snakes on guard
Circle X Ranch is a part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area which is part of the National Park system. The hike is a loop trail on a section of the Backbone Trail and the Mishe Mokwa Trail. The section of the Backbone Trail that this hike travels includes Sandstone Peak, which is the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountain range. The trail also passes Inspiration Point. The loop includes a diversion to Tri Peaks before heading back to the Mishe Mokwa Trail.
The first part of the hike is up the Backbone Trail which starts out with a one mile climb to Sandstone Peak. The views are great from Sandstone Peak. From Sandstone Peak, the trail heads downhill slightly to Inspiration Point. Because Inspiration Point sticks out to the south somewhat, making for some unobstructed views that you can’t see from Sandstone Peak.
From Inspiration Point the Backbone Trail heads to the Mishe Mokwa Trail. From the Mishe Mokwa Trail there is diversion to Tri Peaks which provides some good views of the Newbury Park area. There is also some good caving in Tri Peaks. That said, we saw a rattlesnake at one of the entrances to the caves, so stay vigilant.
From Tri Peaks, head back to the Mishe Mokwa Trail. The Mishe Mokwa Trail starts out heading downhill toward a creek crossing. There is a picnic table near the creek crossing. After crossing the creek, the trail heads up along the south wall of the canyon, well below the Backbone Trail. From this high vantage point you have a good view of balanced rock along with some rock faces that climbers like to frequent.
Eventually, the trail reaches a junction that takes you back to the Backbone trail and back to the parking area.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.