Backbone Trail Trek 2016

Saturday-to-Saturday, April 30 - May 7, 2016

Registration Opens February 1, 2016

The Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council (SMMTC) is proud to sponsor the 14th annual Backbone Trek. This seven-day hike will traverse the 65-mile length of the Santa Monica Mountains and will be conducted Saturday-to-Saturday, April 30 - May 7, 2016.

The Backbone Trail traverses the length of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. It follows ridges and canyons crossing chaparral-covered hillsides, oak woodlands, creeks and valleys. The daily hikes are rated moderate to strenuous difficulty and average about 10 miles per day, with daily elevation changes ranging from 500 to 3,000 feet. Hikers carry only a daypack with lunch, water and personal items. While this hike is much less strenuous than a backpack trip, it is not for the casual hiker. Each day's hike is classified as moderate or difficult. However, keep in mind a 10 mile hike every day may have a cumulative effect on one's physical condition, increasing the difficulty as the hike progresses day to day.

Volunteers truck the hiker's camping equipment between campgrounds and when necessary, a van shuttle is provided to and from the trailhead. Upon arriving at the night's campground, usually around 3:00 PM, participants may relax while being treated to light snacks and cool drinks. While accommodations at the campgrounds vary, all have potable water, toilets, and picnic tables; all but two campgrounds have shower facilities. Hot meals prepared by volunteers are served every evening. In the mornings, hikers prepare their own breakfast, lunch and trail snacks from an assortment of provided "fixings".

The BBT begins at La Jolla Canyon in Point Mugu State Park. The first day of the event, hikers will meet in the afternoon at the Thornhill Broome Beach Campground in Point Mugu State Park. After unloading individual equipment and shuttling private vehicles to a secure parking area, hikers have an opportunity to meet the other hikers and the BBT volunteers, share a light dinner and receive an event orientation. The BBT culminates at Will Rogers State Historic Park. A light lunch and cool drinks are provided while all participants share their experiences and say good-byes. After lunch, participants are shuttled back to the vehicle parking area to pick up personal camping gear and private autos.

The fee for this event is TBD and covers all expenses. Registration begins on February 1, 2016 and closes on April 8, 2016. Check the Registration TAB for more info. Come join us for a great week in the local mountains!

Questions should be directed to the event coordinator, Jerry Mitcham (805) 406-1269 / email

RENDEZVOUS    April 30, 2016    Saturday
  • Meet at Thornhill Broome Beach, Point Mugu State Park, between 2 & 4 p.m.
  • Camp here and shuttle personal vehicles to secure parking
  • Dinner provided
  • Campfire. Introductions and orientation.
  • Hot showers
  • Single van shuttle to park vehicles in the secure parking area.

DAY 1    MAY 1, 2016    Sunday
La Jolla Canyon Backbone Trail, trailhead to Danielson Ranch Group Camp - Moderate: 8.2 miles, 1,330 foot climb
  • Break camp 8:30 AM. This time may be earlier if the predicted high temperature is over 85 degrees
  • From this point, the western terminus of the BBT, hike up the Ray Miller Trail to the Overlook Trail (2.7 mi.), hike Overlook Trail to the Wood Canyon Vista Trail (1.9 mi.), descend the Wood Canyon Vista Trail to Big Sycamore Canyon (1.8 mi.), and hike to Danielson Ranch Group Camp, Point Mugu State Park (1.7 mi.)
  • From the Overlook Trail, look to the right for tomorrow's challenge: the ridge line of Boney Mountain 2,000 feet higher
  • Camp at Danielson Ranch Group Camp
  • Hot showers
  • No shuttle
Leader: TBD

