Hike: Mishe Mokwa Trail to Sandstone Peak, Malibu

It’s finally fall and time to get back on the trails. The weather this past weekend was perfect for the first fall hike of the year. Since I moved to Southern California I have been wanting to hike in the Santa Monica Mountains and finally I did it.

Spoiler alert: it was as great as imagined!

I mean it involved crawling on all fours and scooting down a rock on my butt. That’s character building, right?

A couple of friends invited me on this hike and it all started so easy on this innocent looking Backbone Trail:

backbone trail santa monica mountains

We passed the balancing rock on top of this hill and were wondering what would happen to this rock during the next earthquake. Apparently the rock is the size of a house.

balancing rock santa monica mountains

Split Rock was the next landmark we passed.

split rock santa monica mountains

When we saw a marker for Inspiration Point (elevation 2,800 feet), we couldn’t resist. We climbed up the rock to be rewarded with sweeping views over the Santa Monica Mountains, the Pacific and Conejo Valley.

Sandstone Peak

Just a little further along the trail, we saw another marker. This time for Sandstone Peak (elevation 3,111 feet). Sandstone Peak, also known as Mount Allen, is the highest summit in the Santa Monica Mountains. Crawling up the rocks to reach the top was a little more challenging. If you suffer from vertigo, you definitely want to stay lower on the ground. As you climb up and get to the top, the Santa Monica Mountain Recreation Area just lies to your feet. It’s beautiful.

Stay a while and just enjoy the views

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Coming down from the Sandstone Peak, we mistook a washed out area for the trail and struggled a little coming down, but this is where gracefully hiking down scooting down on your butt was the way to go. For future reference, just crawl down the rock that you climbed up.

After the rather exciting crawl down from Sandstone Peak, the rest of the trail was all downhill back to the car park.

Backbone Trail extends over nearly 68 miles across the Santa Monica Mountains from sea level all the way to Sandstone Peak at 3,111 feet. It is a well-maintained and well sign-posted trail.

Mishe Mokwa Trail to Sandstone Peak Loop Hike Details

Hike: Loop

Length: 5.8 miles (about 6.3 if you include Inspiration Point and Sandstone Peak) with 1,554 feet elevation gain

Start: Backbone Trail Trailhead – Yerba Buena Parking Lot

When to go: Fall through spring

Dog friendly: Yes, dog on leash

Don’t forget: Plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, a hat, your camera


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  1. Wow this looks like it was so much fun! Didn’t know you can have such a wonderful hike in Santa Monica. So so pretty!

  2. Hiking is one of the physical activities I enjoy, gives me time to clear my mind and it’s a great way to relieve stress.

    Great post