An easy hike for ‘intermediate beginners’ and novice hikers looking for a challenge. Great scenery, well-maintained trails, and lots of opportunities to branch out and explore. This is definitely one of my favorite trails in all of Los Angeles, and a fantastic way to introduce non-hikers to the joys of hiking. For my money, one of the premiere Southern California Trails. A wide variety of landscapes, relatively easy elevation gain, and ample opportunities to explore side-trails.

Sandstone Peak 033
When I first started hiking here, I’d been doing smaller hikes in the Topanga Canyon area, and eventually I wanted to try something a bit more … mountainous. The Mishe Mokwa Trail was on the menu, and after that I was hooked.

This trail is challenging without being impossible, solitary without being desolate, and with views, landmarks, and smells that will lodge in your brain and keep calling you back. In other words, it’s the perfect hike for the hiker who doesn’t know he’s a hiker yet. Does that make sense?

If not, just know that this marks the fourth time I’ve been back on this trail – far more than any other hike I’ve been on. I went solo my first time, the second time I took two novice hikers on their first trail, and this is the hike I took my visiting family on to show them the glory of the California wilderness. Everyone finished, in varying stages of exhaustion. Even my mom. It’s one of the few trails that I’m very, very happy to repeat.

I hadn’t been back since August, and all I had to do to get excited again was round those bends on Yerba Buena Road. As soon as I saw that sheer wall of rock against a perfect blue sky, I knew I was home again.

I pulled into the parking lot and was surprised to find only one other car there. I blamed it on the all-weekend rain predictions we’d been hearing since Tuesday, strapped on my gear and headed up.

If you’re doing this as a loop trail, the elevation gain is barely noticeable for most of the trip. Unfortunately, the first half a mile is one of those noticeable areas. About 400 feet in under half a mile. But soon you’re on the Mishe Mokwa, gently winding around and up. And you’ve got some great vistas to the east to distract you.

Most of the southern parts of the trail are through chaparral, and very open to the sunlight. Soon, though, the vegetation starts to surround you – various brushes and mosses, and unbelievably fragrant California laurel and junipers. There were several times I just had to stop and smell as much as I could.

It really is quite nice, but the extra shade does make the northern parts of the trail significantly cooler. I had my newly-traditional winter layers with me, so all was good.

Soon, I got my first sight of Balanced Rock, the impossibly large, teetering boulder that’s straight out of an old Road Runner cartoon. No picture does it justice. The upper rock is the size of a freakin’ house. And it’s just sitting there, waiting for the Big One so it can run rampaging into the nearest canyon.

Sandstone Peak 009
You can hop off the Mishe Mokwa Trail just north of Split Rock for a short bushwhacking adventure to get to Balanced Rock and some good climbing walls nearby. You can also scramble down into the canyon below (which has a nice stream running in the spring), but the last time I saw someone come out of that canyon, 60% of their body was covered in poison oak. FYI.

I bypassed the Rock and continued on the Mishe Mokwa, passing countless windswept rock formations and a few dry stream beds. Or, depending on the season, they may be wet.

You’ll also pass by a picnic area near Split Rock, an enormous boulder cleft in two. It’s a popular tradition for Boy Scouts to walk through the crack when they get to this part of the trail.

Mishe Mokwa and Tripeaks 016

After the picnic area, there’s a short spur trail that will take you to Balance Rock – a very popular area with local climbers. Keep to the left at this junction to continue on the Mishe Mokwa as it makes a long, steady climb out of the canyon.


Soon, I had my first view of other hikers – three tiny figures on the distant ridge of Boney Mountain:

Mishe Mokwa and Tripeaks 020
Instead, I took a short spur off the Mishe Mokwa to the Tri-Peaks.

The Tri-Peaks Trail was significantly more rugged and overgrown than the Mishe Mokwa or Backbone Trails. Whereas most of the trail up to this point is fairly wide, mostly level footpaths, this was overgrown, washed out, and in need of a bit of maintenance. Unless, of course, you like that sort of thing. Which I do.

Mishe Mokwa and Tripeaks 021
I’m used to tougher trails than this, and relished the chance to get my legs tore up by some Spanish Bayonets. And, as luck would have it, the trail fulfilled that request for me.

