Our 19th Annual Backbone Trek!

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Backbone Trail Trek

May 4th - May 11th

Important Dates for the 2024 Backbone Trek

  • February 1 - Registration Opens
  • April 1 - Last day for refund
  • April 8 - Registration Closes

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 $550 per person and includes a one year membership with the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council.

Questions about registration? Contact Event Registrar,
Barry Dydyk (805) 490-2707 backbonetrek@yahoo.com

How This Works

In the mornings, hikers prepare their own breakfast, lunch and trail snacks from an assortment of provided "fixings". If needed, our driver will transport you to the trailhead for the days hike.

You carry a daypack with water, snacks and your personal essentials. We provide encouragement and information about the area we are passing thru (plants, geology or historical). Each day of the trek, our volunteers will lead and sweep the hike.

At the end of each day's hike, our volunteers transport you to the campsite of the day. During the time you were hiking, we move your camping equipment between campgrounds.

Accommodations at the campgrounds vary, however, all have potable water, toilets, picnic tables and some have shower facilities. Hot meals prepared by volunteers are served every evening.

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.

Why We Do This

Since we do not conduct the Backbone Trek as a fund raiser, we are frequently asked, “Why do you do this?” In simple terms, we do this in the hope of creating “Land Stewards”. What is a Land Steward, you may ask. The short definition of a steward is “a person who manages another’s property or affairs”.

The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, is often referred to as the Nation’s largest urban park. It is over 150,000 acres in size. It’s Mediterranean climate and unique geology supports several plant communities. In turn, this environment supports an amazing wildlife diversity. During the trek you will likely observe over one hundred different blooming species.

We hope that during this hike, you will develop an appreciation for how extremely fortunate we are to have this beautiful wilderness parkland right in our backyard. While enjoying the natural beauty of the mountains, you will also see evidence of the many threats to the environment. These threats take several forms; fires, floods, declining habitat and human development. This park was established by the extremely hard and long efforts of many individuals and organizations. But it is under constant threat from the numerous threats mentioned. If the mountains are to remain the beautiful place that they are, constant vigilance is required by many people or “stewards”. We hope that each Backbone Trek participant will become one of these “stewards” and aid in the management and preservation of the natural beauty of these mountains. Stewardship can be performed in many ways; e.g. direct active volunteering, financial donations to supporting organizations, actively supporting groups and organizations involved in the many activities to protect and manage the parks and by supporting political leaders committed to preserving parkland and the environment in general.

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~~ Questions & Answers ~~

Frequently Asked Questions - Submit your Backbone Trek questions to Don Brusselars Click to Send Email to Don Brusselars or registration questions to backbonetrek@yahoo.com.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Will special dietary needs be accommodated?
Special dietary needs may be accommodated if the staff is notified in advance. Send your requirements to the BBTrek coordinator at backbonetrek@yahoo.com.

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.

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: La Jolla Group Campground, Danielson Group Campground and Musch Camp. Circle X Group Camp and Malibu Creek Group Camp are not on the trail and for those days a shuttle will be utilized. Campgrounds for each night of the trek are listed in the Itinerary

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.

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®").

Here's a basic list to help you pack for the Backbone Trek. Our checklist is a tried and true minimal list of items to bring. Consider that temperatures can range from a minimum of 48 to a maximum of 103 degrees.

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, 3 liters of water (water bottles or hydration bladder) 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.

Optional Activities:
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.

Do you anticipate there will be many wildflowers to see?
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.

~~ Itinerary ~~

Rendezvous  MAY 4, 2024   Saturday
Map of area

BBTrek Travel Directions

Our meeting place is also the first night's camp. On May 4th, we will meet at the La Jolla Canyon Group Campground in Point Mugu State Park. Plan to arrive between 2:00 P.M. and 4:00 P.M. Come early enough to set up your camp and do a vehicle shuttle to the parking area a few miles away. We will have dinner & orientation at 6:00 P.M. after shuttling vehicles to the secured parking area.

Drop Off Suggestions - If you are being dropped off at La Jolla Canyon, your pickup at the end of the hike can be either at Will Rogers State Historic Park or at the secure parking area, at 39996 Pacific Coast Highway (one mile north of Leo Carrillo State Park). The planned arrival at Will Rogers is about 2 - 2:30 P.M. on May 11th, at which time we will have our farewell lunch until 3:30 or so. After lunch, we will have a van shuttle to the secure parking area where you will meet up with your camping gear and vehicles by about 4:30 P.M. Your pickup driver is welcome to take part in the farewell lunch at Will Rogers State historic Park.

