Forty years ago, the National Park Service began building a hiking trail that would eventually stretch for 67 uninterrupted miles through the Santa Monica Mountains in Southern California. It was an incredible undertaking — one that would take several generations of hard work and hundreds of millions of dollars to complete. Now, 40 years later, all 67 miles of the trail are finally open to the public.
The Backbone Trail twists and climbs through the sun-scorched peaks, old forests and deep valleys of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, the largest urban national park in the country. So, it’s a National Park, which means it’ll have all the natural beauty and solitude synonymous with the other great wildernesses of the US, like Yosemite or Yellowstone — but it’s an urban national park, which means civilization is never more than a few miles away. The park’s boundaries collide with the outskirts of Los Angeles, making the city close enough to see and get to easily, but far away enough to forget entirely. Scattered along the many canyon roads lining the trail are creature comforts like restaurants, shops, grocery stores and, if you’re into boozy summer beverages, the occasional winery (this is, after all, the SoCal countryside).
One downside of the Backbone is that it’s not yet open for overnight camping. The NPS is working on installing designated campsites along the trail, which will allow hikers to do all 67 miles in one big multi-day push. There are camping spots off the trail, but since they’re deeper into the park, they’re used by traditional campers, which can make it hard to lock down a reservation. Until then, hit the newly opened trail for a morning hike or run and then take advantage of some of L.A.’s other natural resources — like egg sandwiches and bacon cheeseburgers.