Southern California's New Backpacking Destination: Backbone Trail


The 67 mile trail is set to open on June 4th just in time for 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 Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. “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.”

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 property, valued at more than $500,000, represents the single largest private donation for the Backbone Trail.

“I am honored to accept this donation from two of our nation’s most recognizable proponents of fitness and physical activity,” added Szymanski.  

“California State Parks is proud to have played a key role in protecting and preserving some of the most pristine and and undeveloped sections of the Backbone Trail,” said Craig Sap, district superintendent for California State Parks. “We congratulate all of the partners, including volunteers, who worked for so long to make this long-held dream a reality.”

The primary sources of public funds were state and local park bonds, as well as the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.


“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.”

The National Park Service and its partners will celebrate the grand opening of the trail on Saturday, June 4 from 9am-12pm at Will Rogers State Historic Park. The event is free and open to the public.

The Backbone Trail traverses one of Southern California's largest remaining tracts of undeveloped landscape, a well-preserved mix of chaparral-covered hillsides, oak woodlands, and rocky outcrop spires.

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

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So all we want to know is who ready? Because we are! - Karla and Phillip

Download the map here

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) is the largest urban national park in the country, encompassing more than 150,000 acres of mountains and coastline in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. A unit of the National Park Service, it comprises a seamless network of local, state and federal parks interwoven with private lands and communities. As one of only five Mediterranean ecosystems in the world, SMMNRA preserves the rich biological diversity of more than 450 animal species and 26 distinct plant communities. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/samo.