06 May 2012

Sandstone Peak

Circle X Ranch

Locate the trailhead.

At (just) 3111 feet high, Sandstone Peak is the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains. There are two nearby trails and connectors allow a very nice loop hike through the rocks that are actually volcanic rather than sandstone. The folks at Hike the Geek decided to head around it. There was some difficulty getting everyone to the same trailhead since the words said Mishe Mokwa while the coordinates used were for the Sandstone Peak trailhead. Cell signal meant that everyone could be collected and we headed off counterclockwise. I hear that is the unlucky direction, but it seemed a good direction for this hike putting the peak near the end. We climbed up to join the Backbone Trail, then turned right at the intersection. Left at the next intersection had us following Mishe Mokwa up through picturesque canyon.

much exposed rock in the shallow canyon
Coming around into the canyon Mishe Mokwa follows. The start of the Echo Cliffs.

The trail passes above some rocks that are called Echo Cliffs that seem to be popular with rock climbers. We saw one group that looked like a class among the few groups on the rocks. Above the cliffs are a balancing rock creatively called Balanced Rock. Three deer walked up to the rock as we watched.

a couple climbing groups on the Echo Cliffs
The Echo Cliffs and a couple groups of climbers looking to go up them.

deer by the Balanced Rock
A big rock that seems like it could fall over given a big enough push with deer... for scale.

Continuing on, we passed a little bit of water in puddles in a creek just off the trail. We quickly came to Split Rock, which is just a large boulder that has divided into three pieces. This spot is well covered with trees and has a picnic table for lunching. Just after the picnic area was a signed but unmaintained trail to the Balanced Rock.

a little bit of water left in a creek
Just a little bit of water left already in the early spring.

purple flowers with white insides
A few of many flowers along the side of the trail.

We continued around, now climbing onto the ridge. A few caves can be seen in the rocks across the way from the trail. Rocks rise up on both sides poking out of the growth as if reaching up above the tree line.

a large rock along the trail
Rocks poking out from the vegetation.

a spire rock
A rock like a chimney.

cave in a rock beyond a shallow valley
A cave in one of the many rocks along the way.

Passing the halfway point, we started coming to trails. The first was right about the halfway point and wasn't signed, but turned out to be someone's shortcut and not the real trail. Shortly after we rejoined the Backbone Trail as the rest of it continued outward to the Tri Peaks which are 100 feet shorter than Sandstone Peak. Then there was a trail to a couple water tanks that was also unsigned. Then a narrow jaunt went up to Inspiration Point. Finally, a trail went up to Sandstone Peak.

Yerba Buena twisting below past the Circle X Ranch
The view down from Inspiration Point shows Yerba Buena twisting its way past the Circle X Ranch.

rock like an animal head and arms rather like a Sphinx
We felt this structure looked a bit like an animal, with this second balanced rock as its head.

The walk up to the peak was briefly interrupted by a helicopter coming in low for some errand. It had been flying around while I was waiting for people as well. A vulture also circled above. Coming to the spur for the peak, most of us went up. I took a trail to the right to get to a lower peak with some equipment on it first. It was marked as public safety equipment, so I wasn't much wiser about what it was after seeing it closely. Then I went up to the higher peak to see what I could see.

geeks climbing to an already well populated peak
The geeks making their way up to the top of Sandstone Peak where a small crowd of students already sit learning about the local area rocks.

We ate a bit near the top of the peak. I brought my kite although I had little belief there would be enough wind and there was even less than when I was waiting. When the students finished their lesson, we took a poke around the peak but never quite got to writing in the register.

Mt. Allen on the plaque at the top of Sandstone Peak
The plaque at the top of Sandstone Peak says this is Mt. Allen, which at least doesn't completely mischaracterize the volcanic rocks of the peak. Tyson with his fire stick looking out over the south cliff where the ocean should be visible but the air was thick.

And then we headed back down to the cars waiting below.

funny purple flower
A rather odd flower along the trail back down.

©2012 Valerie Norton
Posted 7 May 2012

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