In May of 2016, the National Park Service secured access to the three parcels of land that allowed the long-awaited completion of the Backbone Trail, spanning the length of the Santa Monica Mountains, starting at Will Rogers State Historic Park and ending 67 miles west at Point Mugu State Park. One of the final sections was the Etz Meloy Motorway east of Yerba Buena Road, straddling border of L.A. and Ventura Counties in one of the loneliest parts of the Santa Monica Mountains. This segment of the trail will likely mainly be traveled by through-hikers, but it also provides an opportunity for an enjoyable day hike.
From the turnout on Yerba Buena, follow the road east 0.1 mile to a bend (across from the access point to the westbound Backbone Trail), carefully cross it and begin hiking on the newest section of the Backbone Trail which makes a few gentle switchbacks, passing through oak chaparral pockets and taking in views of Boney Mountain and the terrain to the south, sloping down toward the ocean. At 0.6 mile, you join Etz Meloy Motorway and continue east. The fire road gradually ascends for another 0.6 mile with views of the Conejo Valley and Lake Sherwood to the north and the coastline to the south. At 1.2 miles, you reach the high point on the route, about 2,400 feet above sea level and begin a descent to a saddle. After a smaller ascent, the trail descends to a junction (1.9 miles from the start). Etz Meloy Motorway continues at this point toward private property while the Backbone Trail branches off to the right and continues east.
This peaceful spot makes a good turnaround point, but if you have set up a car shuttle, you can continue another 3.5 miles to Encinal Canyon Road (description of that section of the Backbone Trail here). You can also simply continue as long as you like before returning to Yerba Buena Road, keeping in mind the amount of ascent you will have on the way back.
Text and photography copyright 2016 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.