The ridgeline of the Santa Monica Mountains is known for its picturesque beauty and Hollywood history. Since the 1970s a trail network has been under production that explores the entirety of the mountain range. The 65-mile long Backbone Trail begins at Will Rodgers State Park in Santa Monica and finishes in Ventura County at Point Mugu State Park. The network consists of fire roads and singletrack trails that can be accessed from a numerous locations and for a variety of recreational activities.
What Makes It Great
Perhaps the most scenic and accessible segment of the Backbone Trail is where it all begins: at Will Rogers State Park in Santa Monica. After parking in the lot at the main entrance, turn north and ride along the access road to the right of the polo field. At the end of the polo field the trailhead will be on your left and from here onward the Backbone will be clearly labeled throughout.
The trail starts off as a well-groomed doubletrack that climbs steadily above the Palisades and into the mountains. After 1.5 miles the trail forks, a sign will lead you to the left where you begin climbing on singletrack that will stay with you for the rest of the ride.As you climb up the ridge, you will cross a beautiful bridge with sheer drops on both sides and views of the ocean or downtown LA. The trail is tightly packed and well groomed with limited exposure. The climb is neither particularly steep nor rocky and the tight turns keep it interesting.
After 6.5 miles of the singletrack climb riders will reach a fire road intersection.
Here they can either continue on the fire road connector to another segment of the Backbone or descend back to the parking lot. Bring a map if you choose to continue along the fire road.The Backbone descent is fast and flows. The marine layer often brings moisture to the ridgeline resulting in soil that grips with confidence. Be wary of other hikers and bikers climbing up, as the sight line is limited in the tight corners. The views of the ocean as you descend are surreal.
Access is limited for bikers and equestrians on certain segments of the trail network. The entire ridgeline can be traveled by bike but, because of restrictions, riders are forced to travel on less direct fire roads which can get confusion and create long days in the saddle. Many simply ride the numerous enjoyable singletrack segments throughout the mountain range.
Who is Going to Love It
This is a great technical trail for riders trying to develop their skills or the master who is looking to have a good time.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Pacific Coast Highway, drive on Chautauqua Boulevard for 1 mile, turn right onto Sunset Boulevard, after half a mile the Will Rogers State Park entrance will be on your left. From the 405 Freeway, exit at Sunset Boulevard, travel 4.5 miles and the park entrance will be on your right. Parking is $12, but you can park in the residential neighborhood on weekdays. Park hours are sunrise to sunset. Trail is an 16 miles long (out and back) or longer, but bring a map to navigate the fire road connectors.