Cave of Munits & Castle Peak In El Escorpión Park

I love hikes that lead to something interesting like a waterfall or a cave, and if you can bundle that with a summit and make it only 3-4 miles round trip then to me it sounds like the perfect hike. The Cave of the Munits fit this description as it went into a chimney cave, then out the top, up a ridge line and over to the summit of Castle Peak. If that isn’t unique I don’t know what is. Read on for my review, history and how to do it yourself.

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Details

  • Free parking on street
  • 3 miles and 700 feet of elevation, however it is somewhat difficult to go out the top of the cave and up to Castle Peak so some may want to just go back out the cave the way they came in
  • Get to explore a chimney cave

History

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This park in general has a lot of historical value for its relationship to Chumash culture. The below is sourced from here

Kas’elew (Castle Peak)
This site has been an area of great ceremonial importance for Chumash people. It was traditionally used by priests and astronomers during winter and summer solstice ceremonies. This site is also significant because it is one of nine alignment points located within Chumash territory. These points are central to maintaining balance in the natural world. Though Castle Peak is located on the LA County side and was therefore not a part of Ahmanson property, it is important to note that the Cave and the Peak can be seen from one another. This connection and proximity makes the cave and the peak a continuous area of significance that should not be broken up.

Castle Peak from below

Cave of Munits
The cave is important because stories about its significance are still known by Chumash people today. According to oral history, this cave was the home of a very powerful shaman who eventually met his end after murdering the son of a politically important chief.

The Hike

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After parking on the street (directions below) you will see the start of the trail head with Castle Peak looming above in the distance.

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Follow the dirt road and stay to left at the first junction that you see.

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This dirt road will continue for about 3/4ths of a mile until you see a break in the fence.

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When you get to this break you can see the cave to your right and you will want to continue along that path. Up until now the path has been nice and leasurly but if you continue to the cave and above it you will be expeirencing a lot of elevation gain.

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After about a quarter of a mile you will be nearing the base of the Cave of the Munits. Notice the person below for a sense of scale.

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If you are going in, BE CAREFUL as climbing this cave requires navigating some steep rock scrambling. I cannot stress this enough, just getting into the cave requires some decent scrambling (no ropes needed) so if you do not like this type of thing or are nervious on rock then you might want to just observe from the outside.

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Once inside the cave I was shocked by how big it is. There are a lot of little corner inlets to explore and great pictures to be taken in the big center area of the cave.

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I was suprisied that more people have not written about this cave. Here are some of my favorite pictures.

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After taking pictures you can either head back the way you came or out the right side of the cave (picture below) and up to Castle Peak (this is not easy).

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Cave of the Munits to Castle Peak

If you decide to continue on make sure to take your time and know what you are getting into. As soon as you climb out of the cave you will be walking with a steep vertical incline up the mountain behind it. This is not for the fait of heart as it is exposed to the sun and very steep walk up.

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Just getting out of the cave requires more scrambling though and will actually take you to the top to see back down into it.

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The view from the top of the cave is pretty amazing in itself.

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Once you get to the top of the ridge line above the cave we had a hard time finding the trail to Castle Peak. There were a lot of faint trails but nothing that we were sure was the actual trail. The only good part about this is as long as you are going in the right direction then you should be able to get there.

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I would caution that this part of the trail took a lot of climbing as well though and was not an easy trail to follow or to go on. Once you get over the last little peak then you will see Castle Peak in front of you.

Castle Peak

Castle Peak

This peak is really nothing more then a strange collection of rocks sticking out of the land below. There is not much of a trail to the top of this as well you mostly climb the rocks until you reach the top.

Castle Peak up close

I do have to say though it is an amazing view when you get up there. You can almost see the LA skyline if there isn’t smog and it provides a great place to sit and relax.

Castle Peak View

I am not sure if I took the right way to get off the peak but the hike down, while only a quarter of a mile was very steep and required some scrambling. I have to imagine there is a better way to get down, but we took it slow and were able to get down in one peice.

Castle Peak Approach

All in all I really loved seeing this cave, and getting to the top of Castle Peak. Again I caution that this is not an easy trail once you climb out of the cave so know that coming in and bring water as there is no shade! That being said if you are up for an adventure like I was then you should enjoy yourself at the Cave of the Munits. Make sure to leave me a comment if you have been and get directions below.

Photos

 

Get Directions

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  • great pics!

  • George Ranks

    I had no idea this hike existed. I’m definitely going to check it out

  • Connie H.

