Sandstone Peak, or Mount Allen, tops the Santa Monica Mountains at 3,111 feet. The trailhead begins at a parking lot off of Yerba Buena Road and is a 7-mile loop along the Backbone and Mishe Mokwa trails. Nestled between Los Angeles and Ventura counties, this popular region offers 1,655 acres of land in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and outstanding views reaching as far as the Pacific Ocean, Channel Islands, Malibu, Ventura, and the Conejo Valley.
The summit, located 1.5 miles from the trailhead, is the first of many incredible destinations along the path. You’ll reach this observation point, following a 1,000-foot climb, marked by a plaque of W. Herbert Allen – the land donor for nearby Camp Circle X and many other Boy Scout Camps in the area. Here you can walk along a stunning ridge of igneous rock (andesite) and gaze across a region that, despite its name, was formed by volcanoes over 13 million years ago. In fact, so much lava flowed and hardened that these peaks once towered several thousand feet before erosion wore them back down to the levels we see today.
Heading west on the Backbone Trail will bring you to several more lookouts and farther away from the regular crowds. Inspiration point, also marked by a plaque, is a wonderful place to stop for a picnic and ponder what life must have been like for the Tongva and Chumash Native Americans. After all, there are over 1,000 substantial archaeological sites throughout this region that are actively being explored.
About 4 miles in you will intersect the Mishe Mokwa Trail and be exposed to more of this rare Mediterranean ecosystem. Here, head east as the path traverses in and out of shaded areas, low brush, and chaparral containing hundreds of species of native flora. Before reaching the end of the loop, you’ll hike back up mountain ridges, pass popular climbing areas, and enjoy a few more wonderful views like that of Balanced Rock – a house-sized boulder that reminds us of the unbelievable games erosion can play.
Whether you’re a hiker, climber, camper, or photographer, you’ll be delighted by the natural variety of this area, and you'll be far enough away from light pollution to see the Milky Way galaxy. While activities in this park can be enjoyed year round, October through June tend to offer the clearest views. The weather can be fairly hot and dry, so bring plenty of water to quench your thirst and drive your exploration.