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Backbone Trail Trek

Saturday-to-Saturday,
May 7th - May 14th

Registration Opens
February 1, 2022


Important Dates



The number of hikers is limited to 25 and registrations are accepted on a first-come first-served basis. There is a registration fee to cover expenses for campgrounds, transportation of personal equipment, insurance, food and the like, with any excess fee going to improve and maintain the trails in the Santa Monica Mountains. The registration fee is $550 per person and includes a one year membership with the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council.

Refund Policy

Full refunds (minus a $20 cancellation fee) are made if cancellations are Post Marked prior to April 1, 2022. No refunds can be given after April 3rd, 2022. Cancellation and request for refund can be made by mail (addressed to the registrar) or by e-mail to john.kross@yahoo.com and acknowledged by the registrar.

Registration is currently closed for the 2022 Backbone Trek. As new information is available, this page will be updated.

Registration Process

We handle registration via the U.S. Postal Service. The application form will be available for download on January 29, 2022. A link to the registration form will appear right here after the stroke of midnight on February 1, 2022. The Registration and Liability Forms will be in PDF format.

Please NOTE: The envelope containing your check, Registration and Liability Forms must be postmarked NO EARLIER than February 1, 2022.

Questions about registration? Contact Event Registrar, Barry Dydyk (805) 490-2707 backbonetrek@yahoo.com

The Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council (SMMTC) is proud to sponsor the 17th annual Backbone Trek. This seven-day hike will traverse the 65-mile length of the Santa Monica Mountains.

The Backbone Trail traverses the length of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. It follows ridges and canyons crossing chaparral-covered hillsides, oak woodlands, creeks and valleys. The daily hikes are rated moderate to strenuous difficulty and average about 10 miles per day, with daily elevation changes ranging from 500 to 3,000 feet. Hikers carry only a daypack with lunch, water and personal items. While this hike is much less strenuous than a backpack trip, it is not for the casual hiker. Each day's hike is classified as moderate or difficult. However, keep in mind a 10 mile hike every day may have a cumulative effect on one's physical condition, increasing the difficulty as the hike progresses day to day.

Volunteers truck the hiker's camping equipment between campgrounds and when necessary, a van shuttle is provided to and from the trailhead. Upon arriving at the night's campground, usually around 3:00 PM, participants may relax while being treated to light snacks and cool drinks. While accommodations at the campgrounds vary, all have potable water, toilets, picnic tables and some have shower facilities. Hot meals prepared by volunteers are served every evening. In the mornings, hikers prepare their own breakfast, lunch and trail snacks from an assortment of provided "fixings".

We begin the Backbone Trek at La Jolla Canyon in Point Mugu State Park. After unloading individual equipment and shuttling private vehicles to a secure parking area, hikers will have an opportunity to meet with the other hikers and the BBT volunteers, share a light dinner and receive an event orientation. Our Backbone Trek culminates at Will Rogers State Historic Park. A light lunch and cool drinks are provided while all participants share their experiences and say good-byes. After lunch, participants are shuttled back to the vehicle parking area to pick up personal camping gear and private autos.


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BBTrek Memories

Previous Treks:

~~ Itinerary ~~

Rendezvous  MAY 7, 2022   Saturday
Map of area

BBTrek Travel Directions

Our meeting place is also the first night's camp. On May 7th, we will meet at the La Jolla Canyon Group Campground in Point Mugu State Park. Plan to arrive between 2:00 P.M. and 4:00 P.M. Come early enough to set up your camp and do a vehicle shuttle to the parking area a few miles away. We will have dinner & orientation at 6:00 P.M. after shuttling vehicles to the secured parking area.

Drop Off Suggestions - If you are being dropped off at La Jolla Canyon, your pickup at the end of the hike can be either at Will Rogers State Historic Park or at the secure parking area, at 39996 Pacific Coast Highway (one mile north of Leo Carrillo State Park). The planned arrival at Will Rogers is about 2 - 2:30 P.M. on May 14th, at which time we will have our farewell lunch until 3:30 or so. After lunch, we will have a van shuttle to the secure parking area where you will meet up with your camping gear and vehicles by about 4:30 P.M. Your pickup driver is welcome to take part in the farewell lunch at Will Rogers State historic Park.

