Week 298: Nicholas Flat Nature Preserve Western Malibu

November 26, 2023

 AllTrails Nicholas Flat via Decker School Road, 3.63 mile loop.

Barbara and I drove out to Kanan Road to Mulholland to Decker Road to hike the Nicholas Flat Natural Preserve section of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, the largest urban national park in the US and the world. The morning was clear and we anticipated a pretty, fairly easy hike, we got a beautiful experience filled with surprises, twists, and sections with stunning views of the Pacific from the Channel Islands to Catalina. High in the Santa Monica Mountains, the unassuming trailhead for the Malibu Springs Trail at the side of Decker Road sent us across a field of brush. A bit overgrown, we wondered if this would be another "find the trail" kind of hike, but when we merged onto Nicholas Flat Trail at 0.3 miles everything changed. From that point on, the rock-lined trails were clear and simple to follow, the flora was lovely, and even the burnt-out trees from the 2018 Woolsey fire were coming back to life, some in autumn colors. At 0.7 miles we crossed a bridge then rounded S to brush-lined Nicholas Pond Trail to Nicholas Flats Pond. The spring-fed pond hosted a small flock of black Scoter ducks that entertained us by flapping their wings as they swam, bodies above the water, across the pond. Impressive. Hiking N, we reconnected with Nicholas Flat Trail and then looping S, caught our first view of the Pacific and Leo Carrillo State park below at our 1.6 mile mark. After an "awe" break, we hiked N along Nicholas Ridge Trail to the two highest points on our hike, the first at 2 miles, the second at 2.6 where we took a break. The Nicholas Ridge Trail continued, rising and dropping with occasional peeks at the ocean and islands in the distance, and constant views of the Santa Monica Mountains that surrounded us. We didn't meet or see a soul, human or animal, for the entire hike—unusual, but so utterly pretty and peaceful. We reconnected with Nicholas Ridge Trail at 3 miles and hiked along the edge of the preserve for the last mile-and-a-half-ish back to our starting point. Easy, gorgeous, this hike offered so much, and although we hiked to an elevation of 1,818 feet, the grades going up and down were easy enough. Unfortunately, no dogs allowed, but there were plenty of horse apples! Awesome hike.







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