Difficulty PG13 Distance 5.1 to 10 miles General information: Hikes with free parking Rating: 7-8 Santa Monica Mountains (East) Season: Fall/Early Winter Season: Late Winter/Spring

Backbone Trail: Piuma Road to Stunt Road


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Crossing the creek in Dark Canyon on the Backbone Trail
Sandstone geology on the west ridge of Saddle Peak

Backbone Trail: Piuma Road to Stunt Road

    • Location: Piuma Road, near Malibu Creek State Park.  From Pacific Coast Highway, take Malibu Canyon Road north for 4.6 miles.  Turn right on Piuma.  In 1.2 miles, at a hairpin turn in the road, look for a small dirt turnout on the left (next to a driveway at the address 25575 Piuma Road.)  Park here to access the Backbone Trail.  From Highway 101, drive south on Las Virgenes for five miles and turn left on Piuma.
    • Agency:  National Park Service
    • Distance: 6.8 miles
    • Elevation gain:  1,400 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain, distance)
    • Suggested time:  3.5 hours
    • Best season: October – June
    • USGS topo maps: Malibu Beach
    • Recommended gear: hiking poles
    • Recommended guidebook: Afoot & Afield Los Angeles County
    • More information: here; Everytrail report here
    • Rating: 7

This lightly-traveled section of the Backbone Trail features a lot of the types of scenery that draws people to the Santa Monica Mountains: panoramic views, interesting geology, quiet and shaded canyons and more. This part of the trail alone is quite a good workout, but if you really want to challenge yourself, you can continue on to Saddle Peak.

From the small turnout on Piuma Road, head northeast on the Backbone Trail. Stay right at a junction and head downhill, soon coming to a creek that is a tributary of nearby Cold Canyon. After crossing the creek, the trail begins a fairly steep ascent, switchbacking up out of the canyon. For the most part, the terrain isn’t too tough here, but there a few places where the hiking poles will come in handy. As you climb, you’re rewarded for your efforts with nice views of the Goat Buttes of Malibu Creek State Park.

Soon the trail levels out, entering a meadow on the southwest side of Saddle Peak. Across the canyon, you get a great view of the peak’s interesting sandstone geology. After climbing some more, the trail enters another nice shaded area, covered by oaks and chaparral.

Shortly afterward, you arrive at the junction with the trail to Saddle Peak. If you want to continue onto Saddle Peak, turn right. This route, however, stays left and continues 0.3 miles to Stunt Road. During this last stretch, you get nice views of nearby Calabasas Peak. Stunt Road itself might seem a little anti-climatic as a destination, but on this hike, the variety of scenery and the relative isolation makes the journey itself the real reward.

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. 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.

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