Los Angeles County is chalk full of natural beauty. Travel in any direction, and you will find some sort of unique paradise to enjoy. If you want to try to do it all in one day, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is the best place to go. Point your nose in the direction of “The Santa Monicas” and you will find a mecca for hiking, mountain biking, road biking, surfing, camping, or just lounging on the beach. You can make the park a day trip or explore it for days on end without too much retracing of steps. This park holds a special place in the heart of many Angelinos, it is the first place in Los Angeles that really make people me believe this city is a place that a nature lover can call home. If you are an Angelino that is questioning her decision to live in this devilish paradise, look no further than the Santa Monica Mountains to sway your mind.
What Makes It Great
There are lots of ways you can enjoy the park; if you are taking a day hike, your best option is the Sandstone Peak hike from Circle X Ranch. At 3,111 feet, this is the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains and offers unrivaled views. This hike takes you from Yerba Buena road quickly up to some spectacular terrain. Once you get to trailhead you have a few trail options.
For a quick but strenuous option, hike directly up to Sandstone Peak from the trailhead along the Backbone Trail, and follow signs to Sandstone Peak. Be careful if you are bringing kids or pets, there is a small rock scramble at the top to get up to the viewpoint (3 miles roundtrip + 1,000’ elevation gain).
Make a day out of it and make it a loop! Start at the Sandstone Peak trailhead and take the backbone trail for a few hundred yards, take the Backbone Trail to the right, until you get to the Mishe Mokwa Trail on the left. This will take you around the back of Sandstone Peak, past Split Rock where you can stop off and make picnic lunch, and bring you back to the Backbone Trail. This trail will lead you back up to the same cutoff that will take you up to the vista at Sandstone Peak.
To go along with the awesome views, you will also find mixed chaparral and sage scrub which have adapted to hot, dry summers and mild winters.
NOTE: As always, when you are hiking around Los Angeles, remember to bring enough water and sun protection. Although the temperatures in Malibu may seem mild at times, it is still has high sun exposure levels.
Who is Going to Love It
Most hikers are going to love this spot. Be careful if you are wary about scrambling on rocks, o not climb up to the peak. Even if this is case, you can still hike the loop! Take the quick jaunt straight up to Sandstone Peak or make a day of it and do the whole loop. Either way, you’re likely to get great weather and some awesome views! If you head to Sandstone peak on a clear day, you WILL NOT forget the views. At the peak (3,111’), you have 360 degree views of the Pacific and the San Fernando Valley. You’ll be able to see a few of the Channel Islands if you’re lucky.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Coming from LA, take Pacific Coast Hwy to Yerba Buena Rd (right past Neptune’s Net Seafood). Turn inland; go 5.4 miles to Circle X Ranch contact station. Remember to watch out for cyclists! Stop by Circle X Ranch to pick up some trail maps and then take Yerba Buena another mile up the road until you get to the Sandstone Peak Trailhead on the left. Park here for free during daylight hours and enjoy!