Legend of Murphy Ranch: A Lost Nazi Compound

With all the hustle and bustle that goes on throughout the day, it’s easy to forget just how much the area where you live has to offer.  If you take a good, hard look, you’ll see just how incredible your own backyard truly is. I just so happen to have a pretty spectacular back yard myself. Los Angeles! What hasn’t been said about this amazing place? Hollywood, Tinsletown, the incredible beaches, Nazi compounds……wait, what?!
Forget everything you knew about Los Angeles, the Hollywood sign, the Walk of Fame, and head off the beaten path and into an alternate reality that never was.


While the history of the area is jumbled up and missing some pieces, the basics are as follows. In 1933 a Jesse Murphy purchased the land and began to develop it. Much of the legend around Murphy Ranch is based in oral history, but supposedly Ms. Murphy was a pseudonym – or someone who never even existed. The Ranch was under the control of a mysterious man known only as “Herr Schmidt,” who claimed a psychic vision told him America would lose World War II and that once the dust settled over the ruins of Los Angeles he and his band of sympathizers would emerge from Rustic Canyon to help usher in the new fascist state in America. As we all know, the Germans lost. Around the time of Pearl Harbor the residents of the ranch were taken into custody by the FBI. The property eventually had over 3000 fruit and nut trees, a complicated irrigation and water storage system, a functioning power house, machine room, and bomb shelter. Multiple cement stairs were built up the side of the neighboring hill to help with the farming and to patrol the area. There were even plans to build a four story mansion as well, as multiple libraries, making it a compound fit for a Führer. But events, unexpected to them occurred and the mansion never happened. All that remains of the compound are he power station, water tank, gardens and the collapsed machine shed.


While the finding the trailhead is a little confusing(mainly because of no fixed address) it’s quite simple once you reach it. I’ve included directions to the area and GPS coordinates at the bottom of the page, if needed. Murphy Ranch is in the middle of the Santa Monica Mountains, above Pacific  Palisades, which is a nice neighborhood next to Malibu. The easiest way to get there is to plug in the corner of Capri Drive and Casale Road, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272 which will take you to the start of Sullivan Ridge Fire Road, the road that you will be walking. There is a lot of street parking, just make sure you read the parking signs. Start walking on Sullivan Ridge Road. This will wind down around some beautiful houses before turning to a run down area that you walk through to get to the main dirt road.


Once you get to the yellow road block, continue on the dirt road for about another 2/3rds of a mile. There is a beautiful view of the Malibu and Santa Monica coastline to your left and the start of the chain link fence in front of you. About 100 yards from the start of the fence is an opening to top of the stairs. If you don’t see this one there is another about 3 minutes further down the road, next to a water tank and about 10 min further is the old abandoned gate for the road down to the compound so you have a lot of chances to get there.


  
This first set of stairs plunges 500+ steps down into the canyon. Although the descent is pretty short, those 500+ steps calculate out to just under a 300 foot elevation drop. Once you hit the bottom of the stairs, you should see a dirt footpath off to your left, running between a clump of trees. This brings you to what looks like the old main road running through Murphy Ranch. Turn left, and follow the dirt and old concrete-ridden road for about 1/3 of a mile, bringing you to a fork in the road. Hang left and continue to the first set of ruins. mile mark, stay left at the fork in the road. Veering right will take you to the ruins of one of the compound’s several terraced gardens, but left takes you down toward the powerhouse and bomb shelter. The stretch of old road from the stairs to the ruins is quite pretty; very green, with groves of trees on either side of the road.

The Powerhouse

The first set of ruins you encounter is the old abandoned power building, with just about every inch covered in graffiti. The powerhouse itself is pretty well kept. And regardless of the graffiti, it seems structurally sound.


  
  
  
 You can walk all through the old building, even climbing the rickety stairs up to the catwalks and roof, or scampering through the crawlspaces under the original floor, if you so choose.


  
  
  
 The Machine Shed

A short walk back on the road north from the powerhouse brings you up to the old machine shed. As you can see the machine shed isn’t much more than some broken down pieces of rubble, but it is still fun to explore. Just be careful when around the ruins.


