Mishe Mokwa Is a Little-Known Loop Hike With Huge Views

Jeff Sessions can’t touch this high

January 9, 2018 9:00 am

If you thought that the 24/7 bad-news cycle would end come 2018, guess again.

Best find a go-to outdoor activity to help you unplug and quell the static.

You’ll accomplish both of those things on Mishe Mokwa, a half-day loop hike that circumscribes the highest peak in the Santa Monica Mountains.

On the itinerary: a picnic to grab on the way, amazing views of sand and sea, and plenty of opportunities for reflection.

Tie ‘em tight. Those boulders aren’t gonna climb themselves.

Trail Stats

: 6 miles
Time: 3-5 hours, depending on your speed and number of stops
Best picnic spot: There are benches by Split Rock, which is about three miles in to the trail.
Activities: You can mountain bike some parts, and there are ample rock-climbing and bouldering opportunities.  

Good Things to Know

No. 1: The hardest part is the beginning. You’ll go up a steep incline until the trail splits. If you go left, you’ll walk 1.5 miles to Sandstone Peaks. If you go right, you’ll go around Mishe Mokwa to Sandstone Peaks. This is the longer route, and it loops back to the trailhead.

No. 2: About two miles in to the Mishe Mokwa trail, you’ll see some cliff faces called the Echo Cliffs, which are good for climbing and bouldering.

No. 3: There’s a big boulder called Balancing Rock near the Cliffs. It’s an excellent photo op.

No. 4: After that, there’s Split Rock, which has a big gash across the middle (not very creative with the names here). It’s great for bouldering.

No 5: There are some side trails that go nowhere, but they’re great for getting lost or peeling off to do something private/have a picnic.

No 6: If you’re smoking anything, please don’t start a fire.

No 7: Inspiration Point is about .5 miles from Sandstone Peak, and while it’s not the tallest peak, it offers great views and tends to be less crowded. There’s a dial at the top that indicates all of the things you can see, from Catalina to Mt. Baldy. When we were there, a pillow of fog sprawled across the Pacific.

No 8: Much of the Mishe Mokwa trail is shaded, and it meanders up and down, so you won’t get bored.


Fact: The trail was dedicated to W. Herbert Allen by the Boy Scouts in 1969. Allen donated the land to the park system, and he also donated the Circle X Ranch to the Boy Scouts.

Fact: It links to the Backbone, a 67-mile trail that traverses the Santa Monica Mountains.

Food & Beverage

Water: bring plenty, as you’ll be out there all afternoon.

Energy: Granola bars and fruit are great, but we’ve been getting into ICONIC, a new protein drink that — while made from the milk of grass-fed cows — lacks lactose due to how the proteins are harvested. It’s essentially dairy protein and fat minus the lactose, it’s delicious and it doesn’t require refrigeration.

Meal: Neptune’s Net is nearby, but don’t miss the opportunity to picnic. John’s Garden in Malibu Country Mart will pack you a foolproof picnic kit, and you can preorder online so it’s ready for pickup.

Additional Resources

Map to trailhead from Yerba Buena Road
Map of the trail


Join America's Fastest Growing Spirits Newsletter THE SPILL. Unlock all the reviews, recipes and revelry — and get 15% off award-winning La Tierra de Acre Mezcal.