Segment 3 - Mishe Mokwa TH to Encinal Canyon Road

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area


Segment #3 is the longest so far, but it's actually pretty gentle. Single track trail bookends a ridgetop dirt road over about 11 miles with a little under 2,800 feet of cumulative elevation gain and loss.

Remember our reminders: have a good breakfast and start hydrating well before you start hiking, triple check weather and your pack essentials, valuables in your car should not be visible and don't leave your keys in the wheel well. Oh, and on the trail remember to be aware of your new best friends the rattlesnakes ticks and poison oak.

Segment #3 ends here at the Encinal Canyon Trailhead, so leave extra cars here. You'll conclude your hike by approaching from the west side of the parking area. Carpool up to Mishe Mokwa where you'll begin your hike, and use the trailhead that's on the south side of the road. Just after leaving the trailhead the view of Sandstone Peak should bring back more than a few memories of segment #2. Then you'll turn and make a traverse across the south face of Triunfo Peak, featuring chaparral-covered slopes above and the canyons reaching for the ocean below. After crossing Yerba Buena Road and a 0.5 mile single track you're on Etz Meloy Motorway. From this ridgetop it's all about perspectives. Perspectives of two distinct worlds. The marine influenced world to the south, and the interior world to the north. But these two worlds contrast more than just climate. You can begin to appreciate the amount of human-caused habitat fragmentation. Which side of the ridge do you think the animals prefer?

You might ask yourself while you're hiking the backbone trail, “Am i going to see wildlife here, do I have wildlife in my neighborhood?” You might ask yourself, “How much room do all this wildlife here in the Santa Monica Mountains need?” It's relative. One animal might need just a small parcel of land while another species of animal might need about 100 square miles, like a mountain lion for example. Wildlife has no choice but to co-exist with us humans. For example consider P-22 which is a mountain lion that lives in Griffith Park. Considered also a peregrine falcon nesting in downtown LA in a skyscraper. They are risking everything to live with us. The bigger question here is can we adapt and coexist with wildlife. Natural spaces and corridors can provide a connection, but is your neighborhood willing to do this to help our local wildlife?

Look back at Sandstone as you continue east on the Etz Meloy Motorway and consider how little habitat really remains in the greater Los Angeles area. Whether your hike has unlimited visibility or shrouds of fog, you'll have ample opportunity to ponder these fundamental yet complex surroundings. Around 6.5 miles trade the dirt motorway for a single track leading south. This will wind 2.5 miles down to Decker Canyon Road also known as Mulholland. So who are Decker and Etz and Mulholland that these roads are named after?

In 1862 the United States was in the midst of a civil war. But in the middle of that year, on May 20th, Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act. This made it possible for people to live and potentially own up to 160 acres of land. During this era of the Santa Monica Mountains, thousands of people began calling these mountains their home. While the majority of these beneficiaries were white families, the diverse range of homesteaders included black families, women, Mexican ranchers and Spanish colonies. It's been about 150 years since the Homestead Act and the Civil War, but today these mountains serve as a place for all people to play, live, work and call home. Each step you take along the Backbone Trail you're walking through multiple layers of history

Oh, the stories these hills and residents can tell. This picture is of the Clark Ranch, a homestead located at the Encinal Trailhead. By contrast, just across from the trailhead are state correctional inmates at Camp 13. Since 1986 these women have contributed to trail maintenance, firefighting and much more.

From the ridges you can see how nature nurtures unique habitats, and how our presence is impacting them. You've spent the day in chaparral habitats and upper watersheds feeding several canyons. On #4 you'll travel through riparian habitats that are a result of these.

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.


Walking east from Mishe Mokwa is a gentle day’s walk near to or on the ridgetops. To the south are upper watersheds of canyons that stretch out toward the seashore, and to the north are valleys and mountain ranges of the interior.


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