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New Backbone Trail Will Let Backpackers Thru-Hike Los Angeles

Covers 67 miles from L.A. to Ventura County

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Rocky slate slopes, oak-shrouded canyons, and creeks trickling through green meadows aren’t typical Los Angeles vistas. But that’s how hikers on the newly completed Backbone Trail will see the city. 

The 67-mile trail, which will connect L.A. to Ventura County through the Santa Monica Mountains, is expected to open its final stretch on Saturday after more than 40 years in development. The National Park Service closed the last gaps in the path this spring, purchasing 10 acres and an easement across a 500-by-200-foot patch of land for $167,500. 

The trail has had some high-profile helpers along the way. Last year, former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and physical fitness entrepreneur Betty Weider donated a combined 40 acres to the effort. The property, valued at over $500,000, was the single largest private donation to the trail. California State Parks was the largest contributor overall, donating more than 60 percent of the land that the trail crosses.

The National Park Service will host an opening ceremony on Saturday, June 4 to celebrate National Trails Day.

The Backbone Trail traverses several peaks in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, beginning at the Will Rogers State Park in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of L.A. and ending at Point Mugu in Ventura County.

Kate Kuykendall, Acting Deputy Superintendent of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, said that the trail will introduce visitors to another side of America’s second-largest city.

“It’s cool because this trail helps shatter some of the stereotypes about Los Angeles,” she said. “A lot of people around the country, when they think of LA, think of traffic and congestion and maybe don’t realize we’re a city surrounded by open space.”

Even on a weekday, the trail is close enough to escape to. Kuykendall’s favorite part are the continuous views of the Channel Islands to the west and surrounding Santa Monica peaks to the east.

Trailheads are easily accessible via public transportation and several restaurants and grocery stores are within close distance to the trail, making it an easy objective for hikers looking to complete the trail in one sweep.

But, while campgrounds off the trail are accessible, backcountry camping on the trail for thru-hikers is still at least a year from reality. That conversation begins with the Interagency Trail Management Plan, something Kuykendall believes might face opposition from Malibu home owners wary of the fire risk backcountry campers might bring.

Property owners already butted heads with hikers last year when they blocked off 1.4 miles of the path, forcing trail users to turn around or find a detour. 

In addition to hikers, 65 miles of the trail are open to equestrians, with 43 open to bikers. 

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