- Location: Santa Monica Mountains near Malibu. From Mulholland Highway, take Stunt Road south for 2.9 miles (the miles are marked). There is a small turnout near marker 2.9 and a larger one at 3.0. The trail begins at marker 2.9. From Santa Monica, take Pacific Coast Highway 9.5 miles to Las Flores Canyon. Go right and take Las Flores Canyon 3.4 miles to Rancho Pacifico. Go right on Rancho Pacifico for 0.6 miles and go right on Schueren for 1.8 miles. Take a hard left on Stunt Road and go 1.2 miles. Approximate trail head coordinates are N 34.0858, W 118.6595.
- Agency: Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy
- Distance: 3.2 miles
- Elevation gain: 950 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 1.5 hours
- Best season: All year (hot during the summer)
- USGS topo maps: “Malibu Beach”
- More information: here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 7
Saddle Peak (elevation 2,805) is one of the tallest peaks in the eastern Santa Monica Mountains. Its proximity to the ocean makes for some dramatic views from the summit; on clear days, you can also see downtown L.A., the San Gabriels, the Santa Susana Mountains, Catalina Island and much more. Interesting geological formations near the top are another highlight.
There are several ways to reach Saddle Peak. The route described here, on the Backbone Trail, is a nice, quick workout. There’s enough shade that it is doable during the summer. From the parking area, walk down Stunt Road and look for an easy-to-miss sign for the Backbone Trail. It will be on the south side of the street. You head uphill, soon coming to a split. The right fork heads downhill to Piuma Road. The route to Saddle Peak heads left.
You start making some switchbacks, getting nice views of Calabasas Peak and the San Fernando Valley. Unfortunately, the manzanita and chaparral – while providing shade – cuts down on the view, but the moderately graded stretch of the Backbone Trail is still enjoyable.
At about 1.3 miles from the start, you round a corner and suddenly you get in-your-face views of the sandstone formations that you may have noticed earlier. You make your way through a maze-like passage, getting up close and personal with the rocks.
Soon, you reach a split where the Backbone Trail continues downhill toward the intersection of Stunt Road and Schueren Road (an alternative starting point). Head right on a spur that heads toward the ocean, and you’ll come to a dirt road. Go left, and follow the road to the summit, where you get a nice 360-degree view of the area.
Text and photography copyright 2012 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.