A Stargazer’s Guide to Malibu
There are few natural spectacles that spark the imagination quite like looking up into the star-studded canvas of the night sky — especially in Malibu. Compared to the illuminated airspace of nearby Los Angeles, Malibu has very little light pollution and even less since the city’s dark sky ordinance went into effect last fall, making the area a prime destination for stargazing (especially during new moon periods).
Immerse yourself in the cosmos from these five sterling stargazing spots just a short distance from Malibu Beach Inn. Offering breathtaking views of planetary orbs, careening satellites, swirling galaxies, and countless networks of shimmering stars, they’re sure to have astronomy enthusiasts and curious amateurs alike staying out until the early hours.
While fluctuating coastal fog can make or break the ‘Bu’s beachfront vantages, clear nights on the shoreline provide some of the most memorable stargazing experiences available in the region. Luckily, gazers have easy access to handy astronomical tools to help coordinate optimal viewing conditions, such as Malibu’s AccuWeather page (complete with current stargazing forecasts), and the Clear Sky Chart from the nearby Grasswood Observatory.
To reach Point Dume, head to the southern end of Big Dume Beach and locate the trail entrance toward the back of the bluff before climbing up its switchbacks to the rocky summit. This lookout also offers views of stunning Pacific sunsets, and after darkness sets in, it reveals a long, glittering necklace of city lights uncoiling leftward along the Southern California coast.
Star photographers in particular will find fewer beachscapes as compelling as Leo Carrillo State Park. Freckled with coastal caves and rock formations, this magnificent stretch of coast offers a rugged foreground to frame long-exposure shots of the night sky. When the moon is full, a corridor of light is reflected across the ocean’s surface, as well as within each of the beach’s many tidepools.
Perched atop the northwest border of Santa Monica Bay, this six-acre park on the ocean’s edge features easy parking as well as plenty of grass and benches to settle into as you marvel at the stars above. Make the occasion even more memorable by reading up on the constellations’ various mythological origins with the help of a free-roam stargazing app like Star Walk 2, which is also available in a kid-friendly version.
Although Topanga State Park is technically part of Los Angeles, most of its 11,500 acres remain well-insulated from the adjacent sea of urban lights. The gates close at sunset, but star chasers can still park at the entrance and night-hike to scout out a personal auditorium of the sky. Tilt your head skyward (especially after midnight) to scope out shooting stars, which appear in droves during certain times of the year.
It’s also an ideal spot for catching magnificent views of meteor showers. Peaking around August 13th, the Perseids meteor shower is expected to deliver up to 60 visible meteors per hour. Radiating in flashing streaks from its namesake constellation, Perseus, the prolific annual event inspired the John Denver lyrics, “I’ve seen it raining fire in the sky.” The months that follow feature spectacles of their own, too, including the Draconids and Orionids showers in October, the Taurids in early November, and the Lyrids in late April.
With shrub-lined hills that buffer ambient light pollution and plenty of open grassy meadows, Malibu Creek State Park abounds with spectacular 360-degree views of the celestial plane. After a pink and gold Santa Monica Mountains sunset, stick around to watch the night deepen around the surrounding wilderness.
Though the park shuts its gates at 10pm, it offers ample parking spots from which to find a suitable vantage. Try starting from the upper parking lot near the old foundation site of the former Crags Country Club, located above Malibu Creek and the park’s natural climbing wall.