Soon, the trail climbed out of the brush and onto the rocky south face of the Tri-Peaks … where it pretty quickly spiraled off into several false trails. If you look a bit northeast of the face, you’ll see a small steel pole sticking up out of the mountain. It’s a USGS marker, and the way to the proper trail. A little boulder scrambling later, and you’ll be face to face with the Tri-Peaks.

Mishe Mokwa and Tripeaks 030
The Peaks themselves are basically three large boulders, surveying everything in sight – from Thousand Oaks, Camarillo and beyond to the Channel Islands and Malibu. They’re pretty close together, and their porous surface makes for great climbing if you’re in the mood to play King of the Mountain. Or you can just relax on the nearby ledge and soak in some sun and views of distant Sandstone Peak. Way better dealing with the crowds at the beach.

Or you can do both, like I did.

While I was hanging out on the ledge, the three Boney Mountain Hikers came huffing around the bend. They had started up by the Boney Mountain Cultural Center in Thousand Oaks earlier in the day, and told me about the backcountry route from the mountain to the Tri-Peaks. In turn, I tried to get them to put in the extra miles to hit up Sandstone, but they were looking pretty tired. And so, I turned and left them as I headed back to the trail.

Stopping once to look back at the peaks, for good measure:

Mishe Mokwa and Tripeaks 034
Soon I was back on the Mishe Mokwa, which quickly met up with the wider, more heavily traveled Backbone Trail. The Backbone runs almost 65 miles along ridge of the Santa Monica Mountains, from Will Rogers State Park in Santa Monica to Point Mugu. (link to PDF map and info) You’re not supposed to have mountain bikes on the section of the trail near Sandstone Peak, but the trail is wide and riddled with bike tracks. So just keep your eyes open for ‘em.

The trail here is exceptional and – in my opinion – far more rewarding if you take ‘the long way’ on the Mishe Mokwa to get to it. The trail hugs a ridge that drops sharply off below it, opening wide vistas in every direction. There is a short off-trail to Inspiration Point, a small memorial to a Boy Scout, perched on an exposed ledge. There’s also some more nice opportunities for climbing along the way, although that first step is a bit too steep for my tastes.

Mishe Mokwa and Tripeaks 036

About three quarters of a mile from Inspiration Point, there’s a small sign pointing off the trail and into the forest toward Sandstone Peak. This is the sharpest elevation gain of the entire trail, with some portions undefined and on sheer rock face. Don’t feel bad about using your hands.

But also don’t feel afraid of doing it. It’s a challenge, but it’s completely doable. Today, I watched a dad shepherd his two small daughters up the mountain with very little trouble. As I was the only other person in sight, the youngest daughter waved at me from above, yelling “Hello, hiker!”


Seriously, if a four year old can do it, you can, too. And when you get to the top, it will be worth it, as miles and miles of southern California mountains and coastline unfurl before you, beneath the watchful eyes of Mr. W. Herbert Allen.

Mishe Mokwa and Tripeaks 041

After that, it’s just another short scramble down to the trail. There’s a very unofficial dirt path directly north of the Peak that will get you back to the Backbone Trail. It’s also very steep and full of very loose rocks. I crab-walked down the last portion, just for kicks. And also, necessity.

And then it’s 1.2 miles back to the trailhead, and it’s all glorious downhill. I usually do a bit of trail-running here, and today was no exception. Enjoy your downhill back to the trailhead.

Oh, and the parking lot was completely full when I got back. Lazy Sunday hikers…

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Casey Schreiner

Founder and Editor-in-Chief at Modern Hiker
Since founding Modern Hiker in 2006, Casey's writing has appeared in Backpacker, the REI Blog, Adventure Journal, and Sierra Trading Post's Social Hub. He was in Columbia Sportswear's inaugural #OmniTen program and was featured prominently in their documentary "I Am #OmniTen."

His stories for Modern Hiker have brought regional and national attention, and have been featured on Good Morning America, NPR, and the Associated Press.

Casey is also an award-winning television writer-producer, and was Series Producer of pivot's TakePart Live and Head Writer of G4's Attack of the Show.

