Sandstone Peak Malibu

At 3,111 feet, Sandstone Peak is the tallest point in the Santa Monica Mountains. The summit can be reached via a 6.25-mile loop with 1,075 feet of elevation gain that (in addition to bragging rights) offers expansive views of the range.

Head to Circle X Ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains, and start up the Backbone Trail toward Sandstone Peak. After a third of a mile, turn right, taking the connection to Mishe Mokwa Trail. This path runs parallel to Yerba Buena Road and offers great early views.

Sandstone Peak
Looking out from the Mishe Mokwa Trail

The vistas will only improve once you turn left and hike up Mishe Mokwa. The wide rock and dirt track passes a ravine with bold sandstone cliffs. These Echo Cliffs are a popular spot for mountain climbers, and you may spot a few making their ascent. A balancing rock at the northwest end of these cliffs appears to be standing in defiance of gravity.

Just ahead on the trail, enters a riparian forest and crosses a stream to arrive at Split Rock Picnic Area. After hiking nearly two miles, this is a good spot for a break. The picnic area offers plenty of shade, which is otherwise elusive on this hike.

Sandstone Peak
Balancing Rock

Past the picnic area, the trail climbs for nearly a mile and a half to join the Backbone Trail, 3 1/3 miles from the start. Turn left to continue on the loop, or make a right turn on the spur trail out to Tri Peaks, which adds 1.2 miles to the hike along with fine views to the west. To reach Sandstone Peak, continue on the Backbone Trail, which curves southward and then east. The next turnoff is for Inspiration Point, where a short path leads to vast views, making for a very worthy side venture.

Sandstone Peak
Looking down on Yerba Buena Road

The lookout should “inspire” you to get back on the trail and push on for the peak, one mile away. While never too steep, the Backbone Trail provides a steady climb. It passes just beneath the summit, where a short side trail must be taken to reach the top. Sign the registry and have a look around. You are 1,075 feet above the trailhead at the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains. Enjoy the views and remind yourself, “it’s all down hill from here.”

Almost…

Once you return to the Backbone Trail, it continues slightly uphill for a few hundred feet before making a steep descent to the parking lot. No fee or permit is required, so get out and enjoy!


View the Circle X Ranch Map in a new window

To get to the trailhead: Take PCH to the far west end of Malibu. Make a right on Yerba Buena Road (just past Neptune’s Net Restaurant) and drive up Yerba Buena for 5.5 miles to the Circle X Ranch Ranger Station. Continue past the ranger station up Yerba Buena Road another mile and turn left into the Sandstone Peak trailhead parking lot. There is a bathroom at the trailhead and the Circle X Ranch Ranger Station.

Trailhead address: 12554 Yerba Buena Road, Malibu, CA 90265
Trailhead coordinates: 34.109292, -118.937438 (34° 06′ 33.45″N 118° 56′ 14.77″W)

Use the map below to create your own directions:


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Photos

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These photos were taken in March of 2007. Click to enlarge.
Nearby Trails
sandstone peakTri Peaks
This 1.2-mile addition to the Sandstone Peak loop adds extra views to the hike (and some great views).
Grotto hike malibuThe Grotto
This 3-mile out and back hike visits a remote grotto in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
Malibu Springs TrailNicholas Flat via Malibu Springs Trail
This scenic 7-mile round trip hike ascends 1,425 feet to meadows and a pond on Nicholas Flat in Leo Carrillo State Park.
Point Mugu State Park hikeLa Jolla Canyon Loop
This 11.75-mile hike explores Point Mugu State Park on the west end of the Santa Monica Mountains, offering extraordinary ocean views.
Point Mugu State Park hikeMugu Peak
This 6.5-mile hike ascends from the bottom of La Jolla Canyon to the top of a 1,266-foot peak, providing exceptional ocean and canyon views.
hiking in los angelesMore trails in the Santa Monica Mountains
Explore beyond Circle X Ranch to other destinations in the range.
Similar Trail
griffith parkMount Lee, the Hollywood Sign, and Cahuenga Peak
This 6.4-mile hike crosses Griffith Park from Canyon Drive to the top of Mount Lee, directly behind the landmark Hollywood Sign.
Mount BaldyMount Baldy Loop
This 11.3-mile hike incorporates Devil’s Backbone and Baldy Bowl – Ski Hit Trail into one see-all loop.
Saddle PeakStunt 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.
Parker Mesa Overlook TrailParker Mesa Overlook
This steep out-and-back hike rewards the effort with excellent views of the Pacific Ocean.
Calabasas PeakCalabasas Peak
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.
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6 Comments on Sandstone Peak in the Santa Monica Mountains

  1. [...] jag mig ha hittat den bästa hiken i LA. I lördags tog vi oss an den tre timmar långa rundan till Sandstone peak, högst upp i Santa Monica [...]

  2. spearcy13 says:

    Great hike, my new favorite. Also, to update your details, there is now a bathroom at the trailhead!

  3. Tronix says:

    This hike is great. Without the Tri Peaks and Inspiration point detours, my GPS read 5.8 miles with about 1400 feet of climb, 40% more than the absolute elevation difference (trailhead to summit) listed above.

    Brings lots of water, there is very little shade on ~ 4 miles of this hike.

  4. […] Sunday, June 1st, David and I ventured out to Sandstone Peak (which we later came to find out is highest point of all the Santa Monica peaks, standing tall at […]

  5. kaydkafka says:

    This is a very nice hike. It has stunning view and the scenery changes as the miles go on. It’s challenging enough to really feel like you did some good hiking, yet certain areas are flat enough where you can simply enjoy the beauty. We decided to go the long way — making it to the peak last after hiking 6 or so miles (there is a shortcut from the parking lot where you can go straight for the peak, we avoided this and did the full hike).

    The only downside to the day we visited was that it was a windy day in general in Southern California, which gave us 60+mph wind gusts at the peak. We were holding on for dear life. Go on a day that isn’t windy!

  6. Brittany says:

    This is pretty much our favorite hike in SoCal, there’s nothing like the views from the top and even the drive there and back through Malibu is stunning! Check out our post with more hiking tips and some awesome photos:
    http://mrandmrsadventure.com/2014/06/19/our-favorite-socal-hike-sandstone-peak/

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