Malibu Creek State Park — Bulldog 25K Loop

No Name 5030 Training

The entrance to Malibu Creek State Park off of Las Virgenes Rd.

Distance: 15 Miles | 25KM

Elevation Gain: 3400 feet

Difficulty: Hard (Strenous if you complete the loop twice as you would for Bulldog 50K)

Trailhead Address: CLICK HERE

Parking: $12


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This is the main trailhead to the park, otherwise known as Crags Rd. This is where the route begins. Look for it directly in front of the restrooms and picnic area in the park’s main parking lot.

Yesterday, I ran the Bulldog 25K loop through Malibu Creek State Park with my best friend, girlfriend, and training partner, Daisy Martinez.

We began at approximately 8:30 AM after having a very fueling breakfast which consisted of a PB&J with banana, some potato chips, a rice roll and plenty of water.

I’ll start off by saying that this is a very hard loop, which makes it infamous amongst Southern California trail runners for the challenge it poses. Complete the loop twice and you’ll have completed the Bulldog 50K course.

Starting off, Daisy and I saw quite a lot of people already on the trails making their way to the very famous M*A*S*H site and other attractions.

This crew of four made their way into the park fully geared to do some rock climbing in the park’s canyons.
It was great to see people of various ages out enjoying the park.

The first 3 miles of the route are what I consider the warm up. They are mostly flat, with gentle rollers with the exception of the incline at mile 1.

Daisy climbing the hill at mile 1. Sometimes as I’m climbing hills, I close my eyes for a few seconds to visualize myself at the top. I think this is what Daisy may have been going for here as she carries herself up with a big beautiful smile on her face.
Chasing Daisy as she runs fast through the single track that starts past the bridge at approximately 1.5 miles. I think her competitive spirit kicked in as she tried to catch up to the runner in front of her.

At approximately 2.4 miles (more or less) you reach the M*A*S*H site, where the show was filmed. This is a huge tourist attraction, and one of the main reasons people visit the park.

The trailhead for Bulldog Rd. This is where the magic happens.

At 3 miles, you reach Bulldog Road. This is where the “fun” starts. Get your climbing legs ready!

For the next 3.4 miles, you climb steep, but luckily non-technical terrain. Bulldog Rd is very physically challenging, but it is very run-able through many of its rolling hills.

Daisy ran approximately 3/4 of a mile up Bulldog with a smile on here face! She then decided power hiking would be the method of climbing the mountain.
I don’t know anyone who can run the entire length of Bulldog all of the way up, though it’s not impossible. Just keep one foot in front of the other, and POWER hike. Each time I do this loop I try to gauge my improvement by how much more of it I run up than the last time.
Luckily there are some downhill sections on Bulldog, so you’ll have the opportunity to stretch your legs and run a little. They are short lived so just enjoy them and save your energy.
Bulldog is forgiving in the sense that there are some shaded parts. Not that many though but they give you some relief from the burning sun.
It was an incredible feeling seeing so many other strong trail runners running Bulldog.

6.4 miles later we finally reached Castro Peak!

After the tough Bulldog climb, both Daisy and I were notably grumpy and exhausted.
We refueled with protein cookies, coconut water, and potato chips and felt great again! Daisy felt much more confident from this point on.

We decided not to spend too much time at Castro Peak after refueling, and quickly got back on the trail!

After leaving Castro Peak, we made our way back down the trail for about a mile to Mesa Peak. This mile of downhill is very fun!

Mesa Peak has lots of beautiful rock formations and caves to explore. Unfortunately, recent visitors have not treated the caves well and they have been closed until further notice.
The trail leads through huge Sandstone rocks. This particular section is really fast, but very slippery! Watch your footing!
This was Daisy’s favorite section of trail. She was all smiles! 🙃

There is lots of climbing still to be done from Mesa Peak to mile 10, but once you reach mile 10 you’re rewarded with fast downhill! In the past I’ve been able to run 7 minute splits from mile 10 to 12.

The start of the downhill at mile 10. Daisy leading the way. She’s a very strong downhill runner.
My favorite views of the whole loop are right about mile 11 when the surrounding mountain ranges come into view. At this point we were getting closer and closer to the Backbone trail connector.
Daisy had a huge lead on me the entire downhill.
I finally caught up to Daisy as we approached the Backbone connector.

At mile 12, you’ll reach the Backbone Trail connector which comes up on the right. It’s a narrow single track that’s easy to miss if you’re not paying attention! You’ll do a little bit of climbing to get this view of the park.

When you reach this view, you’ll be roughly 2.5 miles from completing the loop. I hope you’ve saved some energy!

Tapia Park

At mile 13, you’ll reach Tapia Park and hop on the Tapia Sur trail which will lead you back into Malibu Creek. You have two miles to go, but these two miles are very demanding. For elite trail runners, this is where races are either won or lost. The last climb through Tapia Park seems to be never ending, and is my least favorite part of the loop, but power through it and finish strong.

Daisy shuffling up the Tapia Sur single track.

The finish

When you reach mile 14, the Tapia Sur trail will finally start guiding you back down into Malibu Creek. If you’ve made it this far, dig deep and pull out the strength to run it in! You’ll feel incredibly accomplished that you did!

Another strong trail runner we met while coming down the home stretch. She is training for the Bulldog 50K coming up.
I didn’t get any additional pictures at the end of the run, but here’s a big happy selfie of me at Castro!

Notes regarding the run:

  • Nutrition is key! Make sure that you have plenty of easily digestible calories to take in throughout the run. You’ll need the energy that these calories will provide you!
  • Hydration is also key! Make sure to pack plenty of water and electrolytes to last you the duration of the run. I always pack more water than I think I need, and take Salt Sticks every 3–4 miles.
  • Wear plenty of sunscreen or breathable layers to protect your skin. The trail is mostly shadeless as with most trails in the Santa Monica Mountains.
  • Remain patient and self motivated. The loop is hard but very fun, and offers some of the best views in the LA area. Remind yourself that you are strong, and keep moving forward!

Snapshot of the route as shown on the RunGo app.

Snapshot of the description and elevation chart from the RunGo app. 12 miles is the distance away from my home to the trailhead, the distance will vary depending on where you are located.

Thanks for reading! Now go out and tackle this trail!