At a saddle in the Santa Monica Mountains 2,375 feet above the Pacific Ocean and 3 miles from the coast, the Backbone Trail crosses Stunt Road, creating a high trailhead for nearby destinations. Topanga Lookout, the former site of a fire tower, stands above Red Rock Canyon Park and continues to offer fine views of the Santa Monica Mountains, Calabasas, and the Santa Susana Mountains. This hike to Topanga Lookout is 2 miles round trip with just 160 feet of elevation gain.
Just beyond the gated trailhead, the paved Topanga Tower Motorway crosses a junction with Fossil Ridge Trail, a 0.6-mile section of the Backbone Trail that connects to the top of Hondo Canyon Trail. Photos of Fossil Ridge Trail are shown below. Continue past this junction up the paved road toward the radio towers atop the summit. When a wide dirt trail breaks off to the left, follow this track along the ridge uphill and down to the lookout.
The trail to Topanga Lookout
Step out on to the large graffiti-covered concrete foundation at the site of the old fire tower. The views are wide and far. It is clear why this site was chosen to look over the mountains. Take in the views of Calabasas Peak and the surroundings before returning the way you came. Across the road, the Backbone Trail finds its way up to Saddle Peak. This neighboring 2-mile hike offers exceptional ocean views. No fee or permit is required to hike to Topanga Lookout, so get out and enjoy.
There is an alternative route up to Topanga Lookout, which can be found at the junction of Calabasas Peak Motorway and Red Rock Canyon Motorway, along the trail to Calabasas Peak. This unmarked trail starts in between the two fire roads and climbs the ridge to the overlook.
A view of Calabasas Peak from the trail to Topanga Lookout
To get to the trailhead: From PCH, turn inland on Las Flores Road (across from Duke’s Restaurant). Drive 3.4 miles up this narrow twisting canyon and turn right onto Rambla Pacifico Street. After 0.6 miles, make a sharp right onto Schueren Road, and take that for 1.8 miles to the intersection with Stunt Road and Saddle Peak Road. The trailhead is on the left just past the intersection.
From the 101 freeway, exit Las Virgenes Road and head south toward Malibu. After 2.8 miles turn left (east) on Mulholland Highway. Turn right on Stunt Road after 4 miles and drive another 4 miles to the top of the road at the intersection with Schueren Road and Saddle Peak Road.
Trailhead address: 23300 Saddle Peak Road, Topanga Canyon, CA 90290
Trailhead coordinates: 34.081242, -118.645071 (34° 04′ 52.47″N 118° 38′ 42.25″W)
Use the map below to view the trail and get directions:
|Backbone Trail to Saddle Peak|
This 2-mile hike approaches Saddle Peak from the east.
|Stunt High Trail to Saddle Peak|
This 7.5-mile hike combines Stunt High Trail and a section of the Backbone Trail to visit the 6th tallest summit in the Santa Monica Mountains.
|Calabasas Peak from Stunt Road|
This 3.6-mile hike on Calabasas Peak Motorway approaches Calabasas Peak from the south, ascending through sandstone formations to panoramic views of the Santa Monica Mountains and San Fernando Valley.
|Calabasas Peak from Old Topanga Canyon Road|
This 4.2-mile hike on Calabasas Peak Motorway approaches Calabasas Peak from the northeast, providing big views over Topanga and other parts of the Santa Monica Mountains.
|Calabasas Peak via Calabasas – Cold Creek Trail|
This 4.5-mile round trip hike starts up a scenic single track formerly know as the Secret Trail and ascends 750 feet to the summit of Calabasas Peak.
|Red Rock Canyon Park|
The trails in the beautifully sculpted Red Rock Canyon are 2.5 and 5.2 miles in length.
This section of the Backbone Trail crosses fields of grains and forests of bays, climbing 1,550 feet over 3.8 miles to a small ocean view (and an extension to Topanga Lookout).
|Tuna Canyon Park|
This 1.6 to 5.1-mile hike offers spectacular ocean views from a less-visited park between Topanga and Malibu.
|More trails in the Santa Monica Mountains|
Explore other destinations in the range.
This 2.6-mile loop offers a variety of scenery and decent exercise, despite its relative brevity.
|Ocean View Trail – Canyon View Trail Loop|
This 3-mile loop demands more effort than the Zuma Canyon Trail and provides great ocean and canyon views.
This 3-mile out and back hike visits a remote grotto in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
|Westridge Trail to San Vicente Mountain|
This 7.4-mile hike travels a scenic ridge between a Brentwood neighborhood and a summit that was once used as a Nike Missile site.
|Needles Lookout in Giant Sequoia National Monument|
This 5-mile hike visits a fire tower with unbeatable views of the region.