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This post was written by Casey Schreiner on December 18, 2006


  • Kyle says:

    Hiked this trail yesterday morning while the marathoners were busy shutting down the streets. It was warm but overcast, which kept things from getting too toasty. This was my second time on the trail and I enjoyed it much more than the first (when I had an unfortunate encounter with heat exhaustion, but that was my fault for hiking midday in August). Despite the cloudy skies, the views from the peak were amazing – from the rugged interior of the Santa Monica Mountains to (I believe) Anacapa Island off the coast, and from the Conejo Valley out to the Oxnard Plain, and of course the Coast Ranges and Transverse Ranges off in the distance. This is now my favorite trail in the Santa Monica Mountains, without a doubt.

  • Gloria says:

    Hi!! Is there a way to make this hike a lil longer? I like to get a good work out in

  • Arch says:

    Make sure you avoid 12:00pm to 3:00pm, my wife and I made this mistake, we both had camelbaks and drained them.

    It is a beautiful hike and challenging at times, but definitely do it early morning or late afternoon. Also good to bring a snack to munch on, while at inspiration point it’s a great time to refuel and take in the view.

  • Love your charts and maps!! This hike is one that we always seem to keep coming back to, we have done it too many times to count – every time someone comes to LA for a visit this is where we take them :) Here’s our post on the hike too, hope the photos bring you fond memories!

  • Nadim says:

    Glad to know that I’m not the only one who loves this hike. I’ve been all over the Santa Monicas at this point, but I still can’t figure out what Tri-Peaks is exactly. I’ve even followed the trail all the way to the very edge of the backbone trail that leads to all sorts of climbing around but nothing really ever struck me as having “three” definite peaks. Also, looking in this direction from Mugu Park, I noticed that people call this Boney Mountain. Are Boney Mountain and Tri-Peaks the same thing? Or am I looking at something else entirely?

    • You’re right, Nadim, it’s a strange distinction. I believe that Boney Mountain is the name given to the entire ridge, while Tri-Peaks is the rocky outcropping that acts as a nice short side-trip from the Mishe Mokwa Trail. Although I’m also seeing that feature referred to as Boney Peak, so the mystery may yet be solved :)

      • jpneus says:

        I did this hike today. Amazing (as usual)! I have, in the past, only done the 6 mile loop that excludes the spur trail to Tri-Peaks. Today, I went out on the spur. As you may know, the spur trail to Tri-Peaks is now well maintained, well signed and easy to follow (without any need to bushwhack). But only up to a point. That point for me was when I lost the trail (at about 0.5 mile in, which is supposed to be super close to the destination). Once I lost the trail, I really had no way to figure out where to go despite Casey’s detailed comments from the original post (Dec. 2006). This is NOT at all a criticism of the original post! I think the Park could do a better job, and I guess there were not many cairns (or I missed them; I only saw one cairn). I don’t regret doing the Tri-Peaks spur as it added some length, some altitude gain and loss, and some different (and lovely) views.

  • Erin says:

    Great hike! Great instructions! Your site is a great resource.
    Thanks for making an out-of-towner feel like an insider!

    • David says:

      Hiked this yesterday and it was terrific. Quite hot up there I must say, next time we’ll go earlier in the day as shade is in short supply along much of this trail (compared to where we usually go up in the San Gabriels). Take plenty of water if you go during late spring and summer. Saw quite a few people who didn’t seem to be carrying much, which is nuts. The rock formations are sensational. The dog hasn’t moved today.

  • jjk says:

    did this today on your recomendation and had an awesome time – thanks

  • Gerry Matthews says:

    Love this hike! Took a friend this time who had never been and she thoroughly enjoyed it. Made it to Sandstone Peak but due to the marine layer viability was limited. It was like being in a big cloud, very pretty! Can’t wait to go back!
    PS – Had fish tacos as a reward at Neptune’s Net!

  • Tina says:

    We did this hike for the second time today. We were a bit unsure if the trail was not affected by the recent spring fire in the area, but after checking on the map here it looked OK so we took our chances. It turned out to be completely fine.
    This website is an invaluable resource for hiking around LA!

  • Dan m. says:

    How far from Santa Monica to Mishe Mokwa trail & how far off PCH is it?

  • Jhiker says:

    Video of our time on this trail.

    Thanks for all your work on this site!