DAY 1    MAY 8, 2022    Sunday
Elevation Profile
La Jolla Canyon Backbone Trail, trailhead to Danielson Ranch Group Camp - Moderate: 8.2 miles, 1,330 foot climb

Backbone Trail Odometer Readings

[Begin:0][Miles:8.2][Cumulative:8.2][Gain:1330]

  • Break camp 8:30 AM. This time may be earlier if the predicted high temperature is over 85 degrees
  • From the western terminus of the BBT, hike the Ray Miller Trail to the Overlook Trail (2.7 mi.), hike Overlook Trail to Wood Canyon Vista Trail (1.9 mi.), descend Wood Canyon Vista Trail to Big Sycamore Canyon (1.8 mi.), hike to Danielson Ranch Group Camp, Point Mugu State Park (1.7 mi.)
  • From the Overlook Trail, look to the right for tomorrow's challenge: the ridge line of Boney Mountain 2,000 feet higher
  • Camp at Danielson Ranch Group Camp
  • No shuttle
DAY 2    MAY 9, 2022    Monday
Elevation Profile
Danielson Ranch Group Camp to Triunfo Peak Trailhead - Difficult: 8.4 miles, 3,060 foot climb with the option of including an additional 4.6 mile section of the Backbone Trail for a total of 13.2 miles

Backbone Trail Odometer Readings

[Begin:8.2][Miles:13.2][Gain:3700][Cumulative:21.4,5,030']

DAY 3    MAY 10, 2022    Tuesday
Elevation Profile
Triunfo Peak Trailhead to Mulholland Hwy Trailhead to Latigo Canyon Trailhead - Moderate: 12.7 mi., 1,970 ft. climb.

Backbone Trail Odometer Readings

[Begin:21.4][Miles:12.7][Cumulative:34.1]

DAY 4    MAY 11, 2022    Wednesday
Elevation Profile
Latigo Canyon Trailhead to Malibu Canyon Road Trailhead - Difficult: 9.8 mi., 1,120 ft. climb

Backbone Trail Odometer Readings

[Begin:34.1][Miles:9.8][Cumulative:43.9]

DAY 5    MAY 12, 2022    Thursday
Elevation Profile
Malibu Creek State Park Campground to Saddle Peak Trailhead - Difficult: 7.1 mi., 2,500 ft. climb

Backbone Trail Odometer Readings

[Begin:43.9][Miles:7.1][Cumulative:51.0]

DAY 6    MAY 13, 2022    Friday
Elevation Profile
Saddle Peak Trailhead to Musch Camp - Moderate: 7.6 miles, mostly downhill but includes a 970 foot climb

Backbone Trail Odometer Readings

[Begin:51.0][Miles:7.6][Cumulative:58.6]

DAY 7    MAY 14, 2022    Saturday
Elevation Profile
Musch Camp to Will Rogers Historic Park - Difficult: 9.6 miles, 1,360 foot climb

Backbone Trail Odometer Readings

[Begin:58.6][Miles:9.6][Cumulative:68.2]

~~ Questions & Answers ~~

Frequently Asked Questions - Submit your Backbone Trek questions to John Kross Click to Send Email to John Kross or registration questions to backbonetrek@yahoo.com.

What are the toilet facilities like?
Each night we will be camping at an established campground with toilet facilities. There will be periodic "split breaks" on the trail during the day.

Cell Phone Coverage?
There is usually poor cell phone coverage in the campgrounds. However, during the days we will be hiking over and along high ridges, which usually permit cell phone service.

Will there be facilities to recharge the batteries in our cell phone and camera?
Yes. Some of the campgrounds have electric outlets. We will also have a portable charging station available for the other sites. Be sure to bring your adapter for AC or auto outlets.

During the trek, will we be reachable in the event of an emergency?
Prior to the trek, you will be provided with an emergency number which friends or family may use to get in touch in case of an emergency.

Will special dietary needs be accommodated?
Special dietary needs may be accommodated if the staff is notified in advance. Send your requirements to the BBTrek coordinator at backbonetrek@yahoo.com.

