Category Archives: Santa Monica Mountains

Saddle Peak via Backbone Trail(from Piuma Road)

Saddle Peak is the second highest peak in the Santa Monica Mountains next to Sandstone Peak. This is a great hike as you climb a ridge and get great views as you are ascending. I picked up the Backbone Trail from Piuma Road, and to get to SaddlePeak, it is about 4.4 miles with an elevation gain of about 1750 feet; thus making the round trip about 8.8 miles. The views from Saddle Peak are just as nice, if not, nicer than Sandstone Peak. You get a 360 degree view towards the Pacific Ocean, Ventura County, Downtown LA, and the San Fernando Valley. I was also able to see Mt. Baldy as well. This is a good moderate hike and it will give you a workout, so, make sure you wear a hat, sunblock and have enough water if you do this on a hot day as the first part of this hike is the switchback ascension with exposure to the Sun. You will, though, cross a very shaded creek(Cold Creek), prior to the switchbacks.

View from Saddle Peak towards the Pacific Ocean covered by clouds.

Once you reach the top of the switchbacks, it will be come very flat and you will go through a saddle; then, the trail gradually ascends and will take you to a shaded area with brush and chaparral; this section will give you the feeling that you are in the woods with a sense of isolation. This whole area, beginning from the flat section is a great area to take pictures, and, you will begin to see Saddle Peak from there; take notice of the rocky formations at the distance from the peak. Continue hiking further and you will then come to a junction; if you go straight it will take to you to Stunt Road in 0.3 miles; to get to Saddle Peak, though, take a right at the junction and head up 1.3 miles via switchbacks to the peak. This last part will also be a nice little climb. Once you get to the peak, you will be greeted by a canyon wall(where I saw some people rappelling); and you will notice some caves and big holes in the rocks with different shapes; this is a very interesting rock formation and geology; as I said. You can continue going a bit further on an incline and that will take you to the highest point where you will get dramatic views in any direction. This will be a great area to relax and enjoy your surroundings. Go back the same way you came to Piuma Road, and that will complete the 8.8 mile round trip.

Danilo standing on a rock formation at Saddle Peak.

Saddle Peak(Backbone Trail via Piuma Road) Statistics:

  • Elevation Gain- 1750 feet
  • Round Trip – 8.8 miles
  • Suggested Time – 4 hours
  • Difficulty – Moderate
  • Best Season – Any

Nice view towards the sky from Saddle Peak.

Backbone Trail to Saddle Peak is on Piuma Road, near Malibu Creek State Park.  From Pacific Coast Highway, you can take Malibu Canyon Road North for about 4.6 miles, and then take a right on Piuma. In about 1.2 miles, at a sharp turn in the road, look for a small dirt turnout on the left (next to a driveway at the address 25575 Piuma Road.) I parked just before this address at a dirt pullout on the right, and then took the trailhead that started on the left just before the left dirt pullout. From Highway 101, drive South on Las Virgenes for about five miles and turn left on Piuma, and follow the same directions from listed above.

If you have any questions about this hike, feel free to leave a comment here and/or email me at 412cobrapower@gmail.com

Sandstone Peak via Mishe Mokwa Trail

The Sandstone Peak hike via the Mishe Mokwa Trail is another intriguing trek with great views and interesting rock formations(Balance Rock and Split Rock). This is a 6 mile loop with an elevation gain of about 1400 feet. The trail is in good condition and offers quite a bit of shade and great places to take pictures and to just relax(Split Rock). Sandstone Peak is the tallest peak in the Santa Monica Mountains at an elevation of 3,111 feet. The peak has an excellent 360 degree view towards the Pacific Ocean, Ventura County, the San Fernando Valley and the Los Angeles area. This is a very popular spot so parking can be a little difficult and the drive up there is not easy as the road does twist and turn a lot and can get very narrow in certain parts. Once you get to the Trailhead, the signs are very clear and it is very easy to follow the trail to the peak. There is another way to get to Sandstone Peak via the Sandstone Peak Trail, but, that is only about a 1.3 miles to the top and steeper. My recommendation for the best experience to the Sandstone Peak is to take the Mishe Mokwa Trail.

Danilo and Gyorgyi in the Split Rock.

When you begin your hike on the Mishe Mokwa Trail, you will come to a junction about half a mile into it; stay straight on the trail, do not turn left. In 1.3 miles, you will reach Split Rock, this is a very shaded area with picnic tables where you can enjoy snacks and/or drinks with a very peaceful sense. The trail from Split Rock picks up, and at the point, you have 2.4 miles to get to the Sandstone Peak. Once you proceed on the trail, you will reach a junction, turn left. If you go straight, you can reach Balance Rock, but it is not a maintained trail. After you turn left, you will ascend quite a bit more and then it will level out. You will then reach a sign that lists a trail to the Tri-Peaks towards the right, if you wish to go that way. If you do not wish to go towards the Tri-Peaks, then continue on the trail and you will reach a sign that lists the Sandstone Peak at .9 miles away. You will then ascend more and reach a sign to Inspiration Point, which is a great area to relax and get great views. After stopping at Inspiration Point, head back down and continue towards Sandstone Peak; which at this point is about half a mile away, but you will gain about 300 feet in elevation to reach the top. The last part is pretty steep. Once you get to the top, you will have the greatest views in the Santa Monica Mountains, and just like Inspiration Point, there is plaque there as well. There is also a register that you can sign in the plaque. To finish the loop, descend from the peak and connect to the trail. Make a right and go about 2 miles back to the parking lot.

Danilo and the Plaque at the Sandstone Peak.

Sandstone Peak Statistics:

  • Elevation Gain – 1400 feet
  • Round Trip – 6 miles
  • Suggested Time – 3 hours
  • Difficulty – Moderate
  • Best Season – Any Season

View from Sandstone Peak.

Sandstone Peak is in the Santa Monica Mountains. From Westlake Village, exit Westlake Blvd from the 101 North, and make a left(23 South) for several miles as it merges with Mulholland Highway. Contine on the 23 South and then head West(right on Mulholland Highway). Do not go straight to Decker Road. Continue for a about a mile or so on Mulholland Highway and turn right onto Little Sycamore Canyon and it will become Yerba Buena Road as you cross the county line. Continue on Yerba Buena Road for about 4 miles to Trailhead (about a mile before you hit the Circle X Ranch Ranger Station).

If you have any questions about this hike, please leave a comment on this page and/or email me at 412cobrapower@gmail.com