  • Mike P. says:

    I’ve done this hike a few time and it’s great, a true must-do hike for anyone looking to get out. I have nothing to add that hasnt been mentioned, however…

    If you are looking to do a less crowded hike in the same area, let me recommend hiking the tri-peaks from the other side – satwiwa cultural center (free parking). You start off at the center and hike through some low lying flat lands up to the Danielson ranch memorial. From there you follow an unmaintained trail up around the eastridge to the tri- peaks summit where you will have some unforgettable views. We enjoyed the view form the peak for a few minutes and decided to go down the other route – the west ridge. This proved to be a bit more challenging because again the trail is “unmaintained” and at one point we had to bushwack through some heavy brush. If i were to do this again, i would roll up and down the east ridge via the danielson ranch as it was in significantly better condition. the west ridge was more of an adventure route. About 5 hours total with break and 10miles of some pretty intense uphill hiking.

    Modern Hiker, thanks a million times over as this site is a great idea generator, keep up the great work.

  • Jen Robinson says:

    We did this hike yesterday on your recommendation and it was awesome. The perfect distance for a half-day hike with incredibly beautiful and varied terrain. Thanks for this post! Can’t wait to the others on your list.

  • srb72 says:

    Thanks for this site, I was looking for a day activity while in the SM/Venice area, and wouldn’t have done this hike without your site. Beautiful and fun, although a few comments: for us ‘lazy’ hikers who don’t get started til late, parts of this hike are hot as h**l this time of year (July). For that reason, I guess, took us 3hrs 45mins to do the loop, without Tri-peaks.
    Also, what is up with you California hikers….I’ve never seen so much trash (TP, butts, food, a pair of underpants (?!) ) left behind on a trail. That’s gross.
    But otherwise, just lovely.

  • kendrat22 says:

    This was my first time hiking in santa monica. It was so pretty and we got through it pretty fast it says it takes 3 hours but it took us a little more than 2 hours. Lots of great things to see….. So far this is my favorite hike

  • Mateo Thomas says:

    I took this trip based on your inspiration, thanks Casey! The Backbone is my home away from home now.

  • Skip Skippapa says:

    I’m pretty sure you’ll want Garmin Mapsource GDP. It has been awhile since I did a conversion, but the Mishe Mokwa GPX file on this page was the big motivator that led me to GPSBabel. Mishe Mokwa turned out to be worth all the effort. It ‘s the best local hike all around.

    How was it in the rain?

  • LewProudfoot says:

    Interesting – GPSBabel is the engine of GSAK. Mapsource and BaseCamp read GPX – they can read direct reports from, for example, and I export GPX from GSAK to fill up my geocaching tools all the time – including Mapsource. Somebody isn’t using the standard GPX definition it would seem!

    Which output do you think Mapsource prefers?

  • Skip Skippapa says:

    You’ll need to download the free GPSBabel which can translate GPX into a readable file for Mapsource.

    Do a search for GPSBabel free download.

  • Lew Proudfoot says:

    Great write up – heading out there today, despite the rain!
    The GPX file would not load into Garmin Mapsource, or Basecamp. GSAK read seven of the points, so I can navigate, but there is some incompatibility with Garmin (I do have the latest versions, I checked that!).

    Thanks for the work, this is a great resource!

  • John says:

    This hike was AMAZING. I’m actually terrified of heights (funny that I love hiking mountains…) and it gave me considerable pause near the top, but I still had to do it. And it’s was beyond beautiful. Oceans, mountains, the valley – everything.

    Your guide and directions were VERY helpful!

  • Skip Skippapa says:
    Here’s an interactive map by the US Forest Service showing where the Adventure Pass is required.

  • Skyhiker says:

    No adventure pass required.

  • Lee says:

    Is an adventure pass required for this trail?

  • Nick says:

    I did this hike yesterday, Dec. 27th, 2010. Born and raised in NY, moved out to LA about a year ago. This was the most beautiful hike I have ever been on. Every view was better then the next. It was so peaceful, it has some challenging sections and some easy sections. Everything about this hike is what I was looking for. I want more just like it!


  • helix66 says:

    Thanks, I realize that’s the sensible thing to do, I was just wanting to get out a bit! Good point on the road too, if pch is having issues maybe that one has problems too.

    I’ve done this hike a bunch of times and turned a few people onto it too, the muddy parts wouldn’t be too bad, but that part that’s rocky where you can see the balanced rock might be a bit weird if it was raining hard.

  • Skip Skippapa says:

    There may be mud slides on that road. Or mud may be flowing onto the road making it slippery. I think it was a 20 minute drive on Yerba Buena. You might want to wait un the weather settles down. Also the trail could be muddy in the low sections.

