If you’re in need of a quick, family-friendly hike with great lookouts along the way, try Inspiration Loop Trail in Will Rogers State Historic Park. The 2.1-mile loop climbs a mere 324 feet along a wide, smooth path, but don’t let the easy incline fool you. You’ll be treated to panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, Topanga Mountains, and Downtown Los Angeles, as well as a birds-eye view of the unique architecture in Rustic Canyon.
- Trail type: Loop
- Difficulty: Easy
- Length: 2.1 miles
- Elevation gain and loss: 324 feet, -324 feet
- Trailhead Coordinates: 34.05474, -118.51297
- Location: Will Rogers Historic State Park
- Season: Year round
Getting to Inspiration Trail Loop
From CA-1 (PCH), turn on to Chautauqua Boulevard and continue for 1 mile. Take a slight right onto Sunset Boulevard and continue for 0.5 miles. Turn left onto Will Rogers State Park Road and keep straight until you reach the parking lot.
From I-405, take the exit for Sunset Boulevard and drive for 4.5 miles. Turn right onto Will Rogers State Park Road and keep straight until you reach the parking lot.
The parking lot gates open at 7:30 am on weekdays and 8:00 am on weekends and close at sunset every day. Parking is $3/hour, up to $12. If you want to avoid the fees or just get an early start, there is street parking on Will Rogers State Park Road 0.2 miles from the parking lot entrance.
To reach the trail entrance, walk up the slope at the eastern end of the parking lot, marked with a sign. Bear right and walk behind the visitor services offices and the historic ranch house until you reach a small staircase. Go up the stairs, turn left, and you’ll see the trailhead marker on your right.
If you want to take a steeper shortcut from the parking lot, bear left at the slope and walk up the Backbone Trail for 0.1 miles until you meet up with Inspiration Loop Trail, then turn left to keep going up the trail.
Will Rogers State Historic Park is the former estate of the actor Will Rogers, located in the Pacific Palisades area of the Santa Monica Mountains. His ranch house is preserved for tours and is surrounded by stables, corrals, a riding ring, and a polo ground. The property covers 186 acres and has several trails for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking.
You get your first ocean views less than 0.2 miles into the hike, and there’s a bench near the first bend where you can stop and appreciate the landscape. The trail continues west toward the ocean before curving inland, giving you a view down to the tree-lined canyon below.
The path is wide and easy to follow, and it’s hard-packed enough that you can bring a stroller or use a wheelchair along the trail.
Because the trail is highly trafficked, you’re not likely to see any large animals while you’re hiking. However, the Santa Monica Mountains are home to more than 380 species of birds, so you might catch sight of red-shouldered hawks, Western scrub jays, or winter wrens, just to name a few.
The wide variety of plant life attracts many native insects, and colorful butterflies like swallowtails, monarchs, and orange sulphurs float along the trail. You’re also likely to see the ever-present Western fence lizards sunning themselves on the warm dirt.
About halfway through the loop, you’ll come to a trail junction marked with a sign. Bear to the right to go up to Inspiration Point.
Once you reach the top, you’ll have 360° views of the ocean, mountains, and city. There are several benches facing in different directions, as well as picnic tables and a trash can, so it’s a great place to have a snack and enjoy the landscape.
Once you come down from Inspiration Point, you can either head back the way you came or bear left at the junction to finish the loop trail. The trail continues deeper into the hills with a slight downgrade, and you’ll pass junctions for the Backbone Trail and Bone Canyon Trail. Keep on the main path to stay on the Inspiration Loop Trail.
The trail continues at a gentle decline, taking you through the chaparral until you’re near the main buildings. Keep going on the eucalyptus-lined path until you see the barn, and you’ll have finished the loop.
The trail is accessible year-round, but because there isn’t any high shade it gets very hot in the summer. Since you’ll be in direct sun if it’s not overcast, be sure to bring a hat and sunscreen. The trail does get breezy, especially on the ocean side, so a light jacket or long sleeve shirt also comes in handy.
Inspiration Loop Trail is perfect for a quick hike that isn’t too challenging, and the frequent stops and benches along the way make it especially great if you’re hiking with children. Dogs are allowed on-leash, so the trail is accessible for the whole family, Fido included. The trail does get crowded on weekends, so plan on a mid-week visit if you want a quieter hike.