DAY 2    MAY 2, 2016    Monday
Danielson Ranch Group Camp to Triunfo Peak Trailhead - Difficult: 8.4 miles, 3,060 foot climb with the option of including an additional 4.6 mile section of the Backbone Trail for a total of 13.0 miles
  • Break camp 7:00 am
  • Hike up Blue Canyon to Chamberlain Rock (3 mi.) and continue (4.5 mi.) up to Sandstone Peak, the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains (and consequently the highest point of the Backbone Trail)
  • Visit Inspiration Point and Sandstone Peak
  • Descend the trail to the Mishe Mokwa Trailhead parking (1.6 mi.). For those hikers that elect to not hike the optional 4.6 miles, a shuttle to the National Park Service's Circle X Ranch Group Camp will be provided.
  • Optional: For the hikers electing to continue hiking, continue for an additional 4.6 miles from the Mishe Mokwa Trailhead to Yerba Buena Road, with a gentle additional climb and descent of 400 ft. Van shuttle to the Circle X Ranch Group Camp.
  • No showers (bring sun shower)
  • Two Van shuttles afternoon
Leader: TBD

DAY 3    MAY 3, 2016    Tuesday

Yerba Buena Trailhead to Mulholland Hwy Trailhead to Latigo Canyon Trailhead - Moderate: 12.7 mi., 1,970 ft. climb. Includes an optional 4.2-mile section of the Backbone Trail (8.5 miles without optional section).
Note: An optional 4.2 miles is added to the front of the hike. To accomplish the optional section, we will divide the hikers into two groups for the beginning of the hike. The first group, those who have chosen to hike the optional section, will leave the campground at 8:00 AM and shuttle to the Yerba Buena trailhead. The second group, those choosing not to hike the optional section will leave the campground at 10:00 AM and shuttle to the Mulholland Highway trailhead. The two groups join at Mulholland Highway and continue for the remainder of the day's hike.
  • Group 1 leave camp 8:00 am
  • Shuttle to the Yerba Buena trailhead. Hike Etz Meloy Motorway to a junction with the Backbone Trail (1.6 mi)
  • Hike the newest and unnamed section of the Backbone Trail to Mulholland Highway (2.6 mi.). Rendezvous with group 2.
  • Group 2 leave camp at 10:00 am. Shuttle to the trailhead on Mulholland Highway. Rendezvous with group 1.
  • Hike an unnamed section of Backbone Trail which takes us from Mulholland Hwy to Encinal Canyon Road (1.2 mi.)
  • From Encinal Canyon Road hike Trancas Canyon Trail to the Zuma Ridge Motorway (2.3 mi.)
  • Hike Zuma Ridge Motorway to Zuma Canyon section of the Backbone Trail (0.1 mi.)
  • From the Zuma Ridge Motorway, hike the Upper Zuma Canyon Trail to Kanan Road (2.5 mi.)
  • Continue hiking the Newton Canyon section to the Latigo Canyon Trailhead (2.5 mi.)
  • Shuttle to Malibu Creek State Park campground
  • Hot showers
  • 2 Van shuttles early morning and 1 Van shuttle afternoon
Leader: TBD

DAY 4    MAY 4, 2016    Wednesday
Latigo Canyon Trailhead to Malibu Canyon Road Trailhead - Difficult: 9.8 miles, 1,120 foot climb
  • Break camp 8:00 am
  • Shuttle to Latigo Trailhead on Latigo Canyon Road
  • From the Latigo Canyon Road hike to Castro Fire Road (1.4 mi.)
  • From the Castro Fire Road hike the Upper Solstice Trail to Corral Canyon Road (2.7 mi.)
  • From Corral Canyon Road hike the Mesa Peak Fire Road to junction with Puerco Canyon Road (3.0 mi.)
  • From Puerco Canyon Road hike the Mesa Peak Fire Road to Las Virgenes Road (2.5 mi.)
  • Shuttle to Malibu Creek State Park Campground
  • Hot showers
  • Two van shuttles in the morning and afternoon
Leader: TBD

DAY 5    MAY 5, 2016    Thursday
Malibu Creek State Park Group Campground to Saddle Peak Trailhead - Difficult: 7.1 miles, 2,500 foot climb
  • Leave camp 8:00 am
  • Hike to Piuma Road Trailhead
  • From the lower Piuma Road trailhead, hike the Piuma Ridge Trail to the upper Piuma Road trailhead (1.9 mi.)
  • From Piuma Road hike Dark Canyon, and up the Saddle Peak Trail to Stunt Road (5.2 mi.)
  • Shuttle Malibu Creek State Park campground
  • Hot showers
  • One van shuttle in the afternoon
Leader: TBD