    I made a video of the hike with my hiking buddy Nadya and put it on youtube. My user name is skipapa123. The title is Mishe Mokwa and Backbone Trails. There are a number of other videos of the hike.

  • helix66 says:

    Maybe a stupid question, is there any danger in doing this hike in the current crappy/rainy weather we’re having? Having a bit of cabin fever and guessing the drive up pch and Yerba Buena road would be more dangerous than the actual hike!

  • Skip Skippapa says:

    I was unable to convert the GPX file to my Garmin GPSmap 60Cx until I download the free GPSBabel and did the c0nversion easily.

    I took the hike for the first time today with my friend Nadya and we both loved every minute of it. The views, the rock formations, the landscape oddities, the variety of terrain, sun and shade provided an other worldly experience. If you can go on a weekday as we did, you’ll see very few people, and sort of be glad to see them.

  • Skyhiker says:

    Hiked it last month. Trip report here.

    It was hot, then. No marine layer. But it’s still relatively short and there’s some shade along the way. The only really hot part was on the climb heading towards Inspiration Point. It’s clearly hotter there than elsewhere along the hike because manzanita became the predominant plant.

  • Jessica S says:

    Just did this hike this weekend. It was amazing! It was misty, cloudy, and foggy this weekend and we were all totally o.k. with that. You could see the fog moving through the mountains and at certain spots you couldn’t see anything but in front of you and fog to the side of you. It was gorgeous! Once we got to the top we were above the fog and clouds and that was all you could see around you. Amazing hike! Will definitely do this one again on a clear or cloudy day. We all felt like we were in a dream.

  • KevinS says:

    We did this hike in the fall last year and it was fantastic! At the beginning of the hike you get to see the peculiar Balanced Rock standing over a pretty famous rock climbing wall. If you look real hard you may even see people climbing on the wall. Once you get to Inspiration Point the views of the Channel Islands, San Nicolas, and Catalina are just about amazing. When we went the skies were clear so you could see until the earth curved. Of course the goal is to make it up to Sandstone Peak(Mt. Allen) and it was well worth it. It’s actually an achievement you should be proud of. Great hike! If you want to see some video of this hike and others like it check out

  • Adam says:

    Did the hike this afternoon for the 2nd time. I started with the Sandstone trail, which is moderately steep (and climbed Sandstone), then looped back around on Backbone and Mishe Mokwa. If you want a slightly harder hike, I would recommend this route, as opposed to starting with Mishe Makwa and then finishing with Sandstone, as there is not much uphill with this route. Definitely worth getting your hands dirty to climb up to Sandstone Peak. Be sure to sign your name in the book at the top!

  • Me says:

    I hiked this trail last Saturday. It lives up to expectation. Truly beautiful landscapes. I love how the scenery changes. It has a little of everything. Will definitely hike this trail again. Thanks for recommending this. Great blog.

  • Anthony G. says:

    Did this hike this morning… Great Hike. I can see why its on your list of favorites. Thanks for sharing.

  • Alison says:

    I did this trail twice a month or two ago. First with friends who had done it before, then again the next week by myself at 5am after dropping my husband off at the airport (I whole heartedly suggest doing this trail by yourself at 5am, then driving to work down the PCH. Good times). It was the height of spring and I saw two separate sets of horny bunnies chasing each other around.

    I’m not much for westside hikes, but this one inexplicably peaceful. It’s like meditation in hiking boots.

    Sarah- I’ve had 3 snake encounters in the last couple months (on 3 different trails), at least one of them a rattler, who completely refuse to move. Is that normal? I swear there’s something fishy going on with the snakes lately. Usually they haul ass to get away from you.

  • Sarah says:

    This hike was completely enchanting,the landscapes so powerful! It was hard to return to civilization after. A wonderful variety of wildflowers right now, too. Surprised an adult rattler on a narrow section of the trail and had a prolonged standoff waiting for her to move. She didn’t. I finally climbed up the embankment and bushwacked around her. Got pretty scratched up, but at least I got to continue the way I was headed. I’m thinking about going back tomorrow for a go at TriPeaks! Thanks for this wonderful site.

  • Victor says:

    Hiked this yesterday and it was awesome. Skipped Tri-Peaks but now we can look forward to it next time. Great write up and info. Thanks!

