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Hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains

Whether you’re a tourist planning a visit to LA or a Los Angeles or Ventura County local, your list of to-dos in the area is probably long. With top-tier arts and culture, incredible food, and stunning beaches, this stretch of California coast has a lot to offer. So much so that one of its best activities – hiking the Backbone Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains — still remains a largely undiscovered gem.

It’s no surprise, really. The Backbone Trail — the major 69-mile hiking route that traverses the spine of the Santa Monica Mountains — was only officially completed in 2016. Up until now, the limited camping opportunities along the trail have made it very difficult to complete a full thru-hike from end to end on a multi-day adventure. To solve this problem, Trail Magic Adventures has teamed up with organizations and property owners within the Santa Monica Mountains to create private campsites for participants to camp on. The varied campsite locations allow hikers to have an unbroken trail experience along the entire length of the Backbone Trail, which, up until this point, has not been possible.

What’s the best way to hike in the Santa Monica Mountains?

The Santa Monica Mountains have more than 500 miles of public trails traversing them. Fortunately, you can tap into the natural beauty easily thanks to the wide variety of trails from which to choose, ranging from the short 1.5-mile Satwiwa Loop Trail to the area’s best long-distance hiking trail: the Backbone Trail.

Situated in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area — the biggest urban national park in the world — this extensive trail offers everything from panoramic cityscape views to uninterrupted looks at the Pacific. A joint effort of public and private organizations and individuals, carving out and shoring up all 69 miles of the Backbone Trail took almost five decades.

Today, you can enjoy the fruits of all of that labor with easy access to the trail from multiple trailheads throughout Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. While other trails will give you a taste of what hiking the Santa Monica Mountains has to offer, no trail shows the full scope of the landscape — from volcanic cliffs to wooded canyons — quite like the Backbone Trail.


Is hiking the Backbone Trail strenuous?


It can be, but it’s up to you. If you hike the Backbone Trail with Trail Magic Adventures, our All-Inclusive programs provide all hiking and overnight gear, nutritious food, water, and Wilderness First Responder backcountry guides to support hikers in their journey. High-quality camping and cooking equipment will be securely stored at each private campsite so that hikers only need to carry a provided Osprey daypack with their essentials along the trail.

Additionally, we’ve divided the trail into five sections, which anyone with a spirit of adventure and a bit of grit can complete. You can choose the section that’s right for you, customize your trip with the number of miles/days, or do the entire 69-mile trail. If you’re looking to hike the highest peak in the Santa Monica Mountains, Section 5 is a 2-day, 17.5-mile adventure that delivers. If you’d rather stroll through rolling meadows and dramatic canyons, Section 2 covers 18.5 miles over a 3-day span so you can go at a more leisurely pace. Our programs make it very simple for youth, adults, and families to get outside in our local mountain range for multi-day adventures.

How do I get started hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains?

With several trailheads conveniently located throughout Ventura and Los Angeles Counties, there are many opportunities to jump in and start hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains. But, if you are looking for a unique way to experience this beautiful range, we’re here to help.

The Trail Magic Adventures Team is passionate about providing positive and meaningful outdoor experiences that reconnect individuals with themselves, others, and the natural world. Whether you’re looking for a single-night campout with your family to watch the sun go down over the Southern California coast, or are excited about completing a full thru-hike of the entire mountain range, we can get you set up.

If learning about all of the options for hiking the Santa Monica Mountains has piqued your interest, we’d love to talk more. Get in touch so we can build the perfect Trail Magic Adventures experience for you. Or, if you know you’re ready to get out there, check out the online booking options on our site. Your adventure awaits!

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