DAY 6    MAY 6, 2016    Friday
Saddle Peak Trailhead to Musch Camp - Moderate: 7.6 miles, 970 foot climb
  • Break camp 8:00 am
  • Shuttle to the top of Stunt Road
  • From Stunt Road hike the Fossil Ridge Trail to the Hondo Canyon trailhead (0.8 mi.)
  • Hike down Hondo Canyon to Old Topanga Canyon Road (3.8 mi.)
  • From Old Topanga Canyon Rd. hike over Henry Ridge to Topanga Canyon Blvd. (0.7 mi.),
  • From Topanaga Canyon Blvd. Hike through Trippet Ranch to the Musch Camp in Topanga Canyon State Park (2.3 mi.)
  • Camp at Musch Camp
  • No showers (bring sun shower)
  • Van shuttle in the morning
Leader: TBD

DAY 7    MAY 7, 2016    Saturday
Musch Camp to Will Rogers Historic Park - Difficult: 9.6 miles, 1,360 foot climb
  • Break camp 8:00 am
  • Hike to Eagle Rock (1.6 mi.)
  • Hike past Eagle Rock to "The Hub" (1.1 mi.)
  • Hike from "The Hub", to the Rogers Road trail, past the Lone Oak, cross the Chicken Ridge Bridge and descend into Will Rogers State Historic Park (6.9mi.); the eastern terminus of the Backbone Trail
  • Plan to arrive at Will Rogers Historic Park by 2 P.M.
  • Van shuttle and gear transport to the secure vehicle parking area.
  • This ends Backbone Trek 2016
Leader: TBD

* On selected days, we may have a guest hike leader
Frequently Asked Questions - Submit your Backbone Trek questions to

Q: What are the toilet facilities like?
Each night we will be camping at an established campground with toilet facilities. There will be periodic "split breaks" on the trail during the day.

Q: Will we be in areas where we can get cell phone coverage?
There is usually poor cell phone coverage in the campgrounds. However, during the days we will be hiking over and along high ridges, which usually permit cell phone service.

Q: During the trek, will we be reachable in the event of an emergency?
Prior to the trek, you will be provided with an emergency number which friends or family may use to get in touch in case of an emergency.

Q: Will special dietary needs be accommodated?
Special dietary needs can be accommodated if the staff is notified in advance. Send your requirements to the BBTrek coordinator at

Q: I am a slow hiker. How fast is the pace?
We usually maintain a pace of about 2 miles per hour. However, we accommodate hikers of all abilities. There will be plenty of time to enjoy the views, take pictures, etc. Each day's hike is classified as moderate or difficult. However, keep in mind a 10-mile hike every day, with elevation changes, may have a cumulative effect on one's physical condition, increasing the difficulty as the hike progresses day to day.

Q: I am curious about where the camping sites are located. I'm not aware of enough campgrounds spaced at the necessary distances for the hike.
Three of the campgrounds are on or near the trail: Thornhill Broome, Danielson Group Campground and Musch Camp. For the other nights, van shuttles will be provided to/from the trailheads. Campgrounds for each night of the trek are listed in the "On The Trail - Daily Schedule" page on the Backbone Trek page of the SMMTC website

Q: Will there be time on the hikes to do some geocaching?
Yes. We will maintain a pace to allow everyone time to enjoy the views, take pictures, geocache, etc. The SMMTC website has recently been updated to include a page on geocaching, including a list of all the geocaches along the Backbone Trail.

Q: Do you anticipate there will be many wildflowers this year?
We typically see 140 to 150 blooming species during the hike. Even in low rainfall years we manage to see many different flowers. If you need a reference for wildflowers in the Santa Monica Mountains, we recommend Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains, by Milt McAuley, second edition, 1996. Also check out last year's account of wildflower sightings during the Backbone Trek.

Q: Will we be exposed to Poison Oak on the Backbone Trail?
Yes. We can expect to encounter Poison Oak on many sections of the trail. All hikers should be sure to bring protective clothing such as long pants and long sleeve shirts. If you are one of those folks who have a reaction to the plant, you should consider bringing a treatment such as "Tecnu®").

Q: Will there be facilities to recharge the batteries in our cell phone and camera?
Yes. Some of the campgrounds have electric outlets. We will also have a portable charging station available for the other sites. Be sure to bring your adapter for AC or auto outlets.