  • Daniel Peck says:

    This was a great trail with spectacular 360 degree views. Not difficult at all. Very glad I was able to do this. Not sure why I haven’t done it before. Highly reccomended.

  • What exactly is Boney Peak and/or Mountain? This is the route we took a few months ago

    I looked at the state park map, and “Boney Peak” is an outcropping west and slightly south of Sandstone Peak. I thought “Boney Mountain” was a generic description for the entire area…but I see references to a Boney Mt trail, does this come from north of Tri-Peaks? From Tri-Peaks to Mishe-Mokwa we did a bit cross-country, but there may be an established trail that we missed.

  • Modern Hiker says:


    There will be a few spots you’ll want to watch your step a bit more closely, but for the most part you’ll be just fine on this trail with a good pair of running shoes.

    Scott, there *is* a trail that connects the two, but I’ve never done it myself. I always see people coming up the other side of the mountain onto Tri-Peaks, so I know there’s a route over there.

  • Connor says:

    Thanks, Helix. By sneakers I mean running shoes.

  • helix66 says:

    I guess it depends upon what you mean by “sneakers”, to me that means puma clydes or allstars or something you can skate in, which wouldn’t be good to hike in. This trail isn’t too difficult at all but having a bit of tooth or trail runner would be fine enough, no need for hiking boots.
    Check your favorite website for weather, just looking at my iphone’s app for the South Bay it looks like nice wx all week (days=sunny65-72* nights=52-55*). I know now these temps sound warm coming from nyc but it usually it feels chillier than it is. Bring your camera, it’s a really nice hike with some ocean views, be amazing place to watch a sunset if you were prepared to come down in the dark!
    I miss nyc, I need to get back for a recharge.

  • Connor says:

    Modern Hiker,
    I am coming out to LA from NYC for the weekend. I was looking for something to do and found your great site. I probably won’t have enough room for hiking boots in my carry on. Will sneakers do? Any tips on expected temps/appropriate attire on this hike.

    Thank you,


  • Scott says:

    Modern Hiker,

    Did you ever hike the Boney Mtn. trail? I’ve looked through your blog (albeit not extensively) to see if you reviewed it, but I didn’t find any write-ups. In addition to the great scenery, it’s as nice a workout as the Santa Monica’s offer, although the trail on the second half gets a little treacherous.

    What I want to know is this: Is there a trail from the Boney peak that connects with the Mishe Mokwa trail, thereby going all the way to Sandstone Peak? I don’t know if you, or any of the readers know where to find it. I’ve looked around all four times I’ve hiked up Boney, and the once that I hiked Mishe Mokwa, but I never found a path.

    And btw, great blog. I hiked La Jolla Canyon/Valley last week, inspired by your write-up. I’ve been hiking these hills for years, but it’s great to have this source for new adventures. Thanks!

  • Dave says:

    Aye, .gdb is the “Garmin Datatbase File” used with the Garmin Mapsource Software. Gracias to Modern Hiker for your speedy reply and to Ze, as GPS Babel converted and opened the document successfully! Thanks to both of you!

  • says:

    .gdb is a Garmin file. Dave, you should try using GPS Babel to convert to .gdb if you desire, it’s a very handy program.

  • Modern Hiker says:

    Dave, I’ve never seen that file extension before. GPX is industry standard for GPS units and programs. Which program are you using?

  • Dave says:

    Bummer. “C:\Users\Dave\Downloads\mishemokwa.gpx could not be imported.” Any ideas as to how to fix this problem? Or could you send the original as a “.gdb” file? Headed there Saturday or Sunday. Thanks!

  • Phil says:

    Love this site! Got a question – can anyone help ID the rock formation in the following link? I believe it is Boney Bluff, slightly southwest of Sandstone Peak. But I’m not that familiar with the area.

  • says:

    Really nice hike. Mishe Mokwa trail is nicer than the Sandstone Peak trail, but I liked making a loop out of it (as is usually suggested). Sandstone Peak is nice, but I think exploring the other ‘peaklets’ (especially Exchange Peak and Tri-Peaks) are even better. Balanced Rock is mesmerizing; I need to go back and head over to that area for a better investigation of how stable it is!

