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Backbone Trail: Will Rogers to Temescal Ridge

  4.0 ( 42 ) Favorite


14.2 mile 22.8 kilometer loop
90% Singletrack


Ascent: 1,953' 595 m
Descent: -1,970' -600 m
High: 2,064' 629 m
Low: 461' 141 m


Avg Grade: 5% (3°)
Max Grade: 18% (10°)


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

Dave Gregg

Electric Mountain Bikes Allowed

Features -none-


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.


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!!!

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Family Friendly, ADA Accessible, Need to Know, Dogs Allowed, Features, History & Background


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May 5, 2019
Lauryn Self
Apr 19, 2019
Evan S.
Overgrown 14.2mi — 3h 10m
Apr 6, 2019
C Sanders
Mar 27, 2019
Patrick Freeman
Dry and loose
Feb 24, 2019
Oscar Frota
Jan 27, 2019
Marco Sulin
Jan 26, 2019
M Mc
I fell on the way down. Bruised a rib. This trail is not for amateur riders. Going up is very gravely and steep. Kicked my but. The view is worth it. 10.2mi
Jan 22, 2019
Jennifer Campbell

Trail Ratings

  4.0 from 42 votes


in Santa Monica


  4.0 from 42 votes
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in Santa Monica


in California


364 Views Last Month
37,115 Since Mar 15, 2014



More fun this direction :) -- watch for blind corners
Dec 23, 2015 near Topanga, CA
The Backbone Trail from the Hub to Will Rogers is great fun!
May 12, 2017 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
Inspiration Loop.
Dec 26, 2017 near Santa M…, CA

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