Santa Monica Mountain Peak Named for Local Conservationist

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The U.S. Board on Geographic Names recognized McAuley Peak, located along a stretch of the 60-mile Backbone Trail, for Milton “Milt” McAuley, who helped drive visitors to the SMMNRA. 

A rocky peak along the Backbone Trail in Malibu Creek State Park has officially been named in honor of famed local conservationist Milton “Milt” McAuley, one of the first men to map the Santa Monica Mountains and one of its earliest protectors.

McAuley, who passed away in 2008 at the age of 89, spent much of his life in the area, serving on the Santa Monica Mountains Trail Council from 1989 to 2004 and writing early hiking guides. McAuley believed popularizing the spot was a way to protect it.

“If you didn’t build a trail and invite people in, someone would come along and subdivide the land,” McAuley told the Los Angeles Times in 2001. “To preserve parkland, you need access to it. Otherwise, nobody will vote the funds to acquire it.”

McAuley Peak, which is located along a stretch of the 60-mile Backbone Trail between Malibu Canyon Rd. and Corral Canyon Rd., was specifically described in McAuley’s 1998 book “Hiking the Trails of the Santa Monica Mountains.”

The U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN) officially recognized McAuley Peak this month, after a request by former County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky last year. Yaroslavsky’s recommendation was backed by a vote by the Board of Supervisors in September 2014.

“McAuley was a singular leader in the effort to preserve the Santa Mountains and make this spectacular region readily accessible to hundreds of thousands of members of the public every year,” Yaroslavsky’s motion reads. 

McAuley, who according to his obituary in the L.A. Times was a Boy Scout, WWII veteran and aerospace engineer, had a lifelong love of hiking and outdoorsmanship. 

“If you’re introduced to the mountains early, they’re hard to get out of your system,” he told the L.A. Times in 1991.

The request to turn what was previously called Peak 2049 into McAuley Peak was officially supported by State Parks, represented by Angeles District Superintendent Craig Sap, in a letter delivered to the BGN in January.

“California State Parks supports the naming of a peak in Malibu Creek State Park in honor of the late Milton ‘Milt’ McAuley … author, conservationist and trailblazer, who worked to preserve the Santa Monica Mountains and make them more accessible to the public,” Sap’s letter reads.

The peak, distinguished by a large rock formation, has been unofficially known as McAuley Peak for years, according to popular hiking websites and the Sierra Club Lower Peaks Committee.

“The sandstone rock at the top of Peak 2049 makes this geographic landmark identifiable from many miles away, and it acts as a prominent destination for hikers of a variety of ages and abilities,” reads Yaroslavsky’s motion.

The official naming of the landmark, according to Sap, has benefits for Malibu Creek State Park rangers and hikers, as well as local first responders.

“McAuley Peak … is a distinctive feature along the Backbone Trail and adds an important point of reference in some of the most remote regions of Malibu, enhancing our area administration and public safety response capabilities,” Sap’s letter reads. “Of more significance is the long-term educational benefit to the public, whereby Milt’s lifelong commitment to conservation can be a more visible example for all.”