1000 feet gain
From Santa Monica, drive north on Pacific Coast Highway (1) for 2.6 mile to Temescal Canyon Road and turn right. Drive to the end of Temescal Canyon Road and park at the entrance to the Presbyterian Conference Center. The trial head is at the far end of the parking lot on the left.
This is a very popular hiking spot with great views of the ocean on clear days, a seasonal waterfall, and a densely wooded canyon. The loop starts out on Temescal Ridge Trail, climbing almost 1,000 feet in the first mile. At the intersection with Temescal Canyon Trail, you can either take a half mile side trip to Skull Rock (staying on the ridge trail) or head down into the deep Temescal Canyon. At the bottom of the canyon, you will cross a bridge with a lovely waterfall. If you are careful, you can do some rock scrambling upstream to see some additional small waterfalls. After crossing the bridge, the trail drops through the canyon at a mild pace, through a pleasantly dense wooded area.
If you skipped the ridge trail, and just walked up the canyon and back, this would be a great easy 2 mile family hike. Note that my rating of this hike was a bit low compared to other guide books.