Category Archives: backbone trail

Sullivan Ridge – Will Rogers – Temescal Loop from the Top of Reseda

Creek in Rustic Canyon near the bottom of the Josepho Drop Trail.
Creek in Rustic Canyon from near the bottom of the Josepho Drop Trail.

The most popular trail run from the Top of Reseda to Will Rogers State Historic Park takes Fire Road #30 up to the Hub, turns left (east), and then follows the Roger’s Road segment of the Backbone Trail all the way to the Park. Many do the run as a keyhole loop, picking up the Rivas Canyon Trail on the west side of Will Rogers and using that trail to connect to Temescal Canyon. The Temescal Ridge Trail is then used to return to the Hub and Fire Road #30. The run is about 21 miles and gains/loses about 3400′.

There is another — more adventurous — way to do a loop from the Top of Reseda that visits Will Rogers and then returns via the Rivas Canyon and Temescal Ridge Trails. It is about the same length as the regular route and very nearly a complete loop. That’s the route I was doing this morning.

Solitary oak along Sullivan Ridge Fire Road. (thumbnail)
Solitary oak along Sullivan Ridge Fire Road.

Instead of going up to the Hub, I ran east about 2.5 miles on dirt Mulholland to Sullivan Ridge Fire Road and then 3.5 miles down the fire road to “Josepho junction.” There’s a yellow fire gate here, and the road changes from dirt to pavement.

From this point, the goal is to get to the Josepho Drop Trail — a short (0.75-mile) trail that connects Rustic Canyon to the Backbone Trail above the bridge. From the creek to the Backbone Trail, the trail gains about 650′. Much of it is steep, rough, and rubbly.

Years ago, we would run down the private service road from Sullivan Ridge to Camp Josepho, then follow a use trail down the canyon to the Josepho Drop Trail. That hasn’t been an option for some time, but there are other — more interesting — ways to get to the Josepho Drop.

Bougainvillea along the Old Stables Trail. (thumbnail)
Bougainvillea along the Old Stables Trail.

One option is to continue south from Joespho junction on the fire road a tenth of a mile to a single-track trail on the right. On some maps, the trail is labeled the “Old Stables Trail.” Initially, the trail contours below the crest of the ridge but eventually winds down into Rustic Canyon in the area of Murphy Ranch —  an abandoned 1930s compound said to have been a haven for fascists and Nazi sympathizers.

On the way down, there are vestiges of the old compound —  a flourishing Bougainvillea, an overgrown corral, an out-of-place palm.

Near the bottom, another trail/road enters from the left. I turned right here and followed the trail around a corner with a low, graffitied wall, and then down canyon about 130 yards to a trail sign near the creek. The collapsed structure found here must be the ruins of the stables.

Trail sign marking junction of the Will Rogers and Josepho Drop Trails. (thumbnail)
Trail sign marking junction of the Will Rogers and Josepho Drop Trails.

Finding the junction at the trail sign is the key to staying on route. According to Google Earth, the approximate location is 34.074534°, -118.516381°. The coordinates recorded for the photo are 34° 4′ 28.480000″ N, 118° 30′ 58.720000″ W.

A right-hand (west) turn at the sign crosses the creek and joins the Josepho Drop Trail. I’ve explored the trail south of the sign a few times. In about a half-mile, it leads to the heavily graffitied building that housed the diesel generators for the enclave. Not only is the building graffitied, but everything within reach of a spray can — walls, steps, pavement —  even the trees are painted.

Maps show the “Will Rogers Trail” continuing to Will Rogers, but as the trail sign says, the trail is not maintained. With the rain we’ve had the last couple of years, there’s little doubt the trail is washed out, overgrown, and would be time-consuming to follow.

Creek at bottom of Josepho Drop Trail. (thumbnail)
Creek at bottom of Josepho Drop Trail.

I returned up the canyon to the trail sign and followed the Josepho Drop Trail west across the creek . It looked like some trailwork had been done on the bottom part of the trail.

As I worked up the trail, I kept an eye out above. The last time up the Drop, I’d encountered a mountain biker bumping down a steep and very rutted section of the trail. It looked like he was riding down stairs.

When I reached the top of the Drop, I turned left on the Backbone Trail and continued down to Will Roger’s State Park. The loop was completed by following the Rivas Canyon Trail over to Temescal Canyon, then picking up the Temescal Ridge Trail and following it past Skull Rock and Green Mountain to the Hub. From the Hub, Fire Road #30 was followed back to dirt Mulholland and the top of Reseda.