I am a slow hiker. How fast is the pace?
We usually maintain a pace of about 2 miles per hour. However, we accommodate hikers of all abilities. There will be plenty of time to enjoy the views, take pictures, etc. Each day's hike is classified as moderate or difficult. However, keep in mind a 10-mile hike every day, with elevation changes, may have a cumulative effect on one's physical condition, increasing the difficulty as the hike progresses day to day.

I am curious about where the camping sites are located. I'm not aware of enough campgrounds spaced at the necessary distances for the hike.
Three of the campgrounds are on or near the trail: La Jolla Group Campground, Danielson Group Campground and Musch Camp. Circle X Group Camp and Malibu Creek Group Camp are not on the trail and for those days a shuttle will be utilized. Campgrounds for each night of the trek are listed in the Itinerary

Will we have to pump water?
No. There is potable water in all the campgrounds. You will have carry your full day's supply each day on the trail.

Will we be exposed to Poison Oak on the Backbone Trail?
Yes. We can expect to encounter Poison Oak on many sections of the trail. All hikers should be sure to bring protective clothing such as long pants and long sleeve shirts. If you are one of those folks who have a reaction to the plant, you should consider bringing a treatment such as "Tecnu®").

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Here's a basic list to help you pack for the Backbone Trek. Our checklist is a tried and true minimal list of items to bring. Consider that temperatures can range from a minimum of 48 to a maximum of 103 degrees.

Equipment: Sleeping bag, pad and ground cloth, tarp or tent to protect against insects. A pillow may make your sleeping more comfortable.

Clothing: Rain would be unusual, but coastal fog is likely, so a rain resistant windbreaker with layers should be the best combination. Hiking boots or sturdy walking shoes and good hiking socks for the trail; comfortable shoes to wear in camp; and a hat are musts. It is likely that it will be sunny and hot at least some of the time. Shorts would be OK on most days.

Eating Utensils: Bring your own cup, plate, bowl and eating utensils; plastic container to carry your sandwich and for leftovers; cloth napkin and dish towel.

Personal Items: Bring a towel, soap, shampoo, comb, hairbrush, chap-stick, sunscreen and dental care items. For two days we will be without showers, so you might want to bring a solar shower if a daily shower is important to you.

Basic First Aid: Bring first aid supplies such as bandages, insect repellent, aspirin, moleskin for blister protection and your own special needs. Bring any prescription medications you require.

Trail Items: Bring a daypack, 3 liters of water (water bottles or hydration bladder) and sunglasses. Camera, notebook and pen, and binoculars (optional).

Chairs: I recommend one of those lightweight camp seats that fold up into a small cylindrical stuff sack. The stores call them sling chairs or hammock chairs.

Other Stuff: A flashlight and extra batteries are essential. You’ll want some money for extras (we will be making shopping runs during the week.)

The bottom line: We will have a large truck to haul your equipment, so you don't have to be too weight conscious. However, you will have to pack/unpack and load/unload your own equipment each day, so don't bring the kitchen sink.

Optional Activities:
Will there be time on the hikes to do some geocaching?

Yes. We will maintain a pace to allow everyone time to enjoy the views, take pictures, geocache, etc.

Do you anticipate there will be many wildflowers to see?
We typically see 140 to 150 blooming species during the hike. Even in low rainfall years we manage to see many different flowers. If you need a reference for wildflowers in the Santa Monica Mountains, we recommend Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains, by Milt McAuley, second edition, 1996.