  • Scott says:

    This is undoubtedly my favorite SoCal hike, and I do it every year. Baldy and San G are great, but they take too much effort, whereas with Sandstone Peak I can wake up at a comfortable hour (in the SFV), do the loop hike and the Tri-Peaks spur, and still have time for a bite to eat at Neptune’s Net down on the PCH at Yerba Buena.

    FYI, the Tri-Peaks Trail was once so overgrown as to be impassable, but on my last hike here, in Spring 2009, it had clearly been recently maintained, and is now in great shape, though just a bit steep. I haven’t been able to find the “secret” trail from Tri-Peaks to Boney Mountain, but I guess I could just bushwhack anywhere from Tri-Peaks, as nearby Boney Peak is obvious.

  • Steve says:

    Yay… finished my first hike from the Modern Hiker website. Had been planning on going with a few more people who backed out at the last second, but opted to go with my dog Zoey. Got a little bit mixed up at the very end, trying to get to the top… took a little bit of backtracking, but finally made it. While I can say I’ve finished it, look forward to doing it again on a clear day to see a bit more than fog covered ocean, though that was beautiful too!

  • Gregg says:

    I was planning on trying something in the Angeles National forest but when I called the Mt. Baldy ranger station they said that it’s all closed and they are deciding whether to open the unburned areas. I saw your description here and I went out today but started way too late and only went to Sandstone peak. I watched the sun setting above the clouds, then realized I should get on the trail back before I couldn’t find it! Great website, this is exactly the resource I was looking for, makes LA a lot more enjoyable. Thanks!

  • shannon says:

    planning to try this hike out…would you recommend this for us? we completed the Bishop’s Peak hike to the top a few months ago but that would probably be max effort and time. Where should we go to have dinner after? Keeping in mind of course we will probably be dirty and sweaty. :) Thanks for such informative site. It reminds me of the Hawaii Revealed book series. Very detailed.

  • Yulia says:

    I did part of this hike this past weekend and let me tell you that it was wonderful! It is truly is one of the most beautiful hikes in Santa Monica Mountains. Thank you very much for this web-site. So far, I’ve hiked six times this summer and every time I used to look up the trails! :)

  • Modern Hiker says:

    Neener, weather is almost always pretty great here. In the winter, it’s more likely to rain, the skies are usually free of smog and haze, and temperatures are a bit cooler – it usually takes us LA transplants a few years before we’re actually able to tell when the seasons change here!

    For late fall / early winter hikes, stick to the Santa Monica Mountains or deserts. With any luck, we’ll have a good snowpack in the San Gabriels by then. Feel free to email me if you have any more questions!

  • neener says:

    Taking a trip in the near future to this area and I’m loving this site for hike suggestions. Coming from Canada I’m hoping to get some suggestions for maps and trail information. Any ideas? Also is November weather for hikes?

  • toes805 says:

    I’ve done this twice — got to the top and wrote in the book. The worst part was scrambling up that sheer rock face before you get to the top of Mt Allen. But very rewarding when you’re at the top and checking out the view.

  • shaun says:

    On Modern Hiker’s suggestion, we went on this hike, prepared to attack the whole loop. At the first marker we decided to go straight to Sandstone peak… which is sort of the climax of the hike. After the mile hike there, we hung out on the peak, and decided to forgo the rest of the hike. My suggestion: leave Sandstone for the ending. You know, something to work towards.

    All in all, good hike (even if we did just do two miles there and back).

  • Peter says:

    Just did part of this loop today with my three boys, two friends (all ages 2-9) and our black lab. For families, this would be a good winter/early spring hike. Today is was warmish – in the 80s, I think – and there was a bit of a breeze, but the sky was clear and the sun was baking the trail. Even on the North side of the loop, it was really hot. The kids and the dog were all miserable. If it had been just my wife and me, we would have completed the loop, but with the kids and the dog, we turned back a couple of miles into the North side of the loop. This is not said to disparage either the route or Modern Hiker. We used Modern Hiker last month to plan our Mugu Peak hike, which was a resounding success. We hiked a total of a little over 6 miles then – same kids and same dog – on an overcast and cooler day, so I thought we could handle the Sandstone Peak loop. We’ll try again when the weather is cooler.

