Hike Sandstone Peak On The Mishe Mokwa Trail

Hike Sandstone Peak on the Mishe Mokwa Trail

In This Guide
  • Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions to Hike Sandstone Peak
  • Parking for the Sandstone Peak Hike
  • Insider Tips & Recommendtations
Total Distance (?)7.2 miles (11.6 km)
Hike Time3-4 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Moderate
Total Ascent (?)1,760 feet (536m)
Highest Elevation3,111 feet (948m)
Fees & PermitsFree
Dogs AllowedLeashed
Alerts & Closures (?)