Segment 5 - Latigo Canyon Road to Piuma TH

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area


Segment #5 dips into upper watersheds and touches a time-worn ridge before descending into Malibu Canyon. The first half is single track and the second is dirt road. Over its 9 miles you'll encounter 3,900 feet of cumulative elevation gain and loss.

And remember have a good breakfast and start hydrating well before you start hiking. Triple check the weather and your pack essentials. Don't leave valuables visible in your car and don't leave your keys in the wheel well. And on the trail keep that eye out rattlesnakes ticks and poison oak.

This segment ends at the Piuma Trailhead. Park your cars here. Then carpool to the unsigned Latigo Canyon Trailhead. Begin your walk from the north side of the parking area.

So let's check this out. After a quick 1.5 mile dip into and out of Newton Canyon this appears to be a preferred habitat for the yucca. An eye-catching plant with an equally unusual life.

The yucca plant found here in the Santa Monica Mountains blooms at the end of its 5 to 10 year life cycle. It takes just a few weeks to produce a 10 foot spike with beautiful flowers. And there's only one pollinator that can make this happen. When it's time for the yuccas to bloom the yucca moth will actually come out from its cocoon in the soil. After mating the female moth will cross-pollinate and insert her egg into the ovary of the flower. She will then die; ensuring that the yucca will have seeds, a few of which will sustain her larva. Both the seed pods and the larvae will drop to the ground to begin anew. Both the yucca and the yucca moth cannot live without each other. This is a prime example of a symbiotic relationship.

The trail continues across the dirt road and a few yards to the south. You are now entering the headwaters of Solstice Canyon. And dropping into upper Solstice you'll find a mostly chaparral habitat with many playful water crossings if it's been raining. Climbing out of solstice a dirt road intersects with the Backbone Trail at 3.5 miles. Continue across on the downhill road for a few hundred feet and use the single track that splits off to the left. Soon the Corral Canyon Trailhead emerges. Continue up the rocks on the other side. And in about 10 minutes you'll encounter an outcrop known as the eye of the whale. Were whales actually here? Take a break and ponder these ancient sculptures surrounding you.

This ridgeline shows steeply tilted sedimentary rocks which were once below sea level. Sedimentary rock is the second type of rock, and it is named by the size of the grain that makes up the rock itself. The age ranges from about 12 to 16 million years ago. A million years. How do we comprehend something like that considering that we maybe live a hundred years? Well, consider if you moved one inch every year. Where would you be after 16 million years? Did anybody guess 16 miles? As you continue to travel along this ridgeline take some time to consider what you've done with the time you've been given, and what you're going to do with the time you have left.

Leaving the sandstone outcrops Mesa Peak Motorway follows the ridge with the sea beckoning on one side and an unusual perspective of Malibu Creek State Park on the other. The road makes a hard left at seven miles. And you'll descend through a mature north slope oak woodland; with Malibu Canyon Road weaving up from the coast and Saddle Peak observing all from across the gap and the hills above Malibu Creek State Park beckoning to the north. As you approach the floor of the canyon the trail leaves the dirt road for a single track to the right, which will return you to your cars.

This segment has shared sentry-like yuccas above headwaters that feed impressive canyons. Ancient oceans rose above these peaks and oak woodlands guided you through the west side of a massive canyon. How will the east side of Malibu Canyon differ?

Visit the Santa Monica Mountains National Park Service website for Backbone Trail reference materials, or contact the Visitor Center.

The National Park Service thanks the efforts of our dedicated volunteers and is appreciative of the support of the Chumash and Tongva peoples.


Segment five travels from Latigo Canyon Trailhead through several significant habitats in rather spectacular fashion. The first half includes another intimate dip into and out of Newton Canyon as prologue to the wonderous perched watershed of Solstice Canyon.


5 minutes, 16 seconds



Date Created


Copyright and Usage Info