One of the great joys of life in Southern California – and especially here in Woodland Hills, situated in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains at the southwestern end of the San Fernando Valley — is our proximity to some of the best day hiking opportunities in the entire world.
Where else could you leave your house, drive for 20 minutes – and wind up at a dusty trailhead that will soon take you up to a chaparral covered mountain ridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean to the south and, to the north, the entire San Fernando Valley, the Santa Susana Mountains and beyond.
My hearty, vivacious wife Victoria and I have dedicated ourselves to hiking every weekend that we possibly can – and we were delighted to make our first ascent of the Backbone Trail late last year.
We returned to the Backbone Trail after the New Year with our daughter Emilia.
You can access the Backbone Trail from Malibu Creek State Park and several other locations along Pacific Coast Highway – but Victoria and I made our first ascent from the trailhead at Tapia Park off Las Virgenes Road.
We started our trek with a daunting uphill slog – but the payoff was well worth the effort: the brilliant Pacific Ocean to our left and the familiar but still impressive San Fernando Valley and beyond to our right.
The Backbone Trail is considered the holy grail of trails in the Santa Monica Mountains – and Victoria and I wholeheartedly concur.
Vic and I have hiked Topanga State Park, Malibu Creek State Park, Solstice Canyon, the Hollyridge Trail and others in the Santa Monicas – but, while each of those hikes have a great deal to recommend them, the view from the Backbone Trail is unique, stunning and thought-provoking.
Hikers on the Backbone Trail experience the wonders of the Mediterranean eco-system, found only in five places in the world, with its unique plant and animal species — traveling through coastal sage scrub, chaparral, oak woodlands, meadows, and streamside areas. (Though we’ll need a hell of a lot more rain – in fact, any rain — before we can experience “streamside areas”.)
And, as you enjoy the incredible views on both sides of the mountain ridge, when you encounter other hearty hikers along the way – tell them Vic and Paul sent you. They won’t have any idea what you’re talking about, but you may spark a conversation. And our conversations with hikers on the Backbone Trail have all been interesting and inspirational.
After all, everyone we talked to on the Backbone Trail had the good sense, creativity and imagination to climb up to a path from which they could gaze upon the expanse of the Pacific Ocean on one side — and the magnificent San Fernando, Simi and Antelope Valleys on the other side.
I just love living in this corner of Southern California.
Backbone Trail, Ho!