    • Modern Hiker says:

      Peter, glad you guys were able to enjoy Mishe Mokwa, even though it was hot. Yes, on hot, sunny days, there’s not a whole lot of shade on this trip – but if you get going early enough in the morning, you can still enjoy it in the summer. I’d recommend coming back here once we start getting our June Gloom – usually, the tips of Sandstone are *just* above the Marine Layer, which means you’ll get to hike in the shade the whole route, then get an amazing view as you peak your head just through the cloud line!

  • ellen says:

    We did this today – stunning all the way around. May be Best Hike Ever for us. Thanks for the blog and the information!

  • Scott says:

    I did this hike today, it really is a great hike. This entire is website is great and very informative, keep up the great work! Here are what I think are the 3 best quotes from this write-up about this hike

    “This trail is challenging without being impossible, solitary without being desolate, and with views, landmarks, and smells that will lodge in your brain and keep calling you back. In other words, it’s the perfect hike for the hiker who doesn’t know he’s a hiker yet.Does that make sense?”

    “The trail here is exceptional and – in my opinion – far more rewarding if you take ‘the long way’ on the Mishe Mokwa to get to it.”

    “I got my first sight of Balanced Rock, the impossibly large, teetering boulder that’s straight out of an old Road Runner cartoon. No picture does it justice.”

  • Kevin A. says:

    This is a great description of the trail. Wish I’d read it before hiking up Sandstone Peak the other day, but it was good to read afterwards too. I’m definately bookmarking this weblog.

  • Jaebird82 says:

    Did the hike today. It as awesome. Thank you for the great map and route.


  • Jaebird82 says:

    Thanks for getting back to me. I didn’t see that before; however, when I clicked “Download as GPX”, I used my way point manager (MacCaching) which supports gpx files, it said it wasn’t supported. I want to be able to put this on gps! I think i might go do this hike tomorrow because i’ve heard such good things. I’ll print out your guide, looks easy enough. Thanks for your help!


  • Jaebird82 says:


    Looks like a great hike. I viewed it via the download option you gave. Google earth opened;however, I’m not able to send it to my GPS. They don’t offer the Google Earth Plus any more, instead, you have to pay 400 a month now to use the GPS option as well as other options. I tried saving the file as a GPX to import it to my way point manager I use, but it wouldn’t work. It kept saving it as a KML I believe. Have you thought about posting this trip on They have a great selection of hikes, but I was suprised to see that this hike wasn’t on there.Just sign up, go to your account, and you can post this trip with way points including pictures. Pretty well put together. Of course it’s no google erath, but you don’t have to pay 400 a month. That would be great!

    • Modern Hiker says:


      You should be able to download a GPX of the hike by clicking on the green arrow on the embedded map below the Google Earth file. It’s not the sleekest system, I know, and it’s something I’m going to try to streamline over the next few weeks. But yes, you don’t need a fancypants edition of GEarth to see these hikes!

      Also as far as Backpacker goes, I actually have been submitting maps there over the past few months. I had assumed someone already crossed this classic hike off the list, but if not, I’ll have to take care of that shortly!

  • Bill Palmer says:

    Wonderful travelogue….and a great trail sketch on Google Earth. This is one of the grand hikes of Southern California. I’ve done it perhaps 5 times, going up leading a group of 15 or so in September. The secluded plateau/valley is like a miniature Lost World, one would never know about the urban jungles on all sides, far below.

    There is a “secret trail” descending down from Tri-Peaks to the saddle just north of the Peaks, it then rises to the northern ridge and escarpment of Boney Mountain where the trail from Conejo Valley comes up. On oone of my solo hikes I attempted to follow a long abandoned trail cutting off from the Mishe Mokwa just above Split Rock and leading to that ridge. Two hours later I reached the top, my legs bleeding from the brush. I met a hiker at the summit who told me about the hidden path down and then up to Tri-Peaks…..thank goodness, i could not have handled going back down through that brush. Anywway, I recommend trying that trail to anyone who gets up to Tri-Peaks.

    Again….a great narrative and maps. Thanks very much.

  • Dana says:

    Went on this hike yesterday and it was great.
    For people who are driving inept, like myself, it’s north of the LA County limit and past Malibu. Once on Yerba Buena Rd., pass Circle X Ranch and keep going for a bit. The road is very bendy. I kept on thinking we had somehow passed it (both on PCH and YBR), but no–it’s clearly marked when you get there.
    The hike itself is terrific. My husband and I did it in running shoes and we were fine. And we saw 14 lizards!

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