but there was a gap of about 7 or 8 years between our most recent visits and our very first time here, I believe.
We say this was one of the easier hikes even though it involved walking around 2 miles round-trip from the official car park (though you might have to add an additional half-mile or so each way if you have to park in one of the overflow spaces or pullouts). That's because most of the walk was flat and on pavement. The hikes felt really more like a stroll, and that allowed us to pay attention to the surroundings, where we got a sense of the tug-of-war Mother Nature has with developers and homeowners.
There was evidence of fires that had run through this canyon in the past (not unsual in the Santa Monica Mountains), but at the same time, we witnessed expensive homes perched atop the ridges overlooking this canyon. Sometimes we wondered if these homes were going to survive the next fire that would come through here. And in between all that, we managed to see lots of blooming wildflowers on the canyon slopes as well as right besides the mostly paved trail.
At about the half-way point, there was Keller House, which was a hunting abode built of tin and stone (in an attempt to thwart destruction by fire) by Henry Keller. Over the years, even this structure eventually succumbed to fire despite the more fireproof design, and only the supports stood now. A bridge that went straight to the front of the house was closed, but the road/trail swung around a sturdy concrete bridge towards the backside of the house where we took a closer look.
Beyond the Henry Keller hunting house, the trail kind of split up beyond the bridge. At first, we weren't sure if we were going the right way, but we eventually figured out that these trails converged later on so as long as we kept heading in the same general direction upstream, we were fine. The path nearest the stream actually crossed it twice in easy boulder hops. But the leftmost path climbed a bit before descending back to where the trails joined up once again. The latter path was probably where the well-developed almost-concrete path persisted, but it undulated a bit more than the lower path, and I'd imagine it was noticeably longer as well.
At the end of the main trail, we saw what was left of the home of Fred Roberts who once made his fortune off the Roberts Public Market grocery chain (apparently it flourished before our time). The home was designed by an African American architect Paul R. Williams who was directed to put all sorts of fireproof features into the design of the home since Roberts encountered many fires here. But it was ultimately destroyed in 1982 after Roberts' death when the property was no longer maintained.
Right behind the remnants of the home was the Solstice Canyon Falls. Given the proximity of the falls, it made us wonder whether this was like a private waterfall to the Roberts'. The path did get a little rough around the falls so I'm sure you'd have to keep an eye out on the kids who may not be cognizant of the mild drop-off hazard here. Even Julie and I were nervous about carrying our daughter right up to the falls when she was barely four months old.
On the opposite side of the stream, some primitive paths (which were just as rocky and rough) went by some chimney-looking remnant while also affording an unusual view of the falls and the usually busy viewing area down below. We saw people continue higher up the trail, but we had never gone past the falls so we can't say anything more about what would be up there.
The 30ft diminutive waterfall wouldn't impress jaded waterfallers like us, but the well-developed path and infrastructure devoted to this area kind of made us scratch our heads (especially for a place that didn't charge a fee as of Spring 2010 and prior) as to how and why this was the case. That was when we figured out that this trail was probably once a driveway leading to the former home of Fred Roberts (thus possibly explaining why Solstice Canyon Falls was also referred to as Roberts Ranch Falls).
On one of our more recent visits, Julie and I actually took our baby daughter to the falls in a stroller. At the time, this seemed like a pretty straightforward way of introducing our daughter to waterfalling, but we realized the hard way that the stroller we used was probably ill-equipped (as joggers with their bicycle wheels were probably more appropriate). Thus, we might have abused our urban stroller thanks to the presence of mud and some of the rougher parts of the trail. Once we got to the burned Roberts home, we had to leave the stroller behind in order to reach the waterfall. That was where the trail narrowed (with minor dropoffs) while traversing steps.
Finally, something that surprised both Julie and I on a Labor Day visit here in 2012 (which was a very dry year) was that Solstice Canyon Falls was still flowing even this late into the Summer! While the flow wasn't impressive, it did have significant enough flow to be able to tell it was a waterfall, and it also made us wonder whether this could be counted as another one of the few year year-round waterfalls in Southern California!
Solstice Canyon Falls not doing bad even on Labor Day weekend of a drought-stricken 2012
Looking along a trio of chimneys that seemed to be the sturdiest parts of the Roberts Home
One surprising benefit of having to park further up the hill (as the main lot had no chance of parking without drama) was this gorgeous view of the Malibu Coast
On one of our visits here, we parked from almost as far as PCH!
On a different visit, we parked further up the hill as the lower spots were all full
Entrance to Solstice Canyon (with some cars marauding for limited parking space)
Finally at the car park for Solstice Canyon
Wildflowers blooming alongside the paved path in the Spring
Julie on the trail admist some fire-affected vegetation. Notice the home perched high up on the ridge. I have to believe if a fire ran through here, it's a real roll of the dice whether that home makes it or not.
A close-up look at the Keller House about half-way along the Solstice Canyon Trail
The front of what's left of the Roberts Home
Looking back at what's left of the Roberts Home
A smaller 8ft waterfall fronting Solstice Canyon Falls in the distance
The falls flowing well in 2011
Some chimney-looking thing on the opposite side of the stream near the falls
The falls was not in bad shape even in on a Labor Day visit!
Looking down the busy base of the falls from across the stream
Heading back to the trailhead with some nice cliffside scenery under a pretty, clear day
Don't think our stroller was designed to handle this (but I'm not certain this was under normal conditions for it rained the day before)
You can access the trailhead by driving to Malibu along Hwy 1 turning right at Corral Canyon Road (traffic light just north of Malibu Seafood). Malibu is roughly 30 minutes west of Santa Monica (without traffic) or roughly 45 minutes drive west of downtown Los Angeles (again without traffic).
Follow Corral Canyon Road for about 0.2 miles then turn left at the signed turnoff for Solstice Canyon Park. And depending on the parking conditions, you can drive another quarter-mile or so to the car park at the end of the road, or use one of the overflow parking spaces then walk to the official car park to begin the stroll.
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