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Jump on the Stairmaster and ascend from Malibu Canyon Road up to Mesa Peak Motorway, then over to Corral Canyon- a 10 mile out and back with 2000 feet of elevation gain (lots of it in the beginning).
Mesa Peak Motorway is part of the Backbone Trail, 60 miles of trail uniting parklands throughout the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The Backbone has been an ambitious work in progress since the 1980's, with volunteers and various state agencies combining to convert old animal trails and fire roads into a path stretching from Will Rogers State Park to Point Mugu. Only 5 miles remain to make what started as an idea in the 1970's into a reality.
Our hike will take us along 5 miles of that reality. After a healthy climb up to the Motorway, we'll cruise along a roller coaster fireroad with spectacular views of the Pacific pretty much the entire way. Our stopping point is a sandstone playground of massive wind-eroded rocks, the exposed spine of the Santa Monicas reminding us why this is called the Backbone Trail.
The initial ascent is wooded and shaded. It can be humid, and it's a workout to get up there, though the trail is firm and mostly open. Once we're up on the Motorway, it's airy and wide open, with ocean breezes. It's advisable to wear sunscreen or cover up, as we'll be exposed to the sun for a good while. Once we get to the rocks, we can take a break, play like kids, and snack before heading back the way we came.
There's a parking lot at the trailhead, which costs $10. There is some free parking in a dirt lot at the corner of Piuma Rd and Malibu Canyon Rd- you can park there and walk the 1/4 mile to the trailhead.
From the 101
Exit Las Virgenes Rd and head south, approximately 5 miles to Piuma Rd. Continue 1/4 mile past Piuma, and you'll see the parking area/trailhead on the right. (Las Virgenes Rd becomes Malibu Canyon Rd at Piuma)
Take Malibu Cyn Rd north ~4.5 miles, parking area will be on the left.