Mesa Peak can be reached from the east via Malibu Creek State Park, from the west via Corral Canyon (both along the Backbone Trail) and thanks to director James Cameron, from the south via the Puerco Canyon Motorway. You don’t have to be a fan of “Titanic” or “Avatar” to appreciate Cameron’s contribution to outdoor recreation in the Santa Monica Mountains. In 2014, the preserve was opened after Cameron sold 703 acres of land to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority for a discounted price of $12 million. Of the three main routes to Mesa Peak, this is the only one that is dog friendly, although given the exposed terrain and significant incline, appropriate precautions should be taken with four-legged hikers.
From the gate, begin climbing on the fire road, taking in views of Point Dume to the west and Puerco Canyon to the east. After making a few switchbacks and passing a junction with the Zev Yaroslavsky Coastal Trail, the fire road comes to a Y-junction, just under a mile from the beginning. Off to the right, below, are a few abandoned buildings, resembling those seen at the Lasky Mesa site to the north. You can take a detour to explore these buildings by heading straight.
The Puerco Motorway continues uphill to another junction (1.3 miles.) Head right and continue the steady climb. Soon the south end of Mesa Peak comes into view; you may notice the Backbone Trail carving its way through the hills beyond it. You enter a west-facing section of the trail, providing some shade if you are hiking in the morning. A lone oak clings to the side of the ridge.
At 2.8 miles, you reach a saddle and the trail levels out. Just before it begins to descend, make a hairpin left turn on a steep, loose and unsigned use trail. It climbs to a bump with a small antenna facility and continues to Mesa Peak, where you can sit and enjoy excellent coastal views before heading 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.