Close this search box.

Mishe Mokwa Trail to Sandstone Peak

Sandstone Peak from Circle X Ranch

Sandstone Peak and the Mishe Mokwa Trail in particular are revered by many as one of the “must-hike” trails in Southern California. Casey over at Modern Hiker describes it as “the Hike That Got Me Hiking.” It was Kolby “Condor” Kirk’s 6th hike in his 100 hikes goal, back when he really getting into hiking. This trail is located in the Santa Monica Mountains near the border of Los Angeles and Ventura County, and with views of the valley, the Pacific Ocean, and the mountains to the east, not to mention Balancing Rock, Split Rock and other interesting it is a pretty special area.

Trail Details
Distance: 6.1 miles
Time: 3-4 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation gain: 1,686 ft
Dogs: No
When to go: Year-round
I had wanted to hike the Mishe Mokwa trail to Sandstone Peak for a while. I had originally planned to hike Sandstone Peak with some hiking friends a few months back, but the Camarillo Springs Fire broke out a few days before our planned hike, and we had to change our plans. This past weekend it finally happened.

The Sandstone Peak trailhead parking is about one mile past Circle X Ranch on Yerba Buena Road. The landmark on Pacific Coast Highway is the famous seafood roadhouse, Neptune’s Net — where we would stop for lunch after our hike. The road up to the trailhead is narrow and very crooked. We took our time and saw more bicycles than cars.

Sandstone Peak Trailhead

The gravel parking lot has plenty of parking. Near the entrance is a sign with details on the area and the requisite warnings about wildlife and safety. The trail begins at the gate, and proceeds promptly and steeply up hill.

Sandstone Peak Trailhead

After about 0.4 miles you reach the first of many junctions. To the left, the trail heads directly to Sandstone Peak — a little over a mile away. To the right is the Mishe Mokwa trail. This trail also takes you to Sandstone Peak. It is a longer route, but it turns the hike into a loop with some really interesting things to see and lots of options for add-on adventure. We headed to the right.

Backbone Trail Junction

The trail winds along the side of the mountain, with views extending across the valley and often much further. In another 0.2 miles we reached another junction. This is where the Backbone Trail joins the Mishe Mokwa Trail. We stayed to the left and followed the trail along the backside of the mountain.

Backbone Trail Junction

At about the 1.5 mile mark, look across the valley and you’ll see the remarkable Balancing Rock. This huge boulder looks like a gentle breeze could topple it, but it’s been there for ages. It’s remarkable.

Balancing Rock

The trail winds along the side of the valley, eventually reaching a shady low-point at Split Rock. Another great boulder, this one split into three pieces. One of the cracks is big enough to walk through. There is a picnic table, and it’s a great spot for a break.

Split Rock

Optional Side Trip #1 – Balancing Rock

Just beyond Split Rock you’ll see a sign for the trail to Balancing Rock. This is an out-and-back side trip that will take you up close to that giant, tottering boulder. We decided to take this another time. We continued on the Mishe Mokwa trail, climbing gradually higher and higher.

The Mishe Mokwa Trail

Optional Side Trip #2 – Tri-Peaks

At about the 3 mile mark you’ll come across a couple of junctions with signs to Tri-Peaks. This out-and-back option adds a fair climb and another mile to the trip. It was hot, and we decided to stick to our original plan: bag Sandstone Peak.


Inspiration Point

At 3.5 miles, look for the sign to your right to Inspiration Point. This is a very short spur that really doesn’t add much to the length of the trek, and provides some truly inspirational views.

View from Inspiration Point

Continuing on, we climbed in full exposure. It was getting hotter than we expected. We were grateful when we reached the final spur that took us to the top of Sandstone Peak. We ascended these steps, then picked our way along the ridge line. The trail is sometimes difficult to find, but we aimed for the summit, and soon were there. The last bit we even used our hands here and there as it’s fairly steep.

Memorial atop Mt. Allen, AKA Sandstone Peak

Sandstone Peak

The views from Sandstone Peak are phenomenal.

View from Mt. Allen

The Summit Register

Most of the popular and prominent peaks in Southern California have  a small notebook stashed near the peak in a waterproof canister. It’s customary to sign the summit register to record your ascent of said peak. For many peaks the Sierra Club regularly  replaces these notebooks, which on popular trails can fill up quickly. The historical registers are sent to the Bancroft Library in Berkeley for archival, and are available for viewing.

The summit register atop Sandstone Peak looks like an old-fashioned brass-covered mail slot, built into the memorial to Herbert Allen, the namesake of Mount Allen, the real name of what everyone calls Sandstone Peak. Confused? It may be the heat.

Speaking of the heat, and summit registers, it’s always entertaining to see what other hikers scrawl in the trail register. It’s customary to leave a little message to mark the occasion, as well as the date and your name. On this particularly hot day, the entries were muy caliente!

It’s HOT! Hotter than the crevasses of Satan’s butt cheeks.”  – Summit register entry from earlier in the day

Sandstone Peak Summit Register

Video from Sandstone Peak and the Backbone Trail

This is my first attempt at recording video using my StickPic. I recorded a couple thoughts at the summit of Sandstone Peak, as well as on the hike down the Backbone Trail to the trailhead. It’s a little rough around the edges, so if you’ve used one of these and have some tips, let me know.

[responsive_youtube Fcw46cv7nXM norel]

Mishe Mokwa to Sandstone Peak Trail Map

Download file: Mishe-Mokwa-Loop-to-Sandstone-Peak.gpx

Photo Gallery

Click on any photo to view a larger version. You can also leave comments on any photo.

Sandstone Peak Tips

  • Bring the 10 essentials
  • Take time to thumb through the summit register
  • Be sure to stop at Inspiration Point
  • No permits are required
  • Trailhead parking is free
  • The road getting to the trailhead is very windy so take your time.

More Sandstone Peak Resources

Sandstone Peak Weather Forecast

[forecast width=”100%” location=”lat=34.119763245290784&lon=-118.9434814453125″]

I found that this forecast underestimates the temperature for this location. I got better results from the NOAA website.

Share the Post:

Related Posts