Trail of the Week: Topanga Canyon, Southern California

One of the most popular trails in the Los Angeles area.

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Our Trail of the Week feature is made possible through a partnership with Trail Run Project.

The Backbone Trail is one of the most popular trails in Southern California. It’s total length exceeds 65 miles, extending from Point Mugu State Park to Will Rogers State Park near Santa Monica. This Topanga Canyon loop explores, among other paths, the eastern part of the Backbone Trail and offers spectacular views of downtown Los Angeles, the Pacific Ocean, the San Fernando Valley and more.

From Will Rogers State Park, take the Inspiration Point Loop trail. After about half a mile of dirt trail you’ll see the sign for the Backbone Trail.

The Backbone Trail has a lot of loose rock, single-lane trail in the first section. The first junction will come up around 2 mile mark, stay left (West) and continue on Backbone Trail. This is a scenic section with views of Santa Monica behind you. Be careful of tree roots and loose dirt on the trail. It is a good time to spot deer and foxes during a morning run.

At the 6-mile mark there will be a sign pointed to “The Hub”, take the left route to continue down Backbone Trail. Keep staying right and The Hub will be in view at the 7-mile mark. A restroom is available there but no water. It’s also time to admire the view of Santa Monica to the south, and the San Fernando Valley to the north.

The most challenging part of this loop is at mile 18, an 800-foot climb in one mile. Be careful for mountain bikers speeding down. Once you climb this hill, you’re almost done!

The Data

Miles: 20.6

Runnable: 89 percent

Average Grade: 6 percent

Max Grade: 33 percent

Total Ascent: 3,258 feet

Total Descent: -3,260 feet

Highest Elevation: 2,071  feet

For a closer look, check out the interactive map, data, photos and virtual run simulator courtesy of Trail Run Project: