Santa Monica Mountains Backbone Trail

hard 24 reviews

Santa Monica Mountains Backbone Trail is a 101.7 kilometer lightly trafficked point-to-point trail located near Malibu, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Horses are also able to use this trail.

Distance: 101.7 km Elevation Gain: 3,940 m Route Type: Point to Point




horseback riding

mountain biking

nature trips

bike touring

bird watching





wild flowers




washed out

no shade

no dogs

As of March 2019, The Backbone Trail has reopened with the exception of Yerba Buena Road to Mishe Mokwa TH AND from Kanan TH east to Corral Canyon TH. This trail hasn't been entirely linked up yet (there are still two segments of the trail that have yet to be finished), and most people who hike it break it up into sections. The most western section travels up to the summit of Sandstone Peak (3,111') the highest mountain in the Santa Monica Mtns.

3 months ago

Amazing 100k!!! Climbing is front loaded for sure. Some Of the best views I’ve seen and so close to a huge city but you are surrounded by nature. So incredible. Much more exposed after the fires but beautiful to see the froth returning. This is a tough Ultra so be prepared and have a pit crew.

mountain biking
4 months ago

Unfortunately, musch trail not allowed for biking

Thu May 31 2018

Just finished up the Backbone - linking together sections over the last few months. One of the best ways to experience Coastal Southern California.

Wed Feb 07 2018

My hiking friends and I broke this up in 5 sections, going east to west. Section 1: Will Rogers to Deadhorse Trail, Section 2: Deadhorse Trail to Malibu Canyon, Section 3:Malibu Canyon to Newton Canyon, Section 4: Newton Canyon to Mishe Mokwa Trailhead, Section 5: Mishe Mokwa to Ray Miller Trailhead. This is a beautiful hike with views of the Pacific on each section. We took a few side trips that shouldn't be missed, Hondo Canyon being one of them. The rock formations at Casto Crest was another favorite spot filled with caves and lots of exploring opportunities. We had multiple people in our group so we were able to shuttle back and forth with all the cars we had. I've heard that you can also arrange an Uber or Lyft car to get you back to your car. But I'd make sure you have cell phone service before you depend on this. This was one of the best times I've had on the trail. The last 16 miles (which turned into 17 due to a missed trail sign) was by far the most difficult. That could always be turned into 2 sections though. However you do this trail, just make sure you do it in Winter. There's many exposed trails, and with the warm Jan/Feb weather we had, it gave us a glimpse of what truly hot weather would be like. This is definitely a cool to mild weather hike. I also suggest an east to west direction so you are always looking at the Pacific, and if you time it right, you're last hike on The Ray Miller Trail will give you gorgeous sunset opportunities.

Sun May 07 2017

The Backbone Trail is an awesome escape to have so close to the city. The video below shows our overnight journey from Will Rogers to Musch Camp in Topanga Canyon.

Mon Jun 08 2015

Very jagged trail with a downward steep. Very very good trail with sweat and much backbone into it.

Thu May 28 2015

Love the scenery- if you look close enough and skies are clear, you can see the ocean! Moderate hike.

Fri May 22 2015

Awesome ... Hiked over multiple days through NPS organized hike. Super awesome!

7 months ago

Sat Nov 17 2018

Wed Nov 14 2018

Sun Sep 23 2018

Sat May 06 2017

Fri Oct 21 2016

Fri Oct 21 2016

recorded Backbone Trail

Sat May 31 2014

Fri May 02 2014