Brief History: 
 
Located in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles, Murphy Ranch is best known for its historical reference to the Nazis and World War II. This 55-acre property was purchased in 1933 by “Jessie M. Murphy” – a name that appears on no other public records. However, by 1938, it was obvious that its true owners were Winona and Norman Stephens, a wealthy American couple with sympathy for National Socialism and Hitler’s New Order in Germany.
The Stephens spent over $4,000,000 ($71,860,000 in 2013 adjusted for inflation) to create a closed off Nazi hide-away, which included a mansion, power plant, and water tank, which can still be found today. These people believed that in the upcoming war, America would be destroyed by the Germans, and after one year, it would be safe to re-emerge into Los Angeles.
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, local police occupied this compound and detained members. The declaration of war on the United States by Nazi Germany led to the demise of the Silver Legion.
In 1948, Huntington Hartford bought the ranch and its adjacent land to build an Artists’ Colony. It operated from 1951-1965, when Hartford stopped its funding. The city of Los Angeles bought the property in 1973 and in 1978, the Mandeville Canyon Brushfire destroyed all burnable structures.
Brief Overview: The Murphy Ranch Los Angeles Hike begins at the residential end of Sullivan Ridge Fire Road. Free street parking is available at the intersection of Capri Drive and Casale Road. After you park, you’ll begin walking left to the Sullivan Ridge Fire Road toward the gate to Topanga State Park. Enter the gate, where you’ll see a beautiful ocean view on the left as you continue up the fire road.

About 2/3 of a mile up the fire road, you’ll find a gap in the chain-link fence on your left. Descend the steep, flight of stairs into the canyon (beware, it’s a steep decline). However, if you miss this set of stairs, there will be another staircase shortly up the road near the abandoned water tower.

Once you hit the bottom of the canyon, continue left on the trail into the canyon. Once the trail loops around to the north, the path will split. Continue to the right. As you venture more into the canyon, you’ll find various ruins of Murphy Ranch – heavily spray painted with graffiti and surrounded by trash. Please note, there’s no “set” path to take; it’s a lot of exploration of your own. Take you time to examine the art, ruins, and take lots of pictures!

As you venture more north into the canyon, you’ll pass the Nazi camp ruins and find an abandoned horse stable. A local biker told us that this was not part of the original Nazi camp. Once you encounter this stable, continue north and you’ll find a path that leads back to Sullivan Trail. At the top of the climb, you’ll find the impressive gate to the Nazi camp.




 
Total Distance (Round-trip): About 3-4 miles, depending on how far you venture into the canyon. However, the hike took us about 2 hours total, because you will spend extra time exploring the ruins, looking at the graffiti, and taking pictures.

This hike was amazing! It was so colorful and full of history! Because a lot of this hike involves exploring the ruins, it doesn’t really feel like a “hike”. This Los Angeles hiking trail begins with a steep descend into the canyon and ends with climbing back out. It’s the perfect place to bring a camera and spend time taking pictures. Allow for 2 hours to complete the hike.
Trail Map

Directions/Address:

From Orange County/San Diego Area:

  • Take the I-5 freeway North
  • Merge onto the 405 North
  • Take the Sunset Blvd exit
  • Turn left onto W Sunset Blvd.
  • Turn right onto N Monaco Dr.
  • Take the 1st left to stay on N Monaco Dr.
  • Enter next roundabout and take the 5th exit onto Capri
  • Turn right onto Casale Rd.
  • Park on the right
 
From North Los Angeles Area:
  • Take the 405 South
  • Take the Sunset Blvd exit
  • Turn right onto W Sunset Blvd.
  • Turn right onto N Monaco Dr.
  • Take the 1st left to stay on N Monaco Dr.
  • Enter next roundabout and take the 5th exit onto Capri
  • Turn right onto Casale Rd.
  • Park on the right

 

Where to Park:  
Free residential parking is available at the intersection of Capri Drive and Casale Road. After you park, you’ll begin walking left to the Sullivan Ridge Fire Road toward the gate to Topanga State Park. Be respectful of city and local parking signs.
When to Go
  • Year-around: This LA hike is short and can be done all year long. However, during the warm summer months, we recommend starting the hike early to avoid heat exhaustion.

How it Looks:  


Trailhead to Murphy Ranch and Rustic Canyon in Los Angeles, CA
Stairs descending down to Murphy Ranch
Stairs to Murphy Ranch

 

Hiker venturing down to Murphy Ranch
Murphy Ranch orchard
Murphy Ranch orchard ruins
Graffiti in Murphy Ranch
Murphy Ranch building ruins
Building ruins of Murphy Ranch in Rustic Canyon
Additional stairs in Murphy Ranch
Murphy Ranch Power Plant ruins
Murphy Ranch power plant ruins
Murphy Ranch Power Plant Ruins
 Graffiti inside the power plant

 

Water tower near the Murphy Ranch power plant
Street Art in Murphy Ranch
Hiker exploring Murphy Ranch

 

Murphy Ranch Water Tower
Ladder on Murphy Ranch water tower
Murphy Ranch power plant ruins
Murphy Ranch ruins
Hiker in front of main ruins of Murphy Ranch
Ruins of Murphy Ranch’s main ruins

 

Rustic Canyon Los Angeles hike ruins
Horse stable ruins in Rustic Canyon
Barbed wire in Rustic Canyon
Hiker posing near Rustic Canyon horse stable ruins
Hiker exploring Rustic Canyon
Horse Stables ruins in Rustic Canyon
Murphy Ranch main gate entrance
Murphy Ranch main entrance in Rustic Canyon
Murphy Ranch gate entrance
Murphy Ranch 500,000 water reservoir ruins
Murphy Ranch ruins
Murphy Ranch 500,000 gallon water tank ruins
Looking south from Rustic Canyon towards Santa Monica and the Pacific Ocean
Dog Friendly
  • Yes, dogs are allowed on leashes.
Intensity Levels
  • Barry-the-Bear: “Wow! This hike was incredible! I had no idea that so much history existed in our backyard. Who would have thought that up the street from the Riviera Country Club lies a former Nazi camp?!?!”
  • Larry-the-Lion: “Easy hike, but lots of fun! We felt like we stepped back in history as we explored the Murphy Ranch ruins. From the old power plant to the water tower, there was so much to see in the bottom of the canyon. The descent down the stairs takes awhile, but it’s worth it.”
  • Chris-the-Cheetah“Very fun to explore! I knew this ‘hike’ was going to be short, so I decided to increase the intensity by running up and down the stairs a few times. Afterwards, I rewarded myself with lunch at the Burger Lounge in Brentwood.”
Have you hiked to Murphy Ranch? Share your experience with a comment below!

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