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The Backbone Trail, decades in the making, is now just about complete. I’ve been hiking the trail since my Boy Scout days, and advocating for it and writing about it for 30 years and during that time met some wonderful people who worked so hard to complete the 67-mile long pathway that extends from Will Rogers State Historic Park to Point Mugu State Park across the spine of the Santa Monica Mountains.

This Backbone Trail Gallery, from The Trailmaster’s files, shares photos and memories of the trail. It’s also a way of saying thank you to the many who worked on the pathway.

Hikers are treated to terrific ocean and metropolitan vistas from the Backbone Trail (photo Chuck Graham)
Hikers are treated to terrific ocean and metropolitan vistas from the Backbone Trail (photo Chuck Graham)
Backbone Trail Route (NPS)
Backbone Trail Route (NPS)

Heroes of the Backbone Trail

Master Trail Builder Ron Webster helped design and build missing links in the Backbone Trail
Master Trail Builder Ron Webster helped design and build missing links in the Backbone Trail
Master Trail Builder Ron Webster and his youthful trail crews worked on the Backbone and many other trails in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Master Trail Builder Ron Webster and his youthful trail crews worked on the Backbone and many other trails in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Ruth Taylor Kilday, affectionately nicknamed "the Mother of the Backbone Trail" was an early advocate of the path, and has worked tirelessly for decades to raise funds for its completion.
Ruth Taylor Kilday, affectionately nicknamed “the Mother of the Backbone Trail” was an early advocate of the path, and has worked tirelessly for decades to raise funds for its completion.
A passionate advocate for the Santa Monica Mountains, Milt McAuley led interpretive hikes along the Backbone Trail and was the author of many trail guides. (courtesy LAT)
A passionate advocate for the Santa Monica Mountains, Milt McAuley led interpretive hikes along the Backbone Trail and was the author of many trail guides. (courtesy LAT)
In 1990, Milt McAuley wrote his "Guide to the Backbone Trail"
In 1990, Milt McAuley wrote his “Guide to the Backbone Trail”

Promoting the Backbone Trail

As a way to advocate for the completion of the trail, the California Coastal Trails Foundation mapped the Backbone Trail in 1986.
As a way to advocate for the completion of the trail, the California Coastal Trails Foundation mapped the Backbone Trail in 1986.
A 1986 map by the California Coastal Trails Foundation showed "Existing," "Under Construction" and "Proposed" segments of the Backbone Trail. Back then, there was much work to be done!
A 1986 map by the California Coastal Trails Foundation showed “Existing,” “Under Construction” and “Proposed” segments of the Backbone Trail. Back then, there was much work to be done!
Boosters of the California Coastal Trail recognized the Backbone Trail as an inland alternative to walking the difficult to access Malibu Coast.
Boosters of the California Coastal Trail recognized the Backbone Trail as an inland alternative to walking the difficult to access Malibu Coast.
Hikers were thwarted in attempts to hike the length of the Backbone Trail as this editorial cartoon from the 1980s suggests.
Hikers were thwarted in attempts to hike the length of the Backbone Trail as this editorial cartoon from the 1980s suggests.
Trailmaster John McKinney wrote more than 20 stories about the Backbone Trail during his long tenure as the Los Angeles Times hiking columnist.
Trailmaster John McKinney wrote more than 20 stories about the Backbone Trail during his long tenure as the Los Angeles Times hiking columnist.
Trailmaster John McKinney has written about the Backbone Trail in a dozen books.
Trailmaster John McKinney has written about the Backbone Trail in a dozen books.
Everyone loves the Backbone Trail! John McKinney was the guide for visiting Bushmen from Southern Africa,
Everyone loves the Backbone Trail! John McKinney was the guide for visiting Bushmen from Southern Africa,

The Trail Ahead

The highest and wildest parts of the Backbone Trail are in the western part of the Santa Monica Mountains. (courtesy NPS)
The highest and wildest parts of the Backbone Trail are in the western part of the Santa Monica Mountains. (courtesy NPS)
Backbone Trail Sign points the way to Sandstone Peak, highest summit in the Santa Monica Mountains
Backbone Trail Sign points the way to Sandstone Peak, highest summit in the Santa Monica Mountains
Backbone Trail, ready for hikers of all ages
Backbone Trail, ready for hikers of all ages
John McKinney, near Sandstone Peak, on a recent hike along the Backbone Trail
John McKinney, near Sandstone Peak, on a recent hike along the Backbone Trail

Hike On,
John McKinney