Thursday, September 6, 2012

Hiking Santa Monica Mountains - Sandstone Peak, Malibu

If you're looking for a great hike with incredible views within close proximity to Los Angeles - a hike that feels far from the crowds of Hollywood but is closer than you might think - you've got to check out the Sandstone Peak Trail.

Sandstone Peak Trail is well-defined, rocky and steep

Sandstone Peak is the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains, known by the National Parks Service as SAMO. Located just beyond Malibu's shores, this is the low-key, paparazzi-free playground of the stars. Hike any of SAMO's trails and you are likely to run across a celebrity, though you probably won't realize it. This is a place where the stars are free to act just like the rest of us - enjoying the great outdoors, dressed in comfortable clothes, wearing a hat to block the sun, and hiking for fun and fitness.

Plenty of parking at the Sandstone Peak Trail Head

View of Sandstone Peak as seen from the beginning of the trail
There are two popular trails that reach Sandstone Peak from trail heads along the scenic (yet sea-sick inducing) Yerba Buena Rd. The long route, which starts at the Mishe Mokwa trailhead (where you can also catch part of the Backbone Trail), meanders through some scenic country, stretching out the 1,100-foot elevation gain over the course of 6 miles. The quick route from the Sandstone Peak Trail Head is shorter, but it's steep, and a real butt burner. I wouldn't doubt if Kim Kardashian herself has done some time on this trail to keep those famous curves high and tight!

View of the trail head parking on Yerba Buena Rd., from Sandstone Peak Trail
If you're thinking about checking out this trail, I can tell you it's definitely worth the trip from anywhere in Southern California. Here are the stats for the quick route:

Trailhead: Parking lot is at 2,030 feet elevation, accesible on Yerba Buena Rd. From Pacific Coast Highway, turn at Ned's Net restaurant onto Yerba Buena and go five or so miles. TH is a mile or so past the Circle X Ranch headquarters office. From Highway 101, take Route 23 south (Westlake Boulevard) to Mulholland Highway. Turn right. Go a mile (maybe less) and turn right onto Little Sycamore Canyon Drive. This turns into Yerba Buena. Pass the Mishe Mokwa TH on the right and soon you will reach the Sandstone Peak TH. You can also take the Mishe Mokwa Trail for a 7-mile loop, reaching the peak after 6 miles.
Distance: 3 miles, out-and-back
Elevation Gain/Loss: 1,100/1,100
Map: You don't need a map for this trail, but I recommend picking up a free map from the gorgeous new visitor's center at Gillette Ranch. Get off the 101 at Lost Hills Road and go south to Mulholland and turn left, or from the Pacific Coast Highway take Malibu Canyon Road north to Mulholland and turn right. Gillette Ranch is on the south side of Mulholland Highway.
Hiking Time: On a recent hot summer hike, it took me 1.5 hours round trip, but it can probably be done in less time. I hung out for a while at the summit to take in the amazing 360-degree view, including the Channel Islands to the south, Oxnard Plain to the west, San Fernando Valley to the north and the entire Santa Monica Mountains stretching toward Los Angeles to the east.
Best Times to Hike: This hike can be done any time of day, all year long. Just be sure to bring plenty of water and wear a hat - there's barely any shade to be found.
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate (requires very little scrambling to the summit)

View from Sandstone Peak, looking east over the Santa Monica Mountains

View from Sandstone Peak, looking south toward the Pacific Ocean
After your hike, be sure to head down to Malibu to cool off in the refreshing Pacific Ocean. Also, you will find several affordable, laid-back restaurants along the Pacific Coast Highway, so plan to make a full day of this excursion.

End your day of hiking with a refreshing dip at one of Malibu's beaches
Comment below if you've hiked this trail or plan to hike it. I reply to all comments, so if you have any specific questions about the trail, please don't hesitate to ask. Also, be sure to check out my fitness inspiration blog, MyFitLife2Day, and my goals blog, Man of Merit, for more great pictures and stories from my hiking and outdoors fitness adventures. Oh, and while you're at it, follow me on Twitter @myfitlife2day.

Happy hiking!