DAY 1    MAY 5, 2024    Sunday
map of bbt day one
Elevation Profile
La Jolla Canyon Backbone Trail, trailhead to Danielson Ranch Group Camp - Moderate: 8.2 miles, 1,330 foot climb

Backbone Trail Odometer Readings


  • Break camp 8:30 AM. This time may be earlier if the predicted high temperature is over 85 degrees
  • From the western terminus of the BBT, hike the Ray Miller Trail to the Overlook Trail (2.7 mi.), hike Overlook Trail to Wood Canyon Vista Trail (1.9 mi.), descend Wood Canyon Vista Trail to Big Sycamore Canyon (1.8 mi.), 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
  • No shuttle
DAY 2    MAY 6, 2024    Monday
map of bbt day two
Elevation Profile
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 13.2 miles

Backbone Trail Odometer Readings


DAY 3    MAY 7, 2024    Tuesday
map of bbt day three
Elevation Profile
Triunfo Peak Trailhead to Mulholland Hwy Trailhead to Latigo Canyon Trailhead - Moderate: 12.7 mi., 1,970 ft. climb.

Backbone Trail Odometer Readings


DAY 4    MAY 8, 2024    Wednesday
map of bbt day four
Elevation Profile
Latigo Canyon Trailhead to Malibu Canyon Road Trailhead - Difficult: 9.8 mi., 1,120 ft. climb

Backbone Trail Odometer Readings


DAY 5    MAY 9, 2024    Thursday
map of bbt day five
Elevation Profile
Malibu Creek State Park Campground to Saddle Peak Trailhead - Difficult: 7.1 mi., 2,500 ft. climb

Backbone Trail Odometer Readings


DAY 6    MAY 10, 2024    Friday
map of bbt day six
Elevation Profile
Saddle Peak Trailhead to Musch Camp - Moderate: 7.6 miles, mostly downhill but includes a 970 foot climb

Backbone Trail Odometer Readings


DAY 7    MAY 11, 2024    Saturday
map of bbt day seven
Elevation Profile
Musch Camp to Will Rogers Historic Park - Difficult: 9.6 miles, 1,360 foot climb

Backbone Trail Odometer Readings


~~ Meet the Principal Backbone Trek Volunteers ~~

Don Brusselars, BBTrek Event Coordinator
Don Brusselars, a resident of the Somis, is retired from the Aerospace Industry and is an avid geocacher. Don joined the ranks of our trail crew in 2016 and worked more than a 150 hours! Don is moving up the ranks in terms of volunteer hours as he racks up 250 hours plus per year! Since joining the board in the summer of 2017, Don has been active in helping the board find solutions on a variety of issues.
Carlyn Taggart - Meal Planner and More!
Veteran support staff for the BBTrek who has probably organized more volunteer meals than one could imagine! Able to juggle multiple variables (dietary restrictions, ingredients and staff availability) in her mind while cheerfully lending an ear as you recount the travails of your day. It is said that an army travels on its stomach - Carlyn's focus and strategies in this essential part of every day will set you on the path to succeed on this trek across the Santa Monica Mountains.
Dave Edwards - Hike Leader
Dave has resided in Oxnard since 1971. He retired from the federal government in 2001, having worked at the Navy base in Port Hueneme, CA. He is very active in the SMMTC trail maintenance program in the Santa Monica Mountains and on Santa Cruz Island for the National Park Service. Actually, Dave is quite modest but he puts in close to 400 hours a year maintaining trails! Dave is a past board member of Channel Islands Restoration, which restores habitat in sensitive and unique natural areas on the Channel Islands and adjacent mainland He enjoys backpacking in the Sierras and the local Sespe Wilderness. While you are hiking the BBT with us, Dave is a good source of information for the names of Native plants you will come across.
Barry Dydyk - Hike Leader/Event Registrar
Retired Systems Engineer from Northrup Grumman. Active in the SMMTC trail maintenance program as a Crew Leader. Barry logs close to 300 hours per year building and maintaining trails in the local mountains. Two years as hiker leader/sweep for the NPS Backbone Trail series. Active with the Boy Scouts of America as an Assistant Scoutmaster. Hobbies: Hiking, backpacking, camping and geocaching.
Alan Sutterfield - Truck Driver “Wrangler”
Alan lives in Santa Maria, originally from Hawaii, where there is no shortage of mountains or trails, and is a recently retired TV station manager. He has completed the Backbone Trek twice, and he is happy to help out this year as the new Truck Driver/Wrangler.
Debi Dold - Campground Coordinator

Debi had some big shoes to fill in 2023. One of the BBTs long-time team of volunteers, Diana and her hubby Mel, retired and passed the torch to Debi.

Debi successfully led her first trek and has now completed 11 Backbone treks! She enjoys hiking, sailing, backpacking and camping.

Debi will be there to address any questions you may have and to keep the team moving forward. She feels there are so many great take aways from the trek and her favorite is the life-long friends you make.