Sandstone Peak (via Mishe Mokwa Trail)

Sandstone Peak
Sandstone Peak

Objective: Summit Sandstone Peak, Santa Monica Mountains, California
Distance: 6 miles (loop)
Peak Elevation: 3,111′
Elevation Gain: 1,700′
Difficulty: Moderate

Sandstone Peak is the highest summit in the Santa Monica Mountains. From the peak, you can see the Pacific Ocean and some of the Channel Islands. Enjoy the Backbone and Mishe Mokwa trails, which resemble exposed dinosaur spines.

Directions to Trailhead

From Malibu, head north on Pacific Coast Highway. After passing Neptune’s Net, turn right onto Yerba Buena Road. Follow this winding road for about 6.3 miles or until you are about 1 mile east of Circle X Ranch. Park at the lot next to the Sandstone Peak Trailhead.

Directions to Summit

Trailhead: From the Sandstone Peak trailhead, start hiking on the Backbone Trail.
0.35 miles: At the junction, turn right at the Backbone Trail.
0.53 miles: At the junction, turn left onto the Mishe Mokwa Trail.
3.2 miles: At the junction, turn left onto the Backbone Trail, bypassing the Tri Peaks use trail.
3.5 miles: At the junction, keep left to stay on the Backbone Trail, bypassing the Inspiration Point spur trail.
4.3 miles: At the junction, turn right onto the Sandstone Peak Trail to climb to the summit.
4.4 miles: You have reached the top of Sandstone Peak.
4.5 miles: Turn right onto the Backbone Trail.
5.6 miles: Turn right to take the trail returning to the trailhead.

Sandstone Peak
Dinosaur spines

Trek Highlights

From the trailhead, the trail climbs steeply until the first junction. At the next junction, follow the Mishe Mokwa Trail. The trail leads you past coastal sage scrub and chaparral. At the 1.5-mile mark, peer across the valley to see the Balancing Rock. A little bit further, walk through the crack of the Split Rock. At the 3.2-mile mark, you can take a use trail to Tri Peaks, which adds another mile (round-trip).

At this point, you are now on the Backbone Trail, which begins to curve back to the start. The Backbone Trail runs along the ridges of the Santa Monica Mountains from Point Mugu State Park to Will Rogers State Historic Park. At the 3.5-mile mark, a short spur trail leads you to Inspiration Point. The last spur trail takes you up some stairs to the top of Sandstone Peak. Just below the summit, there is a slight scramble to the top. Admire the views of the rocky surroundings and bask in the sun on a craggy rock.


There is a plaque on the summit honoring W. Herbert Allen, who donated lands nearby for Circle X Ranch and scout camps.


Native plants
Sandstone Peak
Coastal shrubs
Sandstone Peak
Rock formations
Sandstone Peak
Sandstone Peak
Summit plaque honoring W. Herbert Allen