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Westlake Village, California, United States

Sandstone Peak

Mishe Mokwa Trail to Sandstone Peak and Tri-Peaks

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 (5 votes, 3 reviews)
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 7.1 miles / 11.4 km
Duration: Half day
Dog Friendly
 
Overview: A 7.1 mile loop through some of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful terrain in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

This route takes you through scrubland and native oak groves to Tri-Peaks, Inspiration Point, and Sandstone Peak - three prominent peaks in the Santa Monica Mountains with unbelievable views of the range, the Channel Islands, Pacific Coast and - on clear days the San Gabriels and lands as far south as Palos Verdes.

Sandstone Peak is the tallest point in the Santa Monica Mountain Range, and this is a popular trail for hikers - hands down one of the best hikes in all of Los Angeles.


Tips: This trail has great views year-round, but try heading here the day after a rain for some truly mind-blowing vistas.

Start early - there's some shade on the northern part of the loop, but most of the southern stretch is unshaded and can get hot during the summer months.

Points of Interest

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Parking and Trailhead

Park in the dirt lot off of Yerba Buena Road and hike north past the gate to the wide, fire-road track.
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Junction - Mishe-Mokwa / Backbone Trail

Stay right at the 3-way junction to start hiking on the Mishe-Mokwa Trail.

Here, the trail becomes narrower and more rugged. You'll make a few short climbs and descents through low brush and chaparral.

If you're just interested in getting to Sandstone Peak, take a left at this junction instead, but you'll miss a lot of the spectacular scenery the area has to offer.
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Junction - Alternate Parking

Keep left at the junction to continue on the Mishe Mokwa Trail. Here, you'll get spellbinding views of the peaks and valleys to the east - and if you're lucky, you'll get to see the San Gabriels on a clear day.

This other trail leads to an alternate parking area a bit further east on Yerba Buena Road, and is also designated as part of the Backbone Trail - a long-distance trail system that stretches from the Pacific Ocean near Point Mugu State Park to Will Rogers State Park in the Pacific Palisades.
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Scrambling

This is an area that's also well-traveled by rock climbers. If you're interested in trying out a little easy scrambling, there's a decent rock to the west of the trail in this area. Otherwise, keep soaking in the views and continue on the trail as it skirts the western edge of a wide canyon.
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Balanced Rock View

Be sure to look across the canyon here for a view of Balanced Rock - a house-sized boulder that looks impossibly balanced on a smaller one.

Here, the trail starts to descend a bit, and you'll find yourself with more shade than you've had so far.
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Split Rock / Balanced Rock Trail

Hop across a seasonal stream and hike past Split Rock - a large split boulder formation on the ground. This is a popular climbing rock for Boy Scouts, and there's a picnic table nearby if you'd like to stop for a snack in the shade.

When you're done relaxing, continue on the Mishe Mokwa Trail as it heads north of the table, then immediately keep left at the junction with the Balanced Rock Trail.

The Balanced Rock Trail is an unmaintained, unofficial route that leads to Balanced Rock, as well as several popular climbing areas along the canyon.
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Seasonal Stream

Cross another seasonal stream and continue hiking southwest on the Mishe Mokwa Trail. Here, the trail widens and makes a manageable but steady incline.
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Ignore the Side Trail

Here, there is a firebreak that looks like a trail junction - it's not. Stick to the wider, more established trail to save yourself some unnecessary bushwhacking.
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Junction with Tri-Peaks Trail

Keep right at the 3-way junction to make a side trip to Tri-Peaks.

This trail is more overgrown, narrow, and generally more rugged than the path you've been hiking so far. This trail has some steep, washed-out sections, and lots of pointy Spanish Bayonets along the way - but it is still a popular, well-traveled path. Just keep your eyes open and you should be fine.

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Ignore False Trails

In this area, there are several false trails that spur off from the main one, and it can be difficult to tell if you're on the right path or not.

By now, Tri-Peaks should be very visible - they're the three prominent boulders that are pretty much right in your face. If you look near the boulders, you'll be able to see a small metal pole. Just keep heading toward that, and you'll be on the trail.

You'll also have some pretty outstanding views of the area from here - be sure to soak 'em all in.
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Tri-Peaks

Tri-Peaks is a collection of three large boulders. There is an official USGS marker on them.