Eucalyptus along the Inspiration Point Loop Trail in Will Rogers State Historic Park. (thumbnail)
Eucalyptus along the Inspiration Point Loop Trail in Will Rogers State Historic Park

I was surprised to find that without the side trip to the Murphy Ranch powerhouse, the Sullivan Ridge variant of the Will Rogers – Temescal Ridge loop is virtually the same length as the “regular” route down the Roger’s Road segment of the Backbone Trail. It just has a bit more elevation gain.

If a shorter run is preferred, another option is to turn right (north) on the Backbone Trail at the top of the Drop and follow that to the Hub. From the Hub, it’s about 2.5 miles to the trailhead at the Top of Reseda. This variant of the trail run works out to about 16.5 miles.

This interactive 3-D terrain view shows my GPS track (yellow) of the Sullivan Ridge – Will Rogers – Temescal Loop from the Top of Reseda. Also shown is my GPS track (red) of the Roger’s Road option on the Backbone Trail.

Here are some photos taken along the way, including some native, non-native, and ornamental flowers.

Some related posts:
Will Rogers – Rivas Canyon – Temescal Canyon Trail Run
Will Rogers – Temescal Loop

Backbone Trail Run: Encinal Canyon to Triunfo Peak

A eucalyptus tree marks the Triunfo Peak Access trail on the Yerba Buena segment of the Backbone Trail
The Triunfo Peak Access trail forks off the Backbone Trail at a prominent eucalyptus tree.

Following more wet weather, I was back on the Backbone Trail and running in the direction of Mishe Mokwa from the Encinal Canyon trailhead. But this time, instead of going to Mishe Mokwa, I planned to do an out-and-back run to Triunfo Peak (2658′).

Echo Cliffs from Yellow Hill Fire Road on Triunfo Peak (thumbnail).
Echo Cliffs from Yellow Hill Fire Road on Triunfo Peak. Click to enlarge.

Whenever I’ve been on the Yerba Buena segment of the Backbone Trail, I’ve been curious about this peak. Situated on the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains, east of Sandstone Peak, it seemed like it might be an outstanding viewpoint, and I wasn’t disappointed.

About a half-mile up the Backbone Trail from the Encinal Canyon trailhead, I was surprised to be able to get a glimpse of the peak. Historic topo maps labeled the fire lookout on Triunfo Peak as “Triunfo Lookout” and now the peak is often referred to by that name.

Rock formations near the Grotto from Triunfo Peak (thumbnail).
Rock formations near the Grotto. Click to enlarge.

It was another beautiful morning on the Backbone Trail. A chilly 39 degrees at the trailhead, it warmed quickly as I ran up the trail toward Mulholland Highway and then Etz Meloy Mtwy fire road. The bloom of bigpod Ceanothus was in full swing, and the lilac blooms of hairy-leaved Ceanothus were already following suit.

Thin high clouds veiled the sun and muted the scene as I descended the Backbone Trail to Yerba Buena Road. To the west Triunfo Peak/Lookout, Boney Mountain, and Sandstone Peak filled the skyline, their rocky prominences inviting further exploration.

Summit of Triunfo Peak (thumbnail).
Summit of Triunfo Peak. Click to enlarge.

About two miles west of the Yerba Buena Road, a makeshift sign indicated where the trail to the peak could be accessed. In 40-50 yards the side trail led to Yellow Hill Fire Road — the old lookout service road. It had recently been cleared of brush. From the sign on the Backbone Trail, it was about three-quarters of a mile to the top of the Triunfo Peak, with an elevation gain of about 380 feet.

According to the Former Fire Lookout Sites Register and Fire Lookouts websites, the lookout on Triunfo Peak was established in the early 1930s and taken out of service in the late 1960s. A steel lookout tower originally on Blue Ridge in Angeles National Forest was first moved to Bodle Peak around 1930, then moved and reassembled on Triunfo Peak in 1935.

View east from Triunfo Peak along the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains (thumbnail).
View east from Triunfo Peak along the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains. Click to enlarge.

The photograph of the lookout tower when it was on Blue Ridge suggests the shrine-like concrete structure found on the summit of Triunfo Peak is the footing for the tower. Google Earth imagery shows a similarly-sized footing on Bodle Peak -— a square a little larger than eight feet on a side. The tower is  described  as having an “8×8 observation cabin.”

A short connector trail is being constructed on the wet/northwest side of Trunfo Peak. When the trail is complete, it will connect the Backbone Trail to Yellow Hill Fire Road, near the summit of Triunfo Peak. The new trail will enable those doing the Backbone Trail to climb Triunfo Peak and return to the Backbone Trail without backtracking.

