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GREAT HIKES: Benign Adventures:

Most trailheads in the local Santa Monica Mountains offer a main route plus a choice of alternative paths. Perhaps the most diverse of all, however, is Capri, in the Pacific Palisades.

This benign little road is a paved ridgeline hovering above and to the immediate east of the Rustic Canyon portion of Will Rogers Park. Hikers and bikers have the option of simply following the wide and safe route as it winds its way north toward Mulholland, or hikers can dip down into Rustic, via a variety of different paths, including the historic “steps.” Additionally, there is a dirt ridge above the trail that picks-up an even more dramatic view and added challenge.

Our Monday-Wednesday night hiking group usually starts off along the main Capri paved road and then bears left along a discreetly marked path to the floor of Rustic. Even experienced hikers have to look carefully for the narrow cutoff marker, about three feet high and mostly shrouded by shrubs. It’s really more of a stick, poking up from the overgrown bushes to the right of the side trail.

On our most recent adventure, a few folks took an even earlier, less apparent cutoff and dropped down into Rustic’s southerly and water-filled narrows. From there, they took the beautiful, little ridgeline “shortcut” that connects to the Backbone Trail and then looped all the way around. I’ve never done that exact course, but bully for them if they completed it in less than three hours.

The rest of us duffers took the usual way down, a long and narrow trail with bits of paved sections, and several steep drop-offs. After landing on the canyon floor, we turned right, heading north, eventually returning to Capri via the abandoned water tank (always good for an echo), and around the flagstone gates to the road.

I often recommend Capri for beginners, as the main ridge is one of the most user-friendly trails on the Westside. However, just a little willingness to explore further makes Capri a gateway to high adventure for virtually any level of hiker.

Get there by driving Sunset Boulevard to Capri Drive and head north. Don’t be thrown by the unusual traffic signal, follow it around to its T-shaped end and park. The trailhead begins to the left, past various construction projects and debris, and continues on from there.Fearless readers interested in free Monday and Wednesday night hikes may contact Scott Regberg at (310) 475-5735.

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