    Loved your pics. Went on this hike today. Entered on the Vanowen and Sunset Ridge side. There was a big hill to climb but managed to zig-zag my way around the teeny tiny unmarked trails, then did some rock climbing. Luckily, I was able to climb rocks and squeeze in between others but this hike is definitely not for those scared of ledges or afraid of heights. Had a lot of fun hiking and taking pictures. Definitely would go back! I do recommend some gloves for holding on the rocks as these are not smooth granite rock type, but conglomerate. Conglomerate rocks are a bunch of different types of rock pushed together creating a very rough rock.

    • Thanks for the comment and glad you had fun! The recommendation for gloves is a good one!

  • Candace Agnew

    Going into my bucket list for sure, thanks Josh!

    • Sweet! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did

  • Just went yesterday! After finding out that some other trails were closed.. 🙂 Now it’s one of my fave hikes around the LA area. The cave was awesome!

    • So glad you enjoyed it! The cave is pretty unreal for sure. Was it still well taken care of without much graffiti?

      • there graffiti at the top of the cave, but not inside. there wasn’t any before?

        • That is the same as before, there was some at the top but not much inside, I am glad it is staying nice!

  • Bry

    My Bro just forwarded this article. My Bro & I grew up here & spent many a days as a young boys climbing these hills back in the 60’s & 70’s. Thank you for the reminder of a time long forgotten.

    • No problem, thanks for the comment, fun to hear you used to spend a lot of time here!

  • Wes

    I remember when the owner of that cave shot at us with salt rock from his shotgun. This was back in the 70’s.

    • Wow, that sounds like a great story!

  • mickey

    We hiked this area in the early sixty’s. The area was private property with several residences where Vanowen St. ended. In addition there was a Horse Ranch further up Valley Circle Blvd, Just dirt roads at that time. If you tried to approach thru where the baseball diamonds are now located, there was a good chance you’d get caught and kicked out. Best way was sneak along Bell Creek to the foot of the Castle Peak. The other route was to go up what is now kittridge St and up and over the large hills. We called the cave Bat Cave. We never saw anyone at the cave or on Castle Peak. In the late sixty’s property was sold opened area up. The area around Bell Creek had several old ranch style buildings and a large two story Adobe Barn. The hills around the area had huge Oak Trees that were great for building tree house. Wood was easily obtained from abandoned Ranch houses or from all the new home construction. It was a great time for a young boy to grow up. Treasured memories. Everything changed now. Thought You might like hearing about Bat Cave and Castle Peak.

    • Wow that sounds like a lot of awesome stories and memories. Thanks for sharing them with us!

  • Controller

    Did this today with our two-year-old in a backpack. Quite a challenge, but well worth it for the views at sunset. Toddler liked the “tunnel” (cave) best.

    • Glad you were able to enjoy the hike with your kid!

  • Edgar Arredondo

    Went and checked out the trail today. I climbed in the same way you did but going back down, I psyched myself out with the heights. I tried another spot that was showing promise until I hit a drop where someone anchored a cable to descend. I would have gladly tried it if I was equipped with some gloves. Hahaha! Luckily, after climbing back up, I saw a dirty trail that wrapped around the cave. Decided to take that route.

    So, yes, there is a simple way down. Just adds an extra 20 minutes or so. I don’t recall the distance.

    • Glad you found a trail that helped you make it back safely!

  • seedballburt

    I grew up there. We called it Castle Peak and Bats Cave. One way to go up to Castle Peak is to hike from the base of the mountain, straight up. It is steep. Inside a rock near the peak is a bee hive that has been there at least 50 years. It has survived numerous fires…It is definitely a spirit mountain. I felt that the whole time that I lived next to it, without knowing the spiritual importance to the Chumash and Tongva peoples. The story of Munitz really confirms the dark feelings that I always felt emanating from the mountain…Also the reason that is called El Esorpion Park, is that the Natives believed that a spirit being lived in the mountain. They called her the Scorpion Woman…I feel very lucky to have grown up near such a place, right at the edge of suburbia. And I’m grateful that it has finally been preserved for future generations.

  • RZ

    Thanks Josh.. I was searching for cool hiking places in the valley and one of my friends suggested this cave. Then I came across your blog. We followed your directions and went to the cave today… me, hubby, and 2 boys 14 and 9 yrs. Unfortunately my 9yr old had a very hard time climbing to the top and we had to turn around after climbing halfway. We promised ourselves that we will be back in a couple of years and go all the way to castle peak…when my 9yr old gets a bit more taller… Also saw another comment here about bringing gloves next time… that would be great.. Thanks for the pics and all the details…