Q: Will we have to pump water?
No. There is potable water in all the campgrounds. You will have carry your full day's supply each day on the trail.

The more stuff you leave behind, the more enjoyable your experience, but be sure to bring the essentials. Temperatures typically range from a minimum of 48 to a maximum of 103 degrees. Here's a basic list to help you pack for the Backbone Trek.

Equipment: Sleeping bag, pad and ground cloth, tarp or tent to protect against insects. A pillow may make your sleeping more comfortable.

Clothing: Rain would be unusual, but coastal fog is likely, so a rain resistant windbreaker with layers should be the best combination. Hiking boots or sturdy walking shoes and good hiking socks for the trail; comfortable shoes to wear in camp; and a hat are musts. It is likely that it will be sunny and hot at least some of the time. Shorts would be OK on most days.

Eating Utensils: Bring your own cup, plate, bowl and eating utensils; plastic container to carry your sandwich and for leftovers; cloth napkin and dish towel.

Personal Items: Bring a towel, soap, shampoo, comb, hairbrush, chap-stick, sunscreen and dental care items. For two days we will be without showers, so you might want to bring a solar shower if a daily shower is important to you.

Basic First Aid: Bring first aid supplies such as bandages, insect repellent, aspirin, moleskin for blister protection and your own special needs. Bring any prescription medications you require.

Trail Items: Bring a daypack, at least two canteens/water bottles, and sunglasses. Camera, notebook and pen, and binoculars (optional).

Chairs: I recommend one of those lightweight camp seats that fold up into a small cylindrical stuff sack. The stores call them sling chairs or hammock chairs.

Other Stuff: A flashlight and extra batteries are essential. You’ll want some money for extras (we will be making shopping runs during the week.)

The bottom line: We will have a large truck to haul your equipment, so you don't have to be too weight conscious. However, you will have to pack/unpack and load/unload your own equipment each day, so don't bring the kitchen sink.

Generous Supporters

    Tom Harrison offers the following maps of the Backbone Trail:
  • Pt. Mugu State Park
  • Zuma-Trancas Canyon
  • Malibu Creek State Park
  • Topanga State Park
These maps can be purchased directly from Tom Harrison's web site or through REI, Amazon, Sports Chalet.
The 2015 Backbone Trekkers met on Saturday, May 3, at Thornhill-Broom campground for an evening of introductions, instructions and dinner. There were 24 hikers. The weather was in the low to mid 60’s, and stayed in that range throughout the trek. After spending the night lulled by the sounds of the ocean, we began the trek by hiking up the Ray Miller trail, with magnificent views of the ocean including some of the Channel Islands. Over the next seven days, nature provided us with incredible flower shows. As we hiked along, identifying the various flowers became in itself a source of conversation, since many of our hikers and hike leaders are flower aficionados. We hiked up, down, over and along a number of ridges and canyons that formed micro climates, constantly changing the vegetation and flowers, making a never-ending source of discovery and conversation. The views were constantly changing. As we reached Saddle Peak, we enjoyed the distant city views of Santa Monica and Los Angeles, reminding us that, as we hiked west to east, we are slowly getting back to civilization. The trek ended at Will Rogers Historic State Park in Pacific Palisades. Looking forward to seeing you in 2016!

Just 64 days, 0 hours until registration opens!
The registration link will appear right here after the stroke of midnight on February 1, 2016.
The number of hikers is limited to 25 and registrations are accepted on a first-come first-served basis. There is a registration fee to cover expenses for campgrounds, transportation of personal equipment, insurance, food and the like, with any excess fee going to improve and maintain the trails in the Santa Monica Mountains. The registration fee is TBD per person. Membership with the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council is not required, however we do hope you will embrace the benefits of a SMMTC membership.
  • Registration is via U.S. Mail
  • February 1: Registration Opens
  • April 1: Last day to Cancel & receive refund
  • April 8: Registration Closes
  • May 2: First day of the Trek
  • May 9: Last Day of the Trek
Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council (SMMTC) - PO BOX 345 AGOURA HILLS, CA  91376  Email:, message: 818-222-4531.