Backbone Trail to Form One Continuous 67-Mile Stretch Through Santa Monica Mountains

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Hikers from the 2010 Backbone Trek. The 67-mile follows the Backbone Trail from Ventura County to Pacific Palisades. The Trek progresses across a patchwork of public lands, including state parks, national parkland and other land holdings, following ridges as well as tree-shaded valleys and open chaparral.

Beginning this weekend, for the first time since the trail began to be stitched together out of old ranches and public land nearly 50 years ago, the Backbone Trail, a 67-mile hiking route that winds through Malibu’s backyard will be one continuous path. 

The creation of the trail — 60 percent of which belongs to Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) — has been described as a dream “decades in the making.” The final puzzle pieces came from the acquisition of parcels from a fire road called Etz Meloy Motorway, as well as a donation from former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and American bodybuilder and fitness entrepreneur Betty Weider, according to information provided by the National Park Service (NPS).

“One of the key actions to complete the trail was the generous donation of a 40-acre parcel of land in Zuma Canyon by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and fitness entrepreneur Betty Weider,” the NPS wrote. “The property, valued at more than $500,000, represents the single largest private donation for the Backbone Trail.”

The completed trail will officially open on Saturday, June 4, with a grand opening celebration scheduled from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. at Will Rogers State Historic Park in honor of National Trails Day.

“The Backbone Trail shows what a dedicated community can do if they set their minds to it,” said David Szymanski, superintendent for the SMMNRA, in a statement provided by the NPS. “The Backbone Trail has been a 40-year labor for elected officials, parks agencies, volunteers and philanthropists. When finished, the trail will form the spine of a 500-mile network of trails that connects the residents of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties to their public lands.”

The trail is owned not only by the National Park Service but also the California Department of Parks and Recreation, Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority, according to the LA Times.

“The Backbone Trail has been a more than 40-year journey to preserve, protect, and connect the parklands of these extraordinary mountains while providing recreational access for everyone who seeks the solace of nature here,” said Joseph T. Edmiston, FAICP, executive director for the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. “Its completion is a testament to the strength of our shared values, the power of idealism, and so many determined people — quite literally — on their hands and knees with spades in hand navigating the twists and turns of topography, land acquisition, and political will.”

In a slightly less formal statement to the LA Times, Edmiston praised the trail for its beauty and uniqueness.

“The Backbone Trail offers the primo, sustained outdoor experience in Southern California,” Edmiston told the Times. 

As of this season, the National Park Service said, there is not much opportunity for overnight camping along the trail, the stretches from the Ray Miller Trailhead near Point Mugu to the Will Rogers Trailhead in Pacific Palisades. 

“Because overnight camping options are minimal at this point, the National Park Service recommends hiking the trail in sections. The long-term vision is to create a small number of backcountry tent sites that would be available by permit only,” the National Park Service wrote in a statement.