This is a nice place to try your hand at a little moderately-difficult scrambling, or just to soak in the views of Point Mugu State Park to the north, the Pacific to the west, and Sandstone Peak to the southeast.

When you've had your fill, return to the Mishe Mokwa Trail the way you came in.
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Keep Right

On your return from Tri-Peaks, keep right at this junction to continue on the Backbone Trail.
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Ignore Water Tanks

There is a short trail leading south, to a pair of large water tanks. Ignore this trail and continue east on the Backbone Trail.
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Junction to Inspiration Point

Here, take a very short detour from the Backbone Trail. Head south from the trail through some low brush to Inspiration Point.
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Inspiration Point

Enjoy the small flat-topped summit of Inspiration Peak, marked by a small plaque and memorial to a Boy Scout.

From here, you will have outstanding views of the Santa Monica Mountains, and often south to Palos Verdes.

When you're done, head back and take a right at the junction to continue east on the Backbone Trail.
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Staircase

At a sharp curve in the Backbone Trail, look for a staircase into the brush on the south side of the trail.

Head up these stairs for the final ascent to Sandstone Peak. This route requires a small bit of scrambling, and while the drop-offs are steep it's not really a difficult route. Take your time and don't be afraid to turn back if it's looking too steep for you.
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Continue Scrambling

Here, the flat part of the trail seems to run back down the hill. Look for a clearly defined scrambling path ascending, instead. Continue up this path to Sandstone Peak.
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Sandstone Peak

Look for the stone and concrete monument to William Allen. The Boy Scouts lobbied unsuccessfully to get this peak named after Allen (and they call it Mount Allen on their plaque), but the official name is "Sandstone Peak" according to the USGS.

There is small drawer in the monument with a well-worn trail register. Sign and soak in the views from the tallest peak in the Santa Monica Mountains (3111 ft).

When you're done, head due north down the rock face. Eventually you will see a clearing in the brush that will lead you back down to the Backbone Trail.
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Keep Right onto Backbone Trail

When you rejoin the Backbone Trail from Sandstone Peak, keep right and continue descending.

Follow this trail back to the parking area where you started.

Pictures in this guide taken by: losangeleshiking, anzu, trackerscott, modernhiker
Reviews
schuyler
Amazing hike up the highest peak in the Santa Monicas. Strenuous to be sure, but not difficult -- I saw people of all ages on the trail. Took me about 2.5 hours to do the loop, but your mileage may vary.

I started at Mishe Mokwa and recommend taking it to Backbone, and up from there, rather than the other way around -- doing it this way is less steep on the ascent, and saves the best views for last. Be sure to stop at both Inspiration Point as well as Sandstone Peak itself. The 360┬║ panorama from the very top is breathtaking.

Visited on Dec 30, 2012

by schuyler on Dec 31, 2012
frdave98
This was a great hike as advertised.... beware if you decide to venture toward "balanced rock" as the trail can be hard to find at times... even this time of year it's hard to bring enough water, but I recommend this hike!

As an added bonus, they've recently installed restroom facilities at the end of the parking lot!

Visited on Sep 27, 2012

by frdave98 on Sep 27, 2012
Socalwingfan
I arrived at the parking lot for this hike fairly early in the morning and noticed only one other car was there. By the time I finished the hike, the lot was completely full (and strangely enough a park ranger was giving someone a ticket for expired registration)

The trail itself is, for the most part, in very good shape. Not surprising, considering how popular the trail is.

The Tri-Peaks area, as is warned, is riddled with false trails that can lead you astray. I had no problem finding my way to the top, and with the help of a couple other hikers who happened by, actually found some amazing caves/crevices. The problem I had was finding the proper way DOWN from Tri-Peaks. I followed a false trail and ended up squeezing through some thorny brush before making it back onto the trail.

Inspiration point seemed like a bit of an afterthought, but it's a very short walk off the Sandstone Peak trail and the view is magnificent - well worth it.

Sandstone Peak itself was quite crowded; much more so than any other part of the trail. There's a cool monument with a register to sign at the peak, and the view is incredible, especially after hiking the trail a couple of days after some rain.

Visited on Oct 09, 2011

by Socalwingfan on Oct 10, 2011

Sandstone Peak Trail Map


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modernhiker
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