While no longer a secret, the Nazi compound high in the Santa Monica mountains still remains a mystery. A popular sightseeing stop on the Rustic Canyon hike, the eerie ruins lie hidden under dense foliage and sit nestled on the canyon floor. They date back to the 1930’s and bare strange artifacts that underscore the city’s rich and clandestine history.
According to Winona and Norman Stephens, previous landowners of the fifty-acre compound known only as Murphy Ranch, Los Angeles was supposed to be the “seat of American fascism” from where Adolph Hitler could rule the United States and restore order. The now dilapidated and graffiti-tagged stronghold was built to be a self-sustaining nazi community. Old blueprints reveal plans for a huge mansion complete with a 400,000 gallon water tank and a concrete-walled power station. Nazi sympathizers began constructing the ranch in 1933, and inhabited it up until the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Authorities monitoring the ranch raided the facility shortly after, arresting the Nazi’s and others for espionage.
An ornate, wrought iron gate marks the entrance to the World War II-era enigma and was designed by renowned African-American architect Paul Revere Williams. He quips, “They may have been Nazis, but they were Nazis with taste.” Hikers are free to explore the ruins, you can enter the Ranch through one of two sets of stairs that lead from the edge of the Sullivan Ridge Fire Road down to the canyon creek.
The abandoned buildings were transformed into an artists’ colony in the 60s and 70s, but were abandoned after the Mandeville Canyon Fire in 1978, driving out the colony permanently. Today the grounds of Murphy Ranch are uninhabited, dilapidated, covered in graffiti, and open to hikers. While much of the history is lost, several structures remain, along with long cement staircases that still link Murphy Ranch to Sullivan Ridge Fire Road, providing a 3.85-mile hike with 325 feet of elevation gain.
The $4 million property was reportedly protected by armed guards called the Silver Shirts, who patrolled Murphy Ranch’s many concrete staircases. Those staircases, one of which has 500+ concrete steps, by themselves are quite sinister and impressive, and currently attract a local community of Los Angeles “stair walkers.”
Directions to the trailhead
From Sunset Boulevard, 3 miles west of the 405, turn north at the light onto Capri Drive. After 1/3 mile continue through the traffic circle, remaining on Capri Drive for another 1/3 mile until it comes to an end at Casale Road. Sullivan Ridge Fire road begins to the left. Find street parking to the right or on an adjacent road. The Santa Monica mountains offer great hiking and spectacular views.
WHAT: Rustic Canyon Hike And Nazi Ruins
WHEN: Sun up to sun down
WHERE: Santa Monica Mountains
CONTACT INFO: Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks (323) 644-6661
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- Murphy Ranch: the faded dreams of a Nazi Shangri La, just outside of Hollywood (metafilter.com)
- Hitler’s Hollywood Bunker Housed 1930s Nazi Sympathizers (newsfeed.time.com)