Distance: ~ 6.5 miles
Location: Malibu, CA
Trail Type: Loop
Dogs Allowed: Yes!
The tallest summit in the Santa Monica Mountains, Sandstone Peak offers an incredible backdrop of Flistone-esque boulder formations as well as panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. Quite possibly my favorite hike in Southern California, this 6.5(ish) mile loop is an ideal hike for any time of year. However, be sure to pack extra water in the summertime as there is very little shade. I prefer this hike around Spring because 1. The temperature is a-freaking-mazing AND 2. the wildflowers are blooming which adds just another blanket of color to this already stunning hike.
To get to the trailhead you have to make your way up Yerba Buena Rd. from the PCH. Though windy as all get-out, this drive gives you your first taste of what’s to come, with big views of teetering boulders (a la Thunder Mountain at DisneyWorld).
There are two dirt lots within a half mile of each other that both provide access points to this loop. I choose the slightly larger lot which is complete with a restroom and picnic table, for all your extracurricular needs.
Start up the trail for just over 1/4 mile and turn right to stay on the Mishe Mokwa Trail. Staying on this route, you’ll get an early treat of big views including Yerba Buena Rd. which snakes its way to the trailhead and across the canyon, the aptly named Balancing Rock.
From here the trail ducks through a small wooded area offering a picnic table under the cover of the trail’s minimal shade. Depending on the time of year, there are a few small creeks you have to cross however, in March they were nothing but a trickle and June, non-existent.
From this point, the trail meets back up with the Backbone Trail which you will take a left at to continue on the loop. The trail is very clearly marked, however it’s worth noting that there are several spur trails. I’ve read posts saying to avoid these and that may be true but I stumbled across one and I’m glad I did because the views are insane.
The spur I’m referring to is by two water tanks just before the official side trail for Inspiration Point. Inspiration Point also offers stunning views but the spur trail by the water tanks offers near total solitude, and a large rock outcropping that could very well be the one Disney animators used as inspiration for Simba’s Pride Rock. Walking out onto this rock “ledge,” you can really get a feel for the sheer magnitude of the landscape. It’s something else, y’all.
Once you’ve spent a decent amount of time gawking at how awesome Earth is at the outlook, return to the trail and keep on for a little over a mile until you reach the start of your ascent to Sandstone Peak. There are stairs in some areas and minor scrambling required in others. The bear dog and I were both huffing and puffing by the time we reached the top but it’s absolutely doable and definitely worth it. There is a trail registry at the top that you can sign and chuckle at other people’s entries. Everyone, as it turns out, is a poetry scholar. Side note, I saw a hawk surfing the breeze about 15 ft. away from me at the top of Sandstone Peak and I swear had we both had hands, we’d have given each other daps in acknowledgement of the rad day we were both having. Twas a lovely little treat.
After you descend the peak, it’s a predominately downhill hike, with more views of the Pacific before you reach the parking lot. I give this hike a solid 4.5 out of 5. The only thing that could make this hike better is if there was a more active water source for the bear to frolick in. Other than that, this is definitely a SoCal “must hike.”