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Santa Monica Mountains: Backbone Trail & Campsites

Well, we're getting ready to start riding/camping the Santa Monicas.  Been riding Mulholland on the roadie for a few years and now want to get on some dirt and check all these places out.  

Thanks to Gene @STR forum and DenMother for their help in collecting info.  If anyone here has something to add please do - the BBT is going to take some time to explore.

Gene's TR:  (lots of nice pics)

The thread I'm pulling info off at SoCalTrailRiders:

Places to eat?   We generally make breakfast & lunch and then dine out that nite.   Anymore?  

Yes, we are spoiled but it's nice to be METRO-MOUNTAINEERING IN STYLE.

Froggy's in Topanga:

Very cool, that looks like a great XC ride.

Started some recon for the BBT and camps.  Went up to Malibu Creek SP to talk to rangers but, sign said the Visitor Center is now open on weekends from "noon to 4PM".  It's 9am.

I park over at Mulholland hoping to see some buddies hammering 'Mulholland Challenge' on roadies.  Nice crisp morning.  Take the Grassland trail back into MCreek SP and down Crags Rd. towards Malibou Lake.  Straightforward deal - fire road to a singletrack that follows alongside the creek bed.  I say straightforward inasmuch as you have literally dozens of hikers on the trail to keep things moving.  This hike to "M.A.S.H." must be on the list of every hiking club and "See Malibu" outfit in existence.

I've got a lot to do so I huck it a bit over sketchy scree and a few washouts along the creek till I finally get to Malibou Lake and can hear and partly see what appears to be a impressive waterfall near the ridgeline where the houses are but.....chain-link fence stops you and "NO TRESPASSING" signs everywhere.  I dump the bike in the bushes and head up the hill on a use trail that follows the fence.  No luck - I can't get near the lake and the trail is a mess anyway.

I check the hookup for the BBT loop up Bulldog (looks like the climbing begins in earnest here) and head back to the truck.  Need to check the camps and will hit this 20 mile loop next week with more time.

Campsites are as expected - crowded, a bit chaotic and the "Bike & Hike" sites are not so impressive.  Bumming here - trying to imagine how we're going to link together a nice BBT ride and some camping.  Malibu just looks too darn popular with the beach party crews and way too noisy.  


Malibu Creek - big, noisy, nothing special
Leo Carillo - same as MCreek
Sycamore Canyon - more same
La Jolla - guy on duty tells me that it's not a 1/2 mile in as I was told but more like 5-6miles and I have to hike in on foot - no bikes.  Eh.
Thornhill-Broome: nice nite at the beach - no breeze but this is a fairly dull looking spot - no trees, rock & sand and fully exposed.  Plenty of RVs lined up down the lot.  No way.

May look further north in Ventura for a camp site but I think that from April on any spot within 10 miles of the beach is going to be rough going if one is looking for a nice quiet spot.

A few shots of Malibu Creek.  It IS a pretty place and I would imagine that once you get off the main trails, with the hordes of students and family groups, it should be pretty cool back there.  Can't wait to head back and hit that Backbone Trail - looks kinda tasty climbing up there.

norma r

Unfortunately there is no such thing as uncrowded camping on a beach in So Cal unless you have access to a private beach or as in the one time i camped at NAS Point Mugu when my daughter's friend who lived on base (her dad was an officer) had a camp-out at the base campground near the wetlands.  it wasn't anything spectacular, but it was uncrowded.  just two campsites if i remember correctly.

Jalama Beach in Santa Barbara County can be really good (though sites are right next to each other) when good, but if the winds comes up it is the worst.  the beach itself is never crowded and in the morning you can find sand dollars all over that washed ashore at night.  that doesn't happen much anymore.

back to MCreek, the mtn biking there is very good when the temps are mild.  you can ride Bulldog (a kick ass climb) all the way west on the Backbone Trail to Encinal Canyon.  which means crossing Corral Cyn, Latigo Cyn and Kanan Rd.  or head east from the top of the climb and do the Tapia Spur back to MCreek. or play on the trails you already mentioned.

Malibou Lake is a private lake and i don't know of any public access.

check out this website for good trail info in and around L.A and Ventura County:

Thanks Norma.   This is all new dirt for both of us so we'll just turn it into a couple of days of different routes and see what can put together for a flowing ride.

Camps near beach:  I used to bag on my 'hood campsite (Moro @ Crystal Cove) but after seeing the size of the LA/Ventura sites, Moro isn't all that bad for being close to the beach.  Since you have to hike/bike in to Moro it cuts out most of the party campers.

MCreek Park:  Is there a fire road from the Visitor Center that connects to Bulldog?  I'd just as soon skip the creek bed next time and I've seen pictures that seem to indicate there's another way up to Bulldog.

More STR threads on Mulholland Dirt:
norma r

if there is another road that eliminates the creek bed, i am not aware of it.  you could call the ranger for info or email the website administrator Steve, he would know.  i always loved that creek bed, but that is me.  just keep your pedaling constant on "baby heads" as we called them.  i did always have to walk my bike over the rocky step-up in the middle.  i've never been good with steep short technical step-ups.

have fun wherever you end up! Forum Index -> Other SoCal Ranges
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