Text and photography copyright 2011 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. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.
Old Boney Loop (Point Mugu State Park)
The Santa Monica Mountains aren’t nearly as tall as some of the other ranges in Southern California, but their sharp rises and falls provide for some dramatic views, especially in the western summits. Hiking at 1,500 feet above sea level might not sound that dramatic, but when there’s a 1,000 foot drop off just to the side, it’s not hard to believe that you are higher than the top of the Sears Tower.
This challenging loop hike takes in a huge variety of scenery and terrain in the northern half of Point Mugu State Park, notably the Boney Mountain State Wilderness.
The route begins with an easy descent along the Big Sycamore Canyon Fire Road, the park’s main north-south running artery. This northern portion of the road is paved, making it a nice way to warm up for the work ahead. Taking in great views of Big Sycamore Canyon as it descends, the road has an attractive rustic feel to it, although you are likely to have plenty of company (watch out for mountain bikers). Stay straight as you pass turnoffs for various other trails, and in 3.1 miles you arrive at the Danielson Campgrounds. This is a semi-developed campground where you can get water and take a picnic break before beginning the next leg of the trip.
Here, the route becomes more interesting, and challenging, as it winds through secluded Blue Canyon. In just under a mile, you’ll arrive at an intersection and take a hard left on the Old Boney Trail. You begin a steep climb (if you’re off to an early start, the chaparral and the side of the mountain should give you some shade). As you ascend, you get great views of the valley below, and higher up, a glimpse of the ocean. The climb is broken up in a few places by some nice flat stretches, where you can see Boney Mountain’s characteristic sandstone formations on the right.
After almost two miles of climbing, you make a descent and then begin another climb, passing a junction with the Fossil Trail on the left. Stay right and continue your ascent, through open areas and stretches covered with chaparral, before finally arriving at a viewless summit. You get nice views on the way down, however, both of the mountains and the Thousand Oaks/Simi Valley areas. Be careful on this stretch, which is steep and tends to be a little loose.
Soon you come to a split, where a detour of 0.3 miles takes you to an old cabin. This short trail goes to a pleasantly secluded area, where you can see the ruins of…well, an old cabin, which might remind some people of the burned-out buildings in Malibu’s Solstice Canyon. There’s also a nice monument to the Danielson family, which donated a lot of land to the park. The monument’s setting, at the edge of a nice overlook, makes a good spot to rest before making the final stretch of this hike.
Returning to the trail, you head downhill. Soon you get a nice aerial view of Rancho Satwiwa and the parking lot, but it amounts to a mirage of sorts, as the trail switchbacks away and down into Sycamore Canyon. You pass the trail for the famous waterfall on the right, cross the stream and come to another junction. Bare right and begin one last ascent, rising out of the canyon to hook up with the Satwiwa Loop Trail. A bench allows you to sit and rest for a minute before making your last descent. You cross the meadow (stay straight at the junction at the bottom of the hill) and make your way back to the parking lot.
The nice thing about both Point Mugu State Park and Rancho Satwiwa is the sheer number and variety of hiking trails that run throughout. If you are pressed for time, you can easily do a shorter version of this loop, and with several campgrounds throughout the park, it’s also easy to extend it.