NPS Acquires One of Three Missing Links on the Backbone Trail
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
The National Park Service has announced that it has acquired one of the three remaining pieces of land necessary to complete the 65-mile Backbone Trail through the Santa Monica Mountains.
When it is completed, hikers will be able to travel from Will Rogers State Historic Park in Los Angeles to Point Mugu State Park in Ventura County on public lands, without encountering private property gaps, an NPS press release states.
The recently acquired five-acre property is located on Etz Meloy Motorway, between Encinal and Little Sycamore canyons. It is close to a popular lookout that offers a 360-degree view of the ocean, mountains and inland valleys and is accessible from the Encinal Canyon Trailhead.
"The creation of the Backbone Trail has been a 25-year endeavor, involving the tireless work of citizen trail building groups like the Sierra Club, Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council, elected officials, and the National Park Service, California State Parks, and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy," an NPS press release states.
"We are so close to completion," said Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area Superintendent Woody Smeck. "Through the relentless efforts of the Los Angeles community and the tireless support of our elected officials, we have slowly but surely pieced together one of the most significant and treasured trails in Southern California."
The Backbone Trail attracts hikers from all over the world, but many of the most beautiful portions are in Malibu's back yard, easily accessible for local residents.
A recent National Park Service presentation highlighted several group hiking opportunities to walk the Backbone Trail, including the NPS's annual BBT Hike, which offers a guided tour of the entire trail in eight installments ranging from six to 11 miles, accompanied by experts on geology, wildflowers, cultural history, birds and animals. Registration for the BBT Hike opens Nov. 1.
The hikes will take place on the second and fourth Saturdays from January through April.
The Sierra Club's annual Backbone Festival Hikes in November also offer a complete tour of the trail, in a series of seven weekend hikes, starting Nov. 5.
Backpackers have an opportunity to tackle the hike in a one-week-long adventure hosted by the Trails Council every spring. Information is available at: http://smmtc.org
"The Backbone Trail is a great recreational opportunity that we have right here in the Santa Monica Mountains," NPS ranger and longtime Backbone Trail advocate Sheila Braden said.
"We live in a great place to stay and look around," NPS volunteer Ralph Waycott added. "It's a legitimate, real place, not 'just' the Santa Monica Mountains. There's incredible biodiversity here."
While many popular sections of the trail are easily accessible and not far from access roads, parks service personnel remind park users that the Backbone Trail also covers the highest, steepest, most remote portions of the Santa Monica Mountains and the cell phone reception is not dependable.
Dehydration and falls are reportedly the two main dangers on the route. Hikers who prefer to explore on their own time are encouraged to bring ample water, notify friends or family of their hiking plans and always hike with a companion.
Information on the Backbone Trail, including all three group hiking opportunities, maps, advice and a series of GPS coordinates to help hikers navigate the complex network of trails, is available at nps.gov/samo/planyourvisit/backbonetrail.htm