This fairly well maintained section of the Backbone Trail crosses fields of grains and forests of bays, climbing 1500 feet over 3.8 miles. There is a road at both ends of the Hondo Trail, so it can be hiked as a one-way with a car shuttle or a 7.6-mile out and back without.
The bottom of the trail is located along Old Topanga Canyon Road 0.4 miles west of Topanga Canyon Blvd. Look for the Botts’ dots built into the road, which slow traffic through this area of ample roadside parking. Start down the single track leading from the southwest side of the road. There is sign posted which reads, “Backbone Trail.” Immediately, the trail crosses over a shallow creek where some rock hopping is required. On the other side, follow the trail to the right as it climbs up fields of green grasses. There is a good chance of seeing deer in this area, and an even better shot of an excellent view down on Topanga and the surroundings.
Hondo Canyon Trail
The trail remains easy to follow as it approaches Hondo Canyon, crossing a rocky perch with a nice view up and down the canyon. From there, the track climbs the east bank of the canyon, staying high above the small creek below. The trail switches through a dense forest made up largely of California bays (and a patch or two of poison oak). In the spring, flower seekers will find intermittent purple nightshade and tree poppies along the trail. The top of the ridge is never out of sight for long, but it takes an awful lot of switchbacks to get to.
The trail finally reaches Saddle Peak Road, where one one gets a view down the other side of the ridge at the ocean below. Cross the pavement and trot up the opposing ridge to gain a slightly better perspective down on the big blue.
Extending the hike: From the top of Hondo Canyon Trail, a section of the Backbone Trail labeled “Fossil Ridge Trail” continues west above the road for 0.6 miles, connecting to Lois Ewen Overlook at the base of the trail Topanga Lookout (the Lookout is 0.9 miles from the junction). Just across the pavement, the Backbone Trail continues, reaching Saddle Peak after one mile. Both extensions are highly recommended, and add sweeping views to the secluded hike up Hondo Canyon.
Those who parked back on Old Topanga Canyon Road must now hike back down the Hondo Canyon Trail for a 7.6-mile hike (or a 10.6-mile hike with one of the extensions). There are several other great long hikes in the Santa Monica Mountains to try before setting out for Hondo Canyon, like Stunt High Trail to Saddle Peak, Parker Mesa Overlook, and Sandstone Peak. Dogs and bikes are not permitted, but no fee or permit is required, so get out and enjoy!
Looking inland over the Santa Monica Mountains
To get to the trailhead: From PCH, take Topanga Canyon Road inland for 4.3 miles. At the first major intersection, turn left onto Old Topanga Canyon Road. After 0.4 miles, park along either side of the road and locate the marked trailhead on the southwest side of the road.
Trailhead address: 381 Old Topanga Canyon Road, Topanga Canyon, CA 90290
Trailhead coordinates: 34.092804, -118.610122 (34° 05′ 34.09″N 118° 36′ 36.43″W)
Use the map below to create your own directions:
This 2-mile visits the site of an old fire tower that still offers great views of the surrounding mountains.
|Backbone Trail to Saddle Peak|
This 2-mile hike approaches Saddle Peak from the east.
|Stunt High Trail to Saddle Peak|
This 8.2-mile hike combines Stunt High Trail and a section of the Backbone Trail to visit the 6th tallest summit in the Santa Monica Mountains.
|Red Rock Canyon|
The trails in the beautifully sculpted Red Rock Canyon are 2.5 and 5.2 miles in length.
This 3.6-mile hike travels an easy-to-follow fire road, climbing 1000 feet to panoramic views of the Santa Monica Mountains and San Fernando Valley.
|Eagle Rock from Trippet Ranch|
This 4.5-mile loop takes Musch Trail and Eagle Springs Fire Road to visit an exceptional sandstone summit in Topanga State Park.
|Parker Mesa Overlook from Trippet Ranch|
This 6.7-mile roundtrip hike heads up to the overlook from the opposite direction, starting at Trippet Ranch, Topanga State Park’s main trailhead.
|More trails in the Santa Monica Mountains|
Explore other destinations in the range.