2020 Goals: The Backbone Trail – Part ONE


After living in Los Angeles for over 30 years, I only recently learned about the Backbone Trail (BBT), a magnificent 67 mile trail that connects ridge lines from Will Rogers to Point Magu. In January, a group of friends hiked the first 11 miles, and our goal is to do the whole route before the year is over.

Backbone Trail map/LA TIMES

While hikers have long adventured in and around these hills, it took forty years to pull together a public private partnership that allowed for the mountains along the coast to be connected by a single trail.  (Here’s that story). Of course, it’s possible to hike the full trail over a few days, camping along the way, but I think it’s fun to do the various legs over the course of several months. We started at Will Rogers, and had some help from family members who dropped a car where we came out of the hills at Trippet Ranch. We can do this in five segments but the last one is pretty rugged, so we may splurge on this luxury outfit and spend a night under the stars to celebrate completing the 67 miles.

You’ll need this essential guide (The Complete Hiker’s Guide To The Backbone Trail) to plan your travels. And here is a well-defined outline of the five segments from Trail Magic Adventures a luxury outfitter that opened recently.

Here is a link to the National Park Service site, with details:

The Backbone crosses the best-protected stretch of coastal Mediterranean habitat in the world and offers an amazing diversity of trail experiences. You’ll experience deep wooded canyons, rocky outcrop spires, ocean vistas that include the Channel islands, and sweeping inland views to the San Gabriel Mountains and downtown LA.

Dogs are welcomed on National Park Service trails, as long as they are leashed and under control.

There are only a few campgrounds on and near the Background Trail. We recommend day hiking in section rather than attempting a multi-day backpacking trip.

What will I see?
Plants: Coastal sage scrub, chaparral, riparian woodlands, freshwater marshes, oak woodlands, and oak savannas
Wildlife: Coyote, mule deer, red-tailed hawks, turkey vulture, California quail, California towhee, scrub jays, western fence lizards, Pacific rattlesnakes, and king snakes

Where should I go?
Ocean Views: Ray Miller Trail at Point Mugu State Park
Summit Ascent: Sandstone Peak at Circle X Ranch
Awesome Rock Formations: Castro Crest at Malibu Creek, State Park and Upper Solstice Canyon
Hollywood History and Easy Access: Inspiration Point at Will Rogers State Historic Park

Ironically, I am writing this post on the evening that our Mayor closed the Santa Monica Mountains because citizens haven’t (yet) learned about quarantining. Being an optimist, I believe we’ll be out climbing in the mountains again soon.