Segment #7 includes the legendary and mystical Topanga Canyon, which also marks the boundary of the Chumash and Tongva peoples. The Tongva call the greater Los Angeles basin and the four southern channel islands home.
Due to the number of unsigned trails in Topanga we will map you through this portion of the segment. It is recommended that you buy a detailed and up-to-date map of the area trails. This is the shortest segment at about 6.5 miles with 2,650 feet of cumulative elevation gain and loss, and the tread is all single track. Remember breakfast, hydration, weather, pack essentials, no valuables visible in the car or keys in the wheel well. And remember that good eye for rattlesnakes, ticks and poison oak.
This segment will end at Trippet Ranch in Topanga State Park. Leave extra cars here and carpool up to the Lois Ewen Overlook. Begin hiking east from the Overlook. About 500 feet beyond this gate you'll take the single track trail to the right. Now who's ready?
Take some time to consider perspectives from the Lois Ewen Overlook and then follow the dirt road beyond the gate to the east. In 500 feet the single track to your right leads you on the short Fossil Ridge Trail. And then the next almost 3.0 miles are sure to transport you far from the congested freeway of your choice. Hondo Canyon’s forested switchbacks are a rich primordial land. The oak and California bay laurel trees will guide you downward to the canyon floor. At three and a half miles you'll begin navigating Topanga Canyon and things get a little tricky. So we're going to map the trail through Topanga for you. At the top of the meadows stay right and at the first creek stay left. The next creek is a good spot to rest and consider the diverse riches of flora that you've just been walking through.
Imagine living in these mountains without a hardware or grocery store at your disposal. The Chumash, one of two indigenous tribes who lived in these mountains, are classified as hunter-gatherers. But hunting was harder than gathering and took a lot more effort. So the Chumash diet ended up being about 70 percent plant-based. They used what they hunted and gathered for everything, from household needs to their artistic endeavors. Examples of how they used just a few of the plants we've walked past include grasses to make arrow shafts and basketry, and sycamore trees provided a source of toilet paper. Oaks were used for construction materials, food and dyes. Bay laurels were used as insect repellents and for headaches. Today we think about options for a more sustainable lifestyle, but for the Chumash it was a way of life. Feeling refreshed you'll quickly arrive at Old Topanga Canyon Boulevard and see that the trail continues across and behind the guard rail. In 0.25 mile you'll pass two water tanks. Continue on the asphalt a short distance, and make the hard left up the dirt road. Do not turn right on the unsigned trail in 200 feet. Continue up another 300 or so feet, and turn right on the signed single track which will take you into a clearing. At the other side of the clearing stay high, or left, and if you find yourself at the amphitheater return to the clearing and go higher. As you descend the trail will ‘T’ intersect and you'll follow it to the left. Reaching the paved Green Leaf Canyon Road turn right and you'll meet up with new Topanga Canyon Boulevard. These thoroughfares must be treacherous for wildlife.
Our apex predator of the Santa Monica Mountains has over 80 different names, one of which is “cat-of-many-names”. There may be about 10 mountain lions of all different ages living in the Santa Monica Mountains. Studies have revealed that the mountain lion's future is actually uncertain due to habitat fermentation, which has resulted in inbreeding. The top three causes of death are: one, killing each other because they're territorial; two, being hit by a car; and, three, rodenticide. If you encounter a mountain lion make yourself appear larger, yell, make noise and even throw objects. If you happen to be a feline lover then you should know that mountain lions are the largest meowers.
Across Topanga Canyon Boulevard you'll arrive at Dead Horse Trailhead, and 0.25 mile further a bridge crossing. The last mile has many signed and unsigned trails, just to keep it confusing. You know you're nearing Trippet Ranch when you see the grasslands of a previous ranching era. At the asphalt road turn right and you'll arrive back at your cars. Trailside plants warrant greater appreciation for sustaining all life, not just ours. And what about the life captured in stone on the fossil ridge trail? Does the silence of Hondo Canyon still echo and carry a woodland perfume? Your final segment of this journey awaits. So be sure to pack all you've learned and seen, along with plenty of curiosity and imagination, and the mysteries will continue to unfold.
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 seven introduces hikers to another famed and mystical canyon, Topanga. The approach is via Hondo Canyon and it will leave you wanting more of its rich biodiversity. Appreciate that this was the only source for the critical daily needs of the indigenous peoples.
5 minutes, 51 seconds
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