~~ Meet the Backbone Trek Volunteers ~~

John Kross - Event Coordinator
Since retiring, the Trails Council is the primary beneficiary of the boundless energy John shows for life. John is a Crew leader who leads dozens of events during the year, and regularly racks up three hundred hours of service! John has also volunteered with NPS and managed COSCA's adopt-a-trail program for more than six years. Hobbies: Hiking, backpacking, camping and geocaching. John has since added Certified Sierra Club Hike Leader to his palmarès. The process of organizing this trek begins in the Fall. From acquiring camping permits to recruiting volunteers as well as keeping track of the thousand or so small but necessary details, John has the knack for making it look easy.
Jerry Mitcham - Hike Leader
Jerry has been a member of the SMMTC board of directors since 2005. He has resided in Thousand Oaks since 1998. Jerry retired from the U.S. Navy after twenty years of service in 1979. He was then employed as a systems engineer for Litton Data Systems and Northrop Grumman Corporation for twenty-four years, retiring in 2004. He enjoys hiking, backpacking, camping and an occasional bike ride. He especially enjoys geocaching. Jerry is very active in the SMMTC trail maintenance program, participating in most of the weekly volunteer projects. He is a two-time recipient of the SMMTC Hank Grateful award for noteworthy volunteer service. For nearly a decade, Jerry was the Event Coordinator for our Backbone Trek, he is now passing on the torch to John Kross.
Diana Savage - On-site Coordinator, Hike Sweep
Diane's role as the BBTs camp coordinator involves planning all the breakfasts and lunches and wrangling the volunteer cooks for hot dinners, which is a big effort for an event that draws about 25 participants, plus three leaders and five or so support crew. Every day the coffee is ready at 6:00 a.m. exactly. In addition to her military precision in managing the unloading and loading of the portable kitchen and all the hikers gear (10 to 15 minutes! says Diana) in the support vehicle that travels from campsite to campsite, she also makes sure everyone knows what we are doing. We have a plan and we follow that plan. And she acts as the hikes sweeper, following the hikers each day while keeping track of their contact information.
Carlyn Taggart - Meal Planner and More!
Veteran support staff for the BBTrek who has probably organized more volunteer meals than one could imagine! Able to juggle multiple variables (dietary restrictions, ingredients and staff availability) in her mind while cheerfully lending an ear as you recount the travails of your day. It is said that an army travels on its stomach - Carlyn's focus and strategies in this essential part of every day will set you on the path to succeed on this trek across the Santa Monica Mountains.
Dave Edwards - Hike Leader
Dave has resided in Oxnard since 1971. He retired from the federal government in 2001, having worked at the Navy base in Port Hueneme, CA. He is very active in the SMMTC trail maintenance program in the Santa Monica Mountains and on Santa Cruz Island for the National Park Service. Actually, Dave is quite modest but he puts in close to 400 hours a year maintaining trails! Dave is a past board member of Channel Islands Restoration, which restores habitat in sensitive and unique natural areas on the Channel Islands and adjacent mainland He enjoys backpacking in the Sierras and the local Sespe Wilderness. While you are hiking the BBT with us, Dave is a good source of information for the names of Native plants you will come across.
Barry Dydyk - Hike Leader/Event Registrar
Retired Systems Engineer from Northrup Grumman. Active in the SMMTC trail maintenance program as a Crew Leader. Barry logs close to 300 hours per year building and maintaining trails in the local mountains. Two years as hiker leader/sweep for the NPS Backbone Trail series. Active with the Boy Scouts of America as an Assistant Scoutmaster. Hobbies: Hiking, backpacking, camping and geocaching.
Barb Thomas - Equipment coordinator
Barb is a member of the SMMTC and has served on the Board since 2005. She attributes her love of the outdoors to being born in Germany where her first outdoor sights were of the Alps. Barb has been active in trail riding since childhood, sneaking off into the jungle of Panama alone on her pony, exploring trails in Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, California and Nevada. She participated in endurance rides, with distances up to 100 miles in 24 hours, served on the board of directors for the Old Dominion Rides and managed the Malibu Endurance Ride for several years. In addition to her love of horses, Barb is an avid hiker and backpacker.

Why We Do This

Our association with the Backbone Trail began nearly fifty years ago. Envisioning the Backbone Trail, funding construction of several segments, to continually maintaining the trail. The trek is one more way to share our passion for this trail with the public.

The Backbone Trek, organized and run by volunteers is a week-long journey into the heart of the Santa Monica Mountains. Jerry, Dave, Diane, Barry, John, Barb, and Carlyn have teamed together to share their enthusiasm because of the idea that the Backbone Trail represents: a sixty-seven-mile walk that immerses one into a surprising and diverse natural environment.

COVID-19 Policy

Proof of vaccination is Required and must be provided before you will be registered. Registrar will contact you.