  
  
The Gardens

All that’s left of the gardens are the overgrown cement beds. If you veered to the right at the fork, you would have stumble across the gardens first. If not, head back to the powerhouse and take the short set of stairs up to the gardens. While the raised cement beds are overgrown, there is a lot of them. It’s neat to think what they looked like in their hey day. The view of the powerhouse from above is interesting as well. 

   
 Walking through the garden brings you to the base of that second set of concrete steps from the fire road. As you proceed up these steps they will lead to a dirt road. Head left and proceed a half mile up the road. This takes you to the entrance of the compound and to the Main Gate.

 If you go right, it will take you back to the first set of steps. You will know you’re getting close when you reach the massive water tower they have right next to the road, and when you round the bend you will see the gate.


 The gate was the main entrance to the compound years ago. It has been kept together well. You can either hop over one of the crumbling walls or slip through the opening in the gate and head back up Sullivan Ridge Fire Road and back to your car. On the way back you will see what looks like another entrance down to the ruins if you miss the first one.


Here are a few tips when exploring Murphy  Ranch for yourself:

1. While you’re in a populated neighborhood, the trails are very seldom occupied. Make sure to leave a note in your car, as well as let a friend or family member know of your whereabouts.

2. Depending on the time you go, it can get chilly, especially in the evening. Be sure to dress in layers and bring plenty of water. And don’t forget your camera!

3. With any abandoned structure, make sure you use the utmost care and safety when around the area. Last thing we want is for someone to get hurt. That being said, Joeography claims no liability for anything that may happen while on this adventure and you, as the hiker accept all responsibilities for your actions.

4. Parts of the compound were chained up during my last visit. Make sure you read any posted signs. Parking is free as mentioned above, but check the signs just in case.

5. Here are directions to the trail head down to Murphy Ranch. There is also a map below.

Directions: 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 and end at Casale Road. Sullivan Ridge Fire road begins to the left. Find street parking to the right or on an adjacent road.
Trailhead address: Capri Drive & Casale Road, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272

Trailhead coordinates: 34.061097, -118.504121 (34° 03′ 39.94″N 118° 30′ 14.83″W)

Above all, be safe and have fun! And remember to never stop exploring!

95 thoughts on “Legend of Murphy Ranch: A Lost Nazi Compound

    1. It’s owned by the State right now. It has been since the 70’s. It’s pretty desolate, but you can see people hiking in the area. There is a few trails that run nearby!

  1. Wow, what a crazy history that place has. At least it was a short history! I’m surprised there weren’t any sketchy characters hanging around there. I guess they come at night to do the graffiti? 🙂

  2. Wow, this is so cool to learn about! I’ve been to Los Angeles several times (it’s one of my favorite cities in the world), but I definitely didn’t know about the nazi compound. The next time that I’m in LA, I’ll definitely check this out!

  3. That is interesting! Who would have thought that you could find anything to do with the Nazi’s in Los Angeles. It looks like the perfect place to go for a great view, some exercise, and surprising historical finds 🙂

  4. What a great place to discover in your own backyard! I bet most people who have been there (and made all the graffiti) don’t even realise the historic significance of the place. I would definitely love to hike up there as the views look stunning too!

    1. It’s a pretty neat that there are places like this to explore. It just goes to show you how much we tend to overlook! There are a few trails nearby as well, makes for an adventurous day!

  5. Interesting! I really like abandoned/derelict places. They are great for photography. Although this one now has way too much graffiti! I believe I have seen this before but can’t remember when or where.

    Cheers!

  6. I love exploring abandoned structures, especially when they have an intriguing story behind them. Although some of the graffiti shows artistic talent, I could do without it. It would be a much more interesting location without fluorescent color everywhere, but to some I guess it goes with the territory.

  7. Dude, this is awesome! I have never heard of anything like this around the LA area. Cool story and awesome/specific directions! I definitely want to hit this up next time I’m in S. Cali. Thanks for posting!

    1. It’s really neat right?! I love finding places like this. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and hope you get to see it for yourself! When you’re in SoCal, don’t be a stranger!

