Leo Carrillo State Beach: The Complete Guide

California State Beach
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Leo Carrillo State Beach

Leo Carrillo State Beach, California 90265, USA

Leo Carrillo State Beach is one of Los Angeles' most scenic beaches, with miles of sand, sea caves, and interesting rock formations. Visitors often rave about how uncrowded it is, compared to beaches further south. The largest beach area at Leo Carrillo is sometimes called North Beach—even though it's technically on the west end. There are also four coves east of Sequit Point.

The Woolsey Fire burned through the park in late 2018, but it is recovering. As of late 2019, the campground was open, but damaged areas were still being repaired. Beach areas were not affected.

People usually go to Leo Carrillo as a day trip, or they stay for an extended visit, exploring the park and relaxing at the beach. While you are there, you could also visit other Malibu beaches in the area.

What to Do at Leo Carrillo Beach

People like to go beachcombing, swimming, surfing, and windsurfing. Some of them even try scuba diving. The water temperature ranges from the high 50s F from December through May and gets up to the mid-60s F from July through September.

You can walk along the beach to the four coves east of Sequit Point at low tide, or by taking stairways that go down from the bluff any time. At low tide, you may find sea anemones, crabs, mussels in the tidepools. Beyond the coves, you will find South Beach, also called Arroyo Sequit. Dogs are allowed anywhere there as long as they stay south of lifeguard tower 3.

In April and May, Leo Carrillo is one of the places you can go whale watching near L.A. You can sometimes stand on the beach and see mother gray whales and their babies migrating north. Rangers also lead whale watch walks during that period.

If you go fishing, you might catch walleye or calico surfperch. In warmer months, California corbina comes close to shore, and yellowfin croaker shows up in the fall and spring. The best place for fishing is at the north end of the beach around the large rocks just offshore.

Photographers like Leo Carrillo State Beach for sunset photography. Because the beach faces south and not west, you will get side lighting, not a big blown-out blob in the middle of the photo.

Camping at Leo Carrillo State Park

Leo Carrillo State Park contains a nice campground consisting of 135 campsites with tables and fire rings. The campground is across the highway from the beach and can accommodate campers and trailers up to 31 feet long. There are also hike-and-bike campsites near the campsite. Towering sycamore trees shade the campground.

At the Leo Carrillo Beach Store, you can buy souvenir T-shirts and necessary supplies. Restrooms and token-operated hot showers are nearby. The park also has RV electrical hookups and a sanitation station. If you want to camp at Leo Carrillo and don't have a vehicle to do it in, Camping Adventures will deliver a fully-set-up camper to your site. You must make campsite reservations in advance for California State Parks.

What to Know Before You Go

  • Heal the Bay often gives Leo Carrillo State Beach an "A" for water quality, but in some years, it has problems in late spring through early summer.
  • Like any southern California beach, Leo Carrillo can be foggy until afternoon from May through August, or even all day long. It happens so often that it has a name: June gloom.
  • You can get more information about the park and current conditions at the Leo Carrillo State Park website.
  • If you're a fan of old western television shows, you know Leo Carrillo; he played the Cisco Kid's sidekick Pancho. He was also a conservationist who helped the State of California buy Hearst Castle.

How to Get There

Leo Carrillo State Park is at 35000 West Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, 28 miles north of Santa Monica on Pacific Coast Highway. The entrance is on the inland side of the highway.

State parks passes are not accepted. There are two paid parking lots, or you can try to find free parking along Pacific Coast Highway. If you can afford it, parking fees help pay for park maintenance, and your vehicle may be slightly safer there than beside the highway.

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Leo Carrillo State Beach: The Complete Guide