Sandstone Peak P2K LPC
Boney Peak LPC
Inspiration Point LPC
Exchange Peak LPC
Tri Peaks LPC
Big Dome LPC
Mugu Peak P300 LPC

Sun, Jun 28, 2009
Sandstone Peak
Boney Peak
Exchange Peak
Mugu Peak
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 Profiles: 1 2


Sandstone Peak is the highpoint of the Santa Monica Mountains, a modest coastal range set amid a sprawling urban complex known as Los Angeles. Its proximity to so many folks makes it a very popular and heavily used recreational area. Though sprawl has made inroads all over the range, much of the area is preserved in a patchwork of state and federal parklands. Stoney Point and its surroundings are part of the Circle X Ranch, once a Boy Scout Camp, but now part of the Santa Monica Mountains Recreational Area administered by the National Park Service. Sandstone Peak is a prominence peak as well as on the LPC list. In addition there are five other LPC peaks clustered nearby, so I made plans to tag them all over the course of six or seven miles.

The hike would have been far more pleasant had it not been 99F when I started out at 12:30p. This was hot for the Santa Monica Mtns considering it was only a few miles from the coast, and it was just unlucky that I was out hiking during a heat wave. I started up the Backbone Trail at Triunfo Pass where there were several other cars parked, one party of five just starting out. I hiked a short distance to a trail junction where the Backbone Trail meets the Mishe Mokwa Trail. This is where I intended to start a loop heading up the Backbone and returning via the other trail.

I continued on the Backbone Trail as it gained altitude steadily winding its way around the east and north sides of Sandstone Peak. A yellow and blue helicopter came buzzing up and around Sandstone, but to what purpose I could not discern. It took 40 minutes to cover the two mile distance to the summit. A monument found there named the peak Mt. Allen after the Boy Scouts' benefactor who helped provide them the land, but the BGN never got the memo on the renaming it would seem. Hazy views were the norm today, unsurprising for the time of year. North is the US101 corridor and the sprawl between Oxnard and the San Fernando Valley. East is a fine view of the many peaklets along the spine of the Santa Monica Mtns, south was a cloud covered view to the Pacific Ocean, and to the west were the other five LPC peaks in the area.

I continued west along the Backbone Trail, hitting next Inspiration Point which has a small side trail leading to this overlook. Like Sandstone, there was a BSA monument at Inspiration Point, this one dedicated to a young Eagle Scout who had died early at the age of 17. Only when I reached this point did I realize I had bypassed Boney Peak, so it was necessary to backtrack a short distance along the Backbone Trail. I found a duck I had missed earlier, pointing out a narrow use trail through the chaparral to the rocky summit of Boney Peak. The highpoint was an easy class 3 climb up a large sandstone boulder pitted naturally with ample foot and hand holds. I found a register dating to 1998. It had a few familiar names including Patty Rambert and Don Palmer. The latter, a resident of Nevada, is prolific in the Sierra and desert peaks, and it was somewhat surprising to find him ranging all the way out here on minor peaks.

Just west of Inspiration Point is Exchange Peak, also accessed via an easy use trail. Exchange has a broad summit and on the eastern half I found another register among a small pile of rocks. From the comments found inside, it is evident that the LPC loop around Sandstone is a popular undertaking.

Back at the trail I continued along as it turned north to a trail junction. Here I followed the unmaintained (but in fine condition) trail to Tri Peaks. The trail sort of got lost before reaching the highpoint among a somewhat confusing jumble of minor bumps. It was hard to discern which three points make up the "Tri" in Tri Peaks, but the highest was not hard to determine. It was a fine block of pitted sandstone common in the area, but it was not immediately obvious how best to climb it. I found a class 3-4 way up the south side, only afterwards finding the easier class 3 route down the north side. No register that I could find.

After descending off the north side, I found myself on the most interesting trail of the day, a windy use trail making its way through boulders, a tunnel, and tall chaparral to eventually emerge on the ridgeline connected to Pop Top (unofficially named). I found another hiker at the summit an elderly gentleman who had come up via another trail to the north. He knew the area well and was helpful in getting me back to the Mishe Mokwa Trail. Rather than return via Tri Peaks, I made my way cross-country, thankfully not too brushy, to the Mishe Mokwa to the east. I went up and over a smaller dome to the east which I only later found out was Big Dome, the last of the LPC peaks I had planned to climb (at the time I thought Pop Top was Big Dome - see comments below). Along the way I came across random ducks and rusty tins, possibly evidence from the BSA days of yore.

I followed the trail east to Split Rock, a shady picnic spot. I attempted to climb atop the namesake formation, but was scared off by the sound of bees I had suddenly disturbed. I ran off down the trail until the buzzing had ceased, then cruised back around the northeast side of Sandstone Peak, taking in a fine view of Balanced Rock and Echo Cliffs. It was 4p when I finally returned to Triunfo Pass, making for a 3.5hr outing.

Not yet done with the LPC peaks in the area, I drove down to highway 1 (where it was more than 30 degrees cooler) to the Chumash Trailhead in Pt. Mugu State Park. The hike to Mugu Peak was far more pleasant due to the cooler air, and the views were better too, thanks to the near vicinity of the Pacific Ocean and the fog that had retreated offshore in the afternoon. The summit had a tall flagpole with an American flag waving in the ocean breeze. The peak sits at the far west end of the Santa Monica Mtns, southwest of Boney Mountain (the name for the larger massif that contains all the LPC peaks around Sandstone Peak), and adjacent to Mugu Lagoon to the west. I headed down an easy cross-country route off the Southwest Ridge, intersecting the maintained trail that circumnavigates the peak, and returning to the car. This second outing took just over an hour to cover about three miles.


Edward Reid comments on 10/16/09:
Great photos and description of the Boney Mountain area, which I found while looking for more details about Tri-Peaks, since it's a non-USGS name. I was surprised by your photo link for Big Dome, though, because it does not picture the spot shown for Big Dome at, but rather the more popular spot (aka Pop Top) a bit west. However, I suspect that you went over Big Dome on your xc return to the Mishe Mokwa trail, based on your description and photo.
Bob Burd comments on 10/20/09:
You are correct. At the time I had thought Pop Top was Big Dome, and only later found I had climbed Big Dome only by chance on my way back to the trail. I've since corrected the text. Thanks!
Tom Becht comments on 12/26/09:

The peak you call "Pop Top" is also known as (the) Boney Mountain according to local hiking clubs. I only found this out after researching what trail I partially followed down to skip Big Dome. The trail headed down the wrong drainage so I ended up climbing back-up to Big Dome and then down through the wonderful brush to get back to the car.
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