  8. Who’d have thought LA would have this kind of history? It’s really amazing that so much is still standing in such good condition. (P.S. – I’m a sucker for primo graffiti and this is awesome! Great pics!)

    1. They were planning on LA being the center of the Nazi Empire in the west. They created the compound with the intent of Hitler winning the war and using it as a base of operations. Pretty crazy, but true

  9. Wow! What an amazing bit of history. The volume of graffiti on it is astounding. I am sure there is a bit of history right there! I am sure many who live in LA have no idea it is there. You should submit this to a local paper!

  10. First time I heard about this is when my friend posted a picture on her Instagram and I instantly knew I must get my butt over there. This is definitely my kind of abandoned finds– eerie and mysterious, with some history and story behind it to tell, may it be factual or a legend. Definitely prioritizing this on my next visit home!

  11. I’m German and I always find it very interesting to see where in the world you can find the remains of the Second World War/Hitler regime. It’s a history lesson we should not forget and always learn from!

  12. You know, I read about that long ago and never gave it any thought afterwards. I have been to LA many times and it never crossed my mind to find and see this, though I like those “weird travel” opportunities. Great job sharing with all of us and fabulous pictures!

  13. Abandoned buildings are always fascinating to me. That they put so much money into this ranch and now it’s just deserted is crazy. I have to wonder why places like this are just abandoned and left to rot. Couldnt the cty have done something with it?

    1. The city sold it back in the 70’s to an artist colony who just allowed it to fall off even more. I guess lack of money and its location made them not care too
      Much about it

  14. Wow—(incredible photos)–and what a history! And what a great reminder of a tragic history that was much closer to home than many of us would have thought.

  15. Hmmmmm….. I wonder if, in the area surrounding the ranch, if there is a higher than average amount of wild fruit trees. You mentioned the gardens and orchards – I wonder if animals and birds might have spread things further afield.

  16. Beautiful views of Malibu and Santa Monica!! I would make the hike just for that! We love exploring abandoned places, and I can’t believe we missed this while in Los Angeles last year. So crazy to think!! The whole place looks awesome, I think it’s the opportunity for photography that I love the most in exploring these kind of buildings – the graffiti work is always pretty impressive!

    1. The views are definitely worth it by themselves! I love abandoned places too, they’re more intriguing and I always catch myself thinking “what if” when exploring them.

  17. Interesting history to go along with the great photography. I’m sure most people who accidentally find this, don’t even know it’s history, how could they? It’s great that I read your article, in case I hike this area one day, I’ll know what I’m looking at.

  18. Interesting story although the place looks scary. Regardless, I kove your photos the place looks very colorful. Thanks for sharing

  19. Totally agree with you–we love exploring our own backyard when we are home. You can always find so many unique and interesting things you would have never thought of and it’s fun when they are close by! I had no idea about the Nazi Compound in LA–how crazy. The history of this spot is so interesting. I love all the graffiti, too! Thanks for sharing–will have to plan a visit sometime!

  20. I just went through a lot of your articles again. I am going to the states this year and I love most of the places you visit. I like how this speaks Art, not common, and perfect views. Hopefully I make it to this one. It feels scary and creepy but there is something about abandoned places that draws me. I shall just bring a companion who is brave enough for us both. Besides, the views will be worth it.

  21. Hah! Well that is something you do not see everyday. Must be a surprise to see this in your neighborhood, hiding just right there and filled with mysetry and history. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I wondered that as well. I’m sure some do, but it’s surprising how secluded it is. So I doubt many do. Exploring a derelict asylum sounds like fun! Have you been inside?

  22. I went there last year with my sisters and I wish I had been more prepared! We had an awful experience, because my sister nearly passed out on the way back up and since we were in a random remote location our cell service was very low/non-existent. Great tip to leave a note on the car and also inform others of your whereabouts! I wouldn’t go back, but it’s an interesting looking building with all the graffiti!

  23. Wow what a fascinating place! I have never heard of this before! Were the fruit trees still bearing fruit, or were they removed or are they picked by locals? I bet they would have some amazing old trees!

  24. This is so cool! I had no idea this existed. I love exploring abandoned places, but this one has such an interesting history. Great art there, too. Would love to visit.

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