Related post: Rainy Season Trail Running on the Backbone Trail

Rainy Season Trail Running on the Backbone Trail

Rock formations below Triunfo Lookout, with the Channel Islands in the distance. From the Etz Meloy section of the Backbone Trail.
The Backbone Trail contours around Triunfo Peak (on the right) above the rock band that extends across the photo. The Channel Islands are in the distance.

The Backbone Trail between Encinal Canyon and Mishe Mokwa is one of the must-do sections of the 68-mile trail. Engineered to be multi-use, this exceptionally scenic stretch of the Backbone Trail is popular with riders, hikers, and runners alike.

Chaparral Currant (Ribes malvaceum) blooming along the Backbone Trail (Thumbnail)
Chaparral Currant

It’s also a pretty good place for a trail run after rainy weather like we’ve had this February. Although the parking lot at the Encinal Trailhead was quite wet this morning, the  Backbone Trail was in decent shape most of the way to the Mishe Mokwa trailhead. There were a few muddy and wet spots, but it was generally easy to work around them. And I didn’t have to change my shoes before driving home.

The out & back run worked out to about 21-miles, with a surprisingly moderate gain/loss of about 2500′. The weather and visibility were excellent. Striking rock formations and the Channel Islands could be seen from one side of Etz Meloy Mtwy fire road, and snow on Alamo Mountain and other Ventura County peaks from the other side.

On the way back, as I was working up the long hill on the northwest side of Triunfo Lookout, a descending mountain biker commented that a large group of bikers were at “the corner.” The overlook at this prominent switchback has a wide-ranging view of Mishe Mokwa, Boney Mountain, and Sandstone Peak, and some prefer to turn around here. This variation is about 3.5 miles shorter (round-trip) than dropping down into the canyon and going all the way to Mishe Mokwa.

Explore the scenery and terrain on the Backbone Trail of this out-and-back trail run and hike from Encinal Canyon to Mishe Mokwa using our high resolution,  interactive, 3D viewer. The imagery is so detailed, it’s almost like being there! To change the view, use the control on the upper right side of the screen, the CTRL key and your mouse, or touch gestures. Track and placename locations are approximate and subject to errors. Poor weather, and other conditions may make this route unsuitable for this activity. Here’s  an elevation profile of the route.

Some related posts:
Encinal Canyon to Mishe Mokwa Out and Back Trail Run
Kanan to Mishe Mokwa and Back
Kanan to Mishe Mokwa to Wendy Drive
Night Training for the Backbone Ultra

Running to the Temescal Canyon Cascade From the Top of Reseda (Two Ways)

Temescal Canyon Cascade

The Temescal Canyon “waterfall” is an immensely popular cascade, most often accessed from Temescal Gateway Park using the Temescal Canyon Trail. Judging from the number of people on the trail, a loop incorporating the Temescal Canyon and Temescal Ridge Trails is also very popular.

Even though many refer to it as a waterfall, it’s not a dramatic river-wide fall, such as Nevada Fall in Yosemite. Picture a Japanese garden with a gurgling little stream, cascading down through rocks into a pool, surrounded by an artistic arrangement of plants and trees. There’s even the requisite bridge to complete the composition. It would be meditative if it were not so popular.

Cloud-shrouded view northwest from Temescal Peak to the Cathedral Rocks/Hub area. (Thumbnail)
Cloud-shrouded view of the Cathedral Rocks/Hub area.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve run from the Top of Reseda (Marvin Braude Mulholland Gateway Park) to the Temescal Canyon Cascade two ways — a 15-mile out-and-back and a 21-mile loop.

The out-and-back route from the Top of Reseda was one of those “I’ll just go a little bit farther” runs. It had rained the day before and the NWS forecast called for a chance of showers in the morning and then showers likely in the afternoon.

High Point (Goat Peak) from Temescal Ridge. (Thumbnail)
High Point (Goat Peak) from Temescal Ridge.

With the weather unsettled, I didn’t have a particular plan in mind. When I started the run, it looked like it might rain at any time, so I decided to run to Temescal Peak, and then play it by ear from there. Once on Temescal Peak, the weather seemed to be holding, so I continued to Temescal Lookout. From the Lookout, Green Peak was just a “little bit further,” and in a few minutes, I was standing on top.

I continued to be drawn down Temescal Ridge in this fashion, and before I knew it was at the junction of the Temescal Ridge and Temescal Canyon Trails. From there, it was only a half-mile down to the cascade.

Scrambling up Boney Mountain's Western Ridge (aka Mountaineer's Route) on an adventure run to Sandstone Peak. (Thumbnail)
Scrambling up Boney Mountain’s Western Ridge

Two weeks later, I was back at the Top of Reseda. It had rained an inch and a half in Downtown Los Angeles a couple of days before, and a well-advertised multi-day rain event was forecast to begin the following day.

The previous weekend, a friend and I had climbed/run to Sandstone Peak from Wendy Drive. Temps in the sun reached into the 80s, and maybe I talked too much and ate and drank too little. On the way back, I hit the wall near the turn onto the Upper Sycamore Trail.

Cootamundra wattle (Acacia baileyana) in Will Rogers State Historic Park. (Thumnbnail)
Cootamundra wattle at Will Rogers.

This morning, I had no idea how my legs were going to feel. My loosely defined plan was to run out the Rogers Road segment of the Backbone Trail from the Top of Reseda and see. If the legs held up, I’d continue to Will Rogers State Historic Park. If not, maybe I’d do Goat Peak or something else.

The temperature was in the 40s most of the way down to Will Rogers. With the cool weather, it seemed my running was back to normal. From Will Rogers, I headed over to Rivas Canyon, where I found Sierra Club volunteers hard at work on the Rivas Canyon Trail. This enjoyable trail links Will Rogers to Temescal Canyon and is a key part of the loop.

Cactus and agave along the Rivas Canyon Trail. (Thumbnail)
Cactus and agave along the Rivas Canyon Trail.

Once down in Temescal Canyon, there was a constant stream of hikers going up the Temescal Canyon Trail to the cascade. With the recent rain and good weather, the cascade had more water and more people than on the run in January. A large group rested near the bridge, and hikers hustled and bustled up and down the trail. The little cascade gurgled and burbled in the morning sun, glistening bubbles popping up beneath the plunging stream and then disappearing as they wandered downstream.

Soon, I was chugging up the trail toward its junction with the Temescal Ridge Trail, retracing my steps from two weeks before.

Some related posts:
Will Rogers – Rivas Canyon – Temescal Canyon Trail Run
Go Figure: An Extended Version of the Will Rogers – Temescal Canyon Loop
Sandstone Peak from Wendy Drive

A Displaced Bridge, Exceptional Backbone Trail Views, and a Card Table Along the Bulldog Loop

Rock formation along the Backbone Trail. Photography by Gary Valle'

The photograph above was taken a few steps off the Backbone Trail, between the Corral Canyon Trailhead and Mesa Peak Motorway fire road. Also in the area was a set of table and chairs that might be used for an ocean-view card game or a lunch break.

These scenes were about halfway through a variation of the Bulldog Loop that starts/ends at the Cistern Trailhead on Mulholland Highway. The route follows the Cistern, Lookout, and Cage Creek Trails down to the Crags Road Trail, just east of where it crosses Malibu Creek.

A permanent bridge used to span the creek, but after being washed out several times in Winter floods, a “seasonal” bridge was put in place. The seasonal bridge is removed when there is a threat of flooding, such as during the rainy season.

This morning, the temperature in the canyon was in the mid-thirties. That was cool enough that I didn’t want to get wet, and I hoped the removal of the bridge had been delayed. But several days of rain were in the forecast, and as I neared the creek, I could see the bridge now lay alongside trail.

A log spanned the creek where the bridge once stood. Using a suitable stick as a hiking pole, it was easy to cross the log, stay dry, and continue the loop.

Some related posts:
Best Trailhead to Start the Bulldog Loop?
Bulldog Loop Plus the Phantom Loop
After the Woolsey Fire: Bulldog Loop

The Western Santa Monica Mountains from Topanga Lookout Ridge

The sun had risen, casting a warm morning light on the Santa Monica Mountains. Overnight, low clouds flowed inland through Malibu Canyon, emphasizing the peaks and covering the valleys.

Backbone Trail below Saddle Peak.
Backbone Trail below Saddle Peak.

I had just started up Topanga Lookout Ridge and was less than a mile into the Topanga Lookout Ridge Loop. Rain had muddied the ground and cleansed the sky, producing crystal clear views in every direction.

The view of the western Santa Monica Mountains extended from the top of the Tapia climb on Mesa Peak Motorway, past Castro Peak, to Boney Mountain and the highest peak in the Santa Monica range — Sandstone Peak.

In my mind, I traced the route of the Backbone Trail along the crest. My route would take me to the Backbone Trail, but this morning I would enjoy running only a few of its sixty-eight spectacular miles.

Some related posts:
Topanga Lookout Loop, Plus Saddle Peak
Looking for Snow on Topanga Lookout and Saddle Peak
Topanga Lookout Site and the San Fernando Valley