Sandstone Peak is the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains at 3,111’. We got to the trailhead before 6 am and had planned to do the Mishe Mokwa 6.1 mile loop and then summit Sandstone Peak. But since the sun was rising and it was just so pretty, we decided to hop on the 3 mile out and back trail leading up to the peak, summit and then come back down to enjoy the Mishe Mokwa loop, another 6 miles, respectively.
Along the trail to the peak, the views were nothing less then stunning. The warm winds were blowing off the ocean and the sea air was filled with the scent of coastal sage. No one else was on the trail yet and we were able to enjoy a peaceful sunrise over a picturesque view of endless mountains.
As we continued onward and upward, we eventually came upon a set of steps with a sign pointing to Sandstone Peak. Before the steps, we saw a series of steep use trails leading to the same destination. We took a look at them and opted for the steps. After the steps ended, we had an easy scramble to the top of the first mountain where there is a cell tower. From here, we could see the actual peak off in the distance noted by a plaque dedicated to W. Herbert Allen. Allen was a donor of land to Boy Scout camps and also Camp Circle X nearby. From this point we were on our own to find use trails and make a challenging scramble to the peak. I had to put my camera in my pack because I needed use of my hands to finish the climb so I didn’t get many photos during this part of the hike. Once we made it up, we signed the register located under the plaque and started the very steep ascent down. I have no shame in admitting that I did the butt slide most of the way down, as I picked the steepest, but most direct way to get back.
Once down we could have hopped on the Backbone Trail and then picked up the Mishe Mokwa Trail, but we wanted to do it “by the book” and complete the whole thing start to finish. We went back to where we came from and started it from the beginning adding extra mileage to our journey.
Being that it’s the end of summer, I knew the day would soon be heating up. But since we’d gotten there so early, we still had some time to enjoy our hike without the blazing sun. Much of this trek is exposed and you’ll need a lot of extra water to stay hydrated. The trail was challenging, but there was a lot of different scenery to keep us busy. At one point it dropped us down into a riparian grove which was a completely different environment then what we had experienced so far. Had it not been summer, there would have been a flowing stream here. In this grove near the appropriately titled Split Rock (which is exactly that), there’s also a solitary picnic table. It was a welcoming place to take a break and fuel up with a sandwich before continuing on to complete the loop.
In retrospect, I’m really glad we decided to summit first. By the time we completed the loop, it was hot! It was sometime after 11 am and on our way down to the parking lot, we saw a good number of sweaty hikers just making their way up. I’m not sure how they could do it in the heat. My best advice would be if you are going to attempt this trail in the summer, suck it up and do it EARLY! You can always take a nap later, which is exactly what we did! It’s totally worth it!