Murphy Ranch Hike Trail Guide • Best Hikes in LA
Where to park: Capri Drive and Casale Road, Pacific Palisades
4 miles/2 hours total
500 steps down
Know before you go
It disturbed me to learn, and it saddens me to report that around the time of WW2, there was surprisingly strong Nazi support around the world. Even within the United States. Hitler's supporters were not few and far between, but rather a thriving community, living among the normal everyday society. No different than extremists in our world today.
Even in Los Angeles; back then, you wouldn't necessarily think your coworker or that person walking down Wilshire Blvd. is a strong Nazi supporter, who really hopes that Hitler Germany is going to win the war, unless they told you. Like a fan rooting for a football game, or a presidential candidate.
Supporters of controversial political topics can slip past society undetected today just as much as back then, unless they take an extreme action. That extreme action is how the story of Murphy Ranch came to be.
Long story short, during WW2, a rich married couple living on the Westside decided to build what is today known as Murphy Ranch. Why did they build it? Well, the wife thought she had psychic abilities and she met a man (not her husband) who said that he knows Hitler is going to win the war. She ends up believing him! But that's not the worst part. He convinces her that she needs to help him by investing millions of her dollars into his big idea. He basically told her, "Listen...when Hitler wins the war, there's going to be anarchy in the U.S. We should build a place to wait out the chaos safely. Plus, we need somewhere to house Hitler when he visits us in California right? We need to build a fortress."
She ends up letting the man talk her and her husband out of MILLIONS of dollars to build a fortress hidden deep in the Brentwood hills. Did that investment end up working out for them? No it did not.
Almost 80 years later, we can see that their dream was shattered. What was suppose to be a "White House for Hitler", as some call it, is now decaying tangles of metal and concrete in the rolling foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains.
These historic ruins are named Murphy Ranch and they attract the interest of hikers, ghost hunters, artists, writers, and historians.
Yes, Murphy Ranch is worth seeing in person. The jumbled mess of destroyed buildings and bunkers with layers of graffiti caked on top all concealed by trees a beautiful valley with ocean views and mysterious staircases is what makes this a great hike. In my opinion, this is in the top three most interesting and unique hiking spots in Los Angeles.
What is Murphy Ranch?
In Los Angeles, near the Beverly Hills, there is a secluded 55 acre stretch of land in the Santa Monica Mountains that has a strange past. I researched dozens of articles on the subject to help me become familiar with this small stretch of land's history...
In 1933 a man named on city records as "Jesse Murphy" purchased a large piece of land in the Brentwood hills, and began to develop it. The neighbors thought he was building just another Persian Palace...it turns out he was building a compound that dozens, maybe hundreds of people could take refuge in. 3,000 fruit and nut trees, professional irrigation and water storage systems, a functioning power house full of generators, machines room, and a bomb shelter. Plans underway to build even more, including a four-story mansion that could be fit for a world leader. But they ran out of money.
History of Murphy Ranch
There was a surprising amount of pro-Nazi activity in LA during the 1930's. American Nazi Supports were usually a part of a national group called the Silver Legion. Among the Silver Legion were an rich couple living in LA, known as Norman and Wiwona. One day Wiwona met a man named Mr. Schmidt, who was also a member of the Silver Legion in LA. Mr. Schmidt could even possibly have been an undercover Nazi Agent. Schmidt convinced the couple that Hitler/Germany is going to win the war against America, and when they do, there will be anarchy in the U.S.
Schmidt persuaded the couple to spend their hard-earned money, more than $50 million today, to build a commune to wait out the chaos that unfolds after Hitler wins the war, and to host Hitler himself when he reaches the West Coast of America. Something built for someone so important would need no spare expenses, and that's what they were aiming for. More than just another McMansion in the hills of LA, but rather a lavish fortress. A Fascist World Headquarters.
The compound was designed so that Nazis would be able to sustain themselves for extended periods of time. The property had a water storage tank, fuel tank, bomb shelter, and various outbuildings and bunkers. It is near the bottom of the valley, where water can flow and be sourced. It was surrounded by barbed wire and patrolled by Silver Legion members using a multiple staircase type system that connects to the vehicle accessible road above.
Trivia: Why is it called Murphy Ranch? Because according to county records, someone name "Jessie M. Murphy" purchased the property in 1933. However, it is now believed that Jessie Murphy was a fake name used by Mr. Schmidt. I guess it's better than saying Schmidt Ranch.
Monday, December 8, 1941
The day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, police occupied the compound and arrested as many as 50 men. Their dream was shattered. The government had been watching them the whole time. War on the United States by Nazi Germany meant that the Silver Legion was being shut down.
Fast-forward to Today
The city of LA bought the land and the Ranch from the government. The property then became an artists colony during the 70's. But then a wildfire burned everything away.
Does the story end there? Nope. Today, Murphy's Ranch is a paradise for urban sightseers. You too can go for yourself and enjoy this interesting experience before it's gone.
In early 2016, the city made the land safer by marking trails and demolishing some of the buildings. A few buildings remain, including the "power house", the most notable and instagrammed concrete building that once contained diesel generators. That's the building in the pic at the top of this page. The pic below is/was the barn.
Where is Murphy Ranch?
What's commonly referred to as the Murphy Ranch Trail or the Murphy Ranch Hike is located in the west side of Los Angeles, near Santa Monica/Brentwood, in a Pacific Palisades canyon known as Rustic Canyon. Just plug Murphy Ranch into your map app and go!
Directions for the Murphy Ranch Trail & Pictures
- Where to park: Capri Drive and Casale Road, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
- Street parking is free but fills up
- Read street signs for parking limitations
- Be respectful of neighbors
- Trailhead: Sullivan Ridge Fire Road
- After parking, walk on the street uphill and stay to the right, you'll start to see construction, fences, and a dirt road
- If you feel lost, look for where people are coming/going from
- Follow the dirt road uphill and through the valley
- Walk on Sullivan Fire Road for a little more than a mile until you reach a gate in the fence to your left
- Go through the gate and there will be a long staircase descending into the valley
- Follow the staircase all the way down then turn left and follow the dirt road to the "powerhouse", which stored diesel generators
- After you're finished at the powerhouse, wander around and look for other staircases and trails that you can follow to more the front gate, the barn, one of the water storage tanks, or the garden bed
Is Murphy Ranch closed?
No, Murphy Ranch is not closed. In 2016, the city demolished, tore down, and boarded up some of the structures and buildings for safety reasons. But there is still a lot left to see. Just don't go past any fences with no trespassing signs otherwise you will risk receiving a trespassing citation.
If any of the information in this guide is out of date, please let us know!