Difficulty PG Distance 2.1 to 5 miles General information: Dogs allowed General information: Hikes with free parking Rating: 4-6 Santa Monica Mountains (East) Season: Fall/Early Winter Season: Late Winter/Spring

Lower Canyonback Trail


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Lower Canyonback Trail, Santa Monica Mountains, CA
Ocean view from the Lower Canyonback Trail
Temescal Ridge, Santa Monica Mountains, CA
Temescal Ridge, as seen from the Lower Canyonback Trail

Lower Canyonback Trail

  • Location: Eastern Santa Monica Mountains. Google Maps lists it as the “Whoops Trailhead.” From I-405, take Sunset Blvd. west for 1.3 miles. Turn right on Kenter Avenue and follow it for 2.2 miles to its end and park where available. (Kenter makes a lot of sharp curves so drive carefully; a few other roads branch off and the signs aren’t always visible but it’s usually pretty clear how to stay on Kenter.)
  • Agency: Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area/Westridge Canyonback Wilderness Park
  • Distance: 4.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 600 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 2 hours
  • Best season: October – June
  • USGS topo map: “Topanga”
  • Recomended gear: sunblock; sun hat
  • More information: Trip description here; description of both Lower and Upper segments here; Westridge-Canyonback Park Yelp page here
  • Rating: 6
Lower Canyonback Trail, Santa Monica Mountains, CA
0:00 – Lower Canyonback Trail Head (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

The Lower Canyonback Trail is more challenging and scenically interesting than its upper counterpart. Purists might be turned off by the fact that this route is almost entirely on fire roads and paved roads and that power lines follow it for much of the way, but the ocean and mountain views are excellent and the hike’s convenient location and dog-friendliness add to its popularity.

Lower Canyonback Trail, Santa Monica Mountains, CA
0:12 – Merging with the fire road (times are approximate)

A few informal trails branch off and run parallel to the main roads, making several different routes possible. Begin by following the trail uphill, almost immediately coming to a split where a use trail heads up a ridge to the right and the paved road continues to the left, slightly downhill. The two routes rejoin at about 0.4 miles, where you’ll bear left and follow the fire road uphill. (Another trail, popular with mountain bikers, also branches off to the left at this point; it rejoins the main route later on. There’s also a steep break that heads straight up at this point, soon rejoining the fire road). Farther uphill, 0.7 miles from the start, a steep path climbs to a vista point where a wooden bench hangs from a large oak. From this ridge, you enjoy some of the best views of the hike.

Lower Canyonback Trail, Santa Monica Mountains, CA
0:16 – Steep use trail to the oak with the swing

The ridge drops back down to rejoin the fire road (1.1 miles) as well as the single-track from earlier. You continue, enjoying good views on both sides, climbing to the highest point on the route (1.7 miles), marked by a large water tank. A short spur on the left leads to a knoll with some nice vistas; the road, now paved, continues, gradually descending through a plateau dotted with oaks, willows and spring flowers. A use trail leads to what someone has named Nipple Mountain, although the area is considered a sensitive habitat and is off limits.

Oak tree on the Lower Canyonback Trail, Santa Monica Mountains, CA
0:22 – Oak tree with swing

As you descend toward the end of the trail, you may get glimpses of the Santa Susana and San Gabriel Mountains. A metal gate marks the trail’s end at an upscale residential community. It’s possible to access the Upper Canyonback Trail by walking about half a mile on streets; that route continues a mile and a half farther to Mulholland Drive, making a round trip of 8+ miles or a possible 4-mile shuttle with the necessary arrangements.

Lower Canyonback Trail, Santa Monica Mountains, CA
0:28 – Rejoining the fire road

Text and photography copyright 2015 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.

End of the Lower Canyonback Trail
1:00 – End of the trail
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