Peak a-’bu

Summit Sandstone Peak in Malibu for Cinematic Scenery

A peak Malibu experience often involves a surfboard and a sandy beach, but it also involves something more literal—as in summiting Sandstone Peak. This premier 6-mile (round-trip) classic adventure delivers a dramatic, ever-changing landscape and some of Southern California’s most cinematic views.

From the trailhead, follow signs to the Mishe Mokwa Trail, making a right at the first junction and a left at the half-mile mark. As the trail edges the hillside, you will have a front-row view to never-ending mountains, currently lush and green. Soon you’ll encounter red-rock cliffs and sandstone rock formations resembling the Old Southwest. Admire the rock climbers scaling the popular Echo Cliffs, and the aptly named Balanced Rock on top of the cliff.

The trail dips past a stream into a wooded grove, where you’ll find Split Rock, a giant boulder split into two. Continue through the canyon, and around the 3.4-mile mark follow the Backbone Trail back. Don’t miss the short spur trail to Inspiration Point, home to a Boy Scout memorial and a first glimpse of the shimmering ocean. 

Soaring 3,114 feet above sea level, Sandstone Peak is the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains. If your shoes have decent tread, you can scramble to the top. This is a prime spot to see all of Malibu and beyond, from the Channel Islands in the west to the Palos Verdes Peninsula in the south, and the San Gabriel Mountains in the east. 

Make your way back down the peak (it’s easier than it looks!) and rejoin the Backbone Trail until it comes to a junction. Make a right to get back to the parking lot. You can now head back to the beach, with the highpoint of your day already behind you.

{NOTE: Do not do this hike on hot days during the middle of the day. Very early starts are best, and be sure to bring plenty of water and some snacks.} From Santa Monica, take the Pacific Coast Hwy. northbound toward Malibu for about 29 miles. Turn right on Yerba Buena Rd. and drive up the hill for about 6.3 miles until you reach the parking lot on your left. The trailhead is at the brown gate. Free parking. Dog-friendly!

Story and photos by Yvonne Pasquini, @yvonne_pasquini

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