Backbone Trail Trek 2018

Saturday-to-Saturday, May 5th - May 12th

Sold Out! Registration is now closed.

How Many? How Much?

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 $435.00 per person and includes a membership with the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council.
Registration is sold out for the 2018 Backbone Trek. Check back in January for announcements regarding our trek in 2019.

The Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council (SMMTC) is proud to sponsor the 16th 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, May 5th - May 12th.

The Backbone Trail, now designated as a National Recreation 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. Keep in mind, each days hike is rated moderate to strenuous and 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, picnic tables and some 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 La Jolla Group 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 event's 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 $435.00 - covers all expenses and includes a one year membership in the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council. Registration opens on February 1, 2018 and closes on April 8, 2018. Check the Registration TAB for more info. Come join us for a great week in the local mountains!

Rendezvous    MAY 5, 2018    Saturday
  • Meet at La Jolla Group Campground, Point Mugu State Park, between 2 & 4 p.m.
  • Camp here and shuttle personal vehicles to secure parking
  • Dinner provided
  • Campfire. Introductions and orientation.
DAY 1    MAY 6, 2018    Sunday
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 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
  • No shuttle
DAY 2    MAY 7, 2018    Monday
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


  • Break camp 7:00 am
  • Hike up the Blue Canyon and Chamberlain Trails to Chamberlain Rock (3 mi.) and continue (4.5 mi.) up to Sandstone Peak (3,111 ft.), 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 4.5 miles, a shuttle to the National Park Service‚Äôs Circle X Ranch Group Camp will be provided.
  • Optional: For the hikers electing to continue hiking, continue for an additional 4.5 miles from the Mishe Mokwa Trailhead to the Triunfo Peak Trailhead on Yerba Buena Road, with a gentle additional climb and descent of 400 ft. Shuttle to the Circle X Ranch Group Camp.
  • No showers (bring sun shower)
DAY 3    MAY 8, 2018    Tuesday
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


  • Break camp at 8:00 am
  • Shuttle to the Triunfo Peak trailhead. Hike the newest section of the backbone trail to the Etz Meloy Motorway (.5 mi). Hike the Etz Meloy Motorway to a junction with the Backbone Trail (1.3 mi)
  • Hike the single track, unnamed section of the Backbone Trail to Mulholland Highway (2.6 mi.)
  • 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
DAY 4    MAY 9, 2018    Wednesday
Elevation Profile Latigo Canyon Trailhead to Malibu Canyon Road Trailhead - Difficult: 9.8 mi., 1,120 ft. climb

Backbone Trail Odometer Readings


  • Break camp 8:00 am
  • Shuttle to Latigo Trailhead on Latigo Canyon Road
  • From the Latigo Canyon Road hike to Newton Motorway Fire Road (1.4 mi.)
  • From the Newton Motorway Fire Road, hike the Upper Solstice Canyon 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 Mailbu Canyon Road (2.5 mi.)
  • Shuttle to Malibu Creek State Park Campground
  • Hot showers
DAY 5    MAY 10, 2018    Thursday
Elevation Profile Malibu Creek State Park Campground to Saddle Peak Trailhead - Difficult: 7.1 mi., 2,500 ft. climb

Backbone Trail Odometer Readings


  • Leave camp 8:00 am
  • Hike the Tapia Spur Trail to the Piuma Road Trailhead (1.2 mi.)
  • From the lower Piuma Road trailhead, hike the Piuma Ridge Trail to the upper Piuma Road trailhead (1.9 mi.)
  • From Piuma Road hike the Saddle Creek and Saddle Peak Trails to Stunt Road (5.2 mi.)
  • Shuttle to Malibu Creek State Park campground
  • Hot showers
DAY 6    MAY 11, 2018    Friday
Elevation Profile Saddle Peak Trailhead to Musch Camp - Moderate: 7.6 miles, mostly downhill but includes a 970 foot climb

Backbone Trail Odometer Readings


  • 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)
DAY 7    MAY 12, 2018    Saturday
Elevation Profile Musch Camp to Will Rogers Historic Park - Difficult: 9.6 miles, 1,360 foot climb

Backbone Trail Odometer Readings


  • 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
  • Planned arrival at Will Rogers Historic Park by 2 P.M.
  • Van shuttle and gear transport to the secure vehicle parking area.
  • This ends Backbone Trek 2018
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* On selected days, we may have a guest hike leader

Frequently Asked Questions - Submit your Backbone Trek questions to Jerry Mitcham at (818) 406-1269 or

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 may 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: 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

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.

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, 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.

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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, Patagonia, A16, North Face.
Questions should be directed to the event registrar, Barry Dydyk (805)499-5627
Image from a previous Backbone Trek
Image from a previous Backbone Trek
Image from a previous Backbone Trek