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An amazing out-and-back over the Pacific, this Santa Monica classic has a little of everything.


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Map Key

14.2

Miles

22.8

KM

90%

Singletrack

2,064' 629 m

High

461' 141 m

Low

1,953' 595 m

Up

1,970' 600 m

Down

5%

Avg Grade (3°)

18%

Max Grade (10°)

Dogs Unknown

E-Bikes Allowed

Overview

Mildly technical rocky sections, smooth flowy turns, tree weaving, straight, fast, ridge-top speed... Backbone has it all. It's all singletrack with a few sections of doubletrack. No fire roads... AT ALL.

The terrain is classic Santa Monica mountain; crumbling rock and shale chips, large amounts of coastal and desert plant life, the smell and feel of the ocean nearby. The views of the ocean are stunning, and on clear days, the ring of mountains around SoCal can be seen clearly, along with great views of downtown LA and Hollywood.

Description

From the top of Inspiration Loop Trail, within the grounds of Will Rogers State Historic Park, you'll find a kiosk standing post beside an uphill singletrack, branching north around a hillside. The trail is narrow, so be sure to slow or stop for the large amount of hikers in the first mile. DO NOT BOMB THE HIKERS ON THE WAY BACK DOWN! The local community is wary of bikes here and are easily upset by your passing. BE RESPECTFUL. There are those who would like to ban us from the park.

After a tough climb, one mile from the kiosk, a bridge spans a particularly bad part of the ridge line. By law, you must walk your bike across the bridge and up the steep rock face just beyond it. (I know a guy who says he saw a ranger at the top watching one day)

About 1.5 miles up trail from the bridge there's a left-hand bend in the trail and a large oak tree near a drop-off. Under the shade of its branches is a large space and, with a commanding view of the valley beyond, is a great place to take a break.

What follows is roughly a mile of very pleasant, easy slope in the shade, to a mixed section of ups and downs, to a butt-kicking mile-plus of loose-pebble, rut-divided, sun-exposed slope from hell. Just when you've had enough, it ends. A short, steep downhill bends left, to the west, along the base of a left-hand hillside. Now in the shade, the trail takes on a different feel. There are more plants, and the dirt is darker, softer, and for about 3/4ths of a mile the trail is flat and easy. The trail narrows to a left-hand corner and to a sign "Backbone Trail - the hub" pointing left. This last section is super fun. Full of tight turns and thin tree trunks, it has a very nice flow. Too bad it's only a half-mile.

Well, that's it. The trail dumps out onto a wide, boring fire road, Temescal Ridge Trail, that spans away left and right. These connect to many other roads in the area and can be combined to form very long loops, but that's another day.

Turn around and re-trace the trail back to the car, but remember: DON'T BOMB THE HIKERS!!!

Contacts

Shared By:

Dave Gregg with improvements by Colin Arnott

Trail Ratings

  4.0 from 63 votes

#1

in Santa Monica

#254

Overall
  4.0 from 63 votes
5 Star
30%
4 Star
49%
3 Star
14%
2 Star
5%
1 Star
2%
Recommended Route Rankings

#1

in Santa Monica

#33

in California

#254

Overall
147 Views Last Month
49,813 Since Mar 15, 2014
Intermediate/Difficult Intermediate/Difficult

0%
3%
49%
25%
23%
0%

Photos

Backbone Trail to Will Rogers State Historic Park
Jan 18, 2021 near Topanga, CA
The Backbone Trail from the Hub to Will Rogers is great fun!
May 12, 2017 near Topanga, CA
More fun this direction :) -- watch for blind corners
Dec 23, 2015 near Topanga, CA
One of only a few switchbacks on the Backbone Trail
Mar 16, 2014 near Santa M…, CA
Good rest stop, halfway up Backbone.
Nov 2, 2017 near Topanga, CA
Hike-A-Bike to the ridge bridge. Santa Monica Bay, where Sunset Blvd meets the Pacific beyond.
Mar 16, 2014 near Santa M…, CA
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Current Trail Conditions

Minor Issues 1 day ago
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Check-Ins

Apr 11, 2024
Erik Carlson
Ok. NOW it's overgrown. And there are some deep ruts.
Dec 12, 2023
Erik Carlson
Clear. Not significantly overgrown through any section anymore. Thank you! to whomever cleaned it up. 13mi — 3h 00m
Dec 3, 2023
Sergio Hernandez
Jun 6, 2023
Keith S
Very overgrown past the bridge and towards Palisades Highlands. 15.2mi
Apr 23, 2023
Private User
Jul 23, 2022
Eddie Lee
Apr 24, 2022
Carlos Quintero
tough 14mi — 1h 55m
Mar 25, 2022
Mark Fishbein
Great shape most of the way. Some Ritter stuff. Rattlesnakes galore and overgrown but amazing !
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