Hike Sandstone Peak on the Mishe Mokwa Trail
|In This Guide|
|Total Distance (?)||7.2 miles (11.6 km)|
|Hike Time||3-4 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||1,760 feet (536m)|
|Highest Elevation||3,111 feet (948m)|
|Fees & Permits||Free|
|Alerts & Closures (?)||Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area|
|Weather & Forecast||Latest Conditions|
|Stay Safe||Copy this webpage link to the clipobard and share with a friend before you hike. Let them know when to expect you back.|
The hike to Sandstone Peak, the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains at 3,111 feet, is a classic. If you simply want to get to the summit, slog up the steep and short trail to the peak. But I highly recommend taking this popular scenic loop via the Mishe Mokwa Trail instead. You’ll get to fully enjoy the beauty of the Santa Monica Mountains, including the iconic Balanced Rock, Echo Cliffs, Split Rock, and Tri-Peaks. Hiking up the Mishe Mokwa Trail also gives your legs a break; the longer loop is not as steep as the direct route.
Sandstone Peak is actually volcanic rock.
Where is Sandstone Peak?
There are a few trailheads that will get you to Sandstone Peak in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, and this guide will start out on the official Sandstone Peak trailhead. Use this address:
Sandstone Peak Trailhead, Yerba Buena Rd, Malibu, CA 90265
Sunrise is a great time to enjoy the colors of the rock and landscape.
Gear For the Hike
This is a backcountry hike and I recommend proper hiking gear here. I take at least 2L of water and hike in trail runners. Trekking poles will help on some of the steeper slopes at the peaks.
Garmin InReach Mini 2
I’m a firm believer in carrying a satellite communications device which works where cell phones don’t. I use a Garmin InReach which lets me send text messages back and forth to my family to let them know that I’m okay or if my plans change when I’m out in the backcountry. It also has an SOS subscription built-in so that you can reach first-responders in an emergency. The devices also offer weather reports, GPS, and navigation functionality (what’s the difference between a GPS and satellite communicator?). For a few hundred bucks they could save your life, so for me it’s a no brainer to have something like a Garmin InReach. If you use a smartphone to navigate and want a more affordable option that integrates with your phone easily, check out the ZOLEO.
Latest Prices: Amazon | REI
Altra Lone Peak 6
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak is a solid choice that will leave your feet feeling great at the end of any hike. The feel is cushy and light, and if it had a car equivalent, this would be a Cadillac or Mercedes Sedan. The grip is great and they’re reasonably durable for this type of trail runner, which I think is better in most conditions than a hiking boot, and here’s why. The downside of this shoe is that it won’t last as long as something like the Moab 2 (see alternate footwear choices at the bottom of my gear page). I’ve been using mine for many miles and my feet always feel great. I have a video on the details of the Altra Lone Peak 6 here.
Women’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Men’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
I’ve gone back and forth on trekking poles, but I think for most people they are a good investment. They help you dig in on the uphills, provide stability on loose downhills, act as a brace when crossing streams, and can probably poke away aggressive wildlife in a pinch. The Trail Ergo Cork poles are a good balance of light weight, durability, affordability, and ease of use. If you want something ultralight and a little more pricey, I’ve had great luck with the Black Diamond Z Poles too.
Trail Ergo Poles: REI | Amazon
Z-Poles: REI | Amazon
Gregory Zulu 30 & Jade 28
After testing quite a few backpacks, the Gregory Zulu 30 (and Jade 28 for women) is, for most hikers, the best all-season day-pack. First off, it’s very comfortable, and the mesh “trampoline” back keeps your back dry. Its 30L capacity is enough for all the essentials and plenty of layers for winter hiking. External pockets make it easy to grab gear. It’s hard to find something wrong with the pack; if anything, it could be a bit lighter, but overall, it’s not heavy. And its price-point makes it not only affordable but generally a great value.
Women’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Men’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated May 2022.
No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps keep the website ad and promotion free. There is no cost to you.
Sandstone Peak Trail Maps
Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File
If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.
How Are You Going to Navigate This Hike?
Here’s what I use. If you are a hardcore hiker and/or hike in extreme conditions, I recommend getting a dedicated GPS like a GPSMAP 66sr or 66i, or a wrist-based GPS with maps like the Garmin Fenix 7 or Epix. If you only hike in fair weather and a touchscreen is fine, or just want a solid tool, I highly recommend downloading the smartphone app, Gaia GPS. It’s a piece of cake to use and very powerful, just make sure your phone is in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get a big discount here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.
- When you visit Sandstone Peak, you’ll see a memorial to W. Herbert Allen. The Boy Scouts wanted to name the peak after Allen, but the USGS has a rule that you can’t name a geographical feature after a living person. The memorial was created in 1969, and Allen passed in 1981.
- Sandstone Peak, although brown, is not sandstone, but instead volcanic rock. At one point, millions of years ago, this area looked much like the Cascade Mountains in the Pacific Northwest, with 10,000 foot volcanoes. Erosion left us with what you see today, a 3111 foot peak.
- Mishe-Mokwa is the mythical bear in the poem The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The name came after the Boy Scouts started hiking there in the 1950s and 60s. Before that the Mishe Mokwa was the Bedsprings Trail.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions
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Turn by Turn Directions
This guide last updated on March 11, 2022. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.