“Jim Morrison Cave” – Corral Canyon (Malibu Creek State Park)

While spending a week in the concrete jungle of Los Angeles, I found a few hours on one of those days to escape into the mountains above Malibu. The destination being a rock shelter that the legendary Doors frontman,  Jim Morrison is rumored to have spent time at, and carved a skull into the floor of. In recent years thanks to social media, the rock shelter has become a popular destination for city dwellers seeking a bit of adventure. A lot of people who seek it fail to find it, and those that do are pretty tight-lipped about releasing its exact location, some clearly giving bad directions for the sake of keeping others away.

Mid-morning I drove up Corral Canyon Drive from the PCH. The narrow paved road twisted and turned for miles as it climbed into the Santa Monica Mountains toward Goat Buttes. The paved road eventually came to an end at the parking area for the Backbone Trail. This is where I began the short hike to the shelter, it passed by a partially buried and burnt out car, the foundation ruins of an old homestead, along with dozens of wind and water carved sandstone formations.

Roughly a half a mile from the parking area I reached the “Jim Morrison Cave.” A handful of folks were poking around near its location, so I decided to wait a bit, and first visit a large stone labyrinth a few paces further down the trail. I was hardly impressed, seeing it as environmental vandalism.


Stone labyrinth in Corral Canyon.

Stone labyrinth in Corral Canyon.


Overlooking the valley below from Goat Buttes.

Overlooking the valley below from Goat Buttes.


Once the throng of people who had been hanging out moved on, I joined the multitude of people on that day who had or would seek out the cave of the iconic rock star. From the Backbone Trail there was nothing that indicated which rock formation contained the mysterious cave. Ducking through some shrubs, I came out around the backside of the formation. Turning the corner, it was obvious to me based on the amount of graffiti that lined the outside walls that I was there.

I entered a crevice in boulders, which entered into a large eroded shelter that was slathered from one end to the other with bright pink paint and an assortment of other graffiti. The scene was shocking to say the least. Here I was in this amazing shelter, overlooking a stunning valley, while this vibrant fluorescent paint distracted the natural beauty of the surroundings. It wasn’t as though I expected some pristine place, but this was serious overboard!


View from the Backbone Trail, this boulder contains the "Jim Morrison Cave"

View from the Backbone Trail, this boulder contains the “Jim Morrison Cave”


This is the entrance to the Jim Morrison Cave.

This is the entrance to the Jim Morrison Cave.


Inside of the "Morrison Cave" - a small taste of pink, graffiti slathered shelter.

Inside of the “Morrison Cave” – a small taste of pink, graffiti slathered shelter.


The skull supposedly carved by Jim Morrison.

The skull supposedly carved by Jim Morrison.


After relaxing for a short while I slid back out through the crevice, at which I exclaimed, “I feel like I was just given birth too!” After all, I had just slid out of a giant pink cave through a tight hole. I’m not sure if that was funny, or offensive – I’ll let you be the judge.

In regard to the Jim Morrison myth – I’m sorry to say, but I call it bunk. It is a fun rock n’ roll story, but there is no proof that Morrison hung out here, and the Corral Canyon locals claim that the skull carving first appeared in the 1980s.

If I came across as dissatisfied in this article, I wasn’t completely.  The beautiful vistas and formations far made up for the destructiveness of my fellow-man.


UPDATE: Effective May 2nd, 2016, the “Jim Morrison Cave” is closed to the public.



About the author

Jim Mattern

Jim is a scapegoat for the NPS, an author, adventurer, photographer, radio personality, guide, and location scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, ghost towns, mines, and natural wonders in the American Deserts.

1 Comment

  • Love the story even if the Lizard King probably didn’t create the skull.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if he had carved a skull somewhere up there.

    Gone gone gone.

    Even his Cobra disappeared.

    Mr. Mojo rising…

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