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10 great hikes on the Backbone Trail in the Santa Monicas

January 21, 2012 02:04PM
A couple of these I haven't tried, so found this article helpful...



If you've hiked in Los Angeles, chances are you've hiked in the Santa Monica Mountains, and if you've hiked in the Santa Monicas, odds are you've visited the Backbone Trail. The 70-mile route starts at Will Rogers State Historic Park, just past the urban fringe of Los Angeles, and works its way through Topanga Park, Malibu Creek, Zuma Canyon and Sandstone Peak before finally ending at Point Mugu State Park in Ventura County. Along the way, the trail visits waterfalls, canyons, geology, meadows and fields, providing great views of both the ocean and the mountains. These ten trips sample some of the great scenery offered by the Backbone Trail.

Will Rogers State Historic Park - The Backbone Trail begins just north of this popular park that is the former home of the famed cowboy actor. This stretch is steep and rugged, climbing to a bridge that offers great views of the ocean to the south, L.A. to the east and Topanga Canyon to the west.

Saddle Peak - This 2,805-foot summit is one of the taller points in the eastern half of the Santa Monicas. Two different stretches of the Backbone Trail climb to its summit, which provides great views of the ocean. The western approach, described here, also takes in great views of Calabasas Peak and gets close to some of the area's characteristic geology. On clear days, you can see Orange County's Old Saddleback from the summit.

Piuma Road to Stunt Road - This lightly visited 3.5 mile stretch of the Backbone Trail provides a great workout and a nice variety of scenery, including panoramic views of the Malibu Creek area.

Upper Solstice Canyon - This 2.7 mile stretch drops down into the upper reaches of Solstice Canyon before climbing up again to the Castro Motorway. En route, you get great ocean views. It was once possible to create a loop with the Bulldog Motorway but a private property conflict has prevented access. You can, however, see the amusingly near-paranoid signs posted by the land owner to advise hikers against entering his territory.

Latigo Canyon Road to Castro Crest - Another quiet, scenic stretch, which dips down from Kanan Dume Road into a secluded canyon and arrives at the Newton Motorway, where hikers can either continue east (see above) or sit and enjoy some great ocean views.

Newton Canyon (East) - This popular stretch of the trail, from Kanan Dume Road to Latigo Canyon, is pleasantly shaded, and a lot of ascending and descending makes it a good workout.

Newton Canyon (West) - Best known for the small waterfall just below Kanan Road, this is one of the more scenic stretches of the Backbone Trail, extending all the way to the Zuma Motorway. Even if the seasonal upper waterfall isn't flowing, it's still a very enjoyable hike, and if the larger fall does have water, this ranks as one of the best hikes in all of the Santa Monica Mountains.

Encinal Canyon Road to Etz Meloy - One of the newer stretches of the Backbone Trail, this 7.2 mile round trip in the northern end of Malibu visits some of the more secluded areas of the Santa Monica Mountains. Scenery includes ocean vistas and views of Castro Peak, Mitten Mountain and more.

Sandstone Peak - For most hikers, the highest peak in the Santa Monica Mountains needs no introduction, but for those who have not checked it out, the 6-mile loop is one of the greatest hikes in Southern California. Though challenging, it's a lot easier than Mt. Baldy or San Jacinto Peak, and in addition to being a great hike in its own right, it can also be a good training exercise for higher summits.

Point Mugu State Park - The westernmost end of the Backbone Trail leaves from the Ray Miller Trailhead, located at the La Jolla Valley entrance to Point Mugu State Park. Great ocean views and a good aerobic workout are the highlights of this hike. It is a challenging trip by itself - but it can also serve to access the Overlook Trail which goes deeper into the park.

Whether you are looking for just a short walk or have your sights on doing the whole thing over several days, the Backbone Trail provides great hiking that is conveniently located to Los Angeles. It might not be the Appalachian, but L.A. residents should be proud and grateful to have the Backbone Trail in their yard.
Subject Author Posted

10 great hikes on the Backbone Trail in the Santa Monicas

TimBuk2 January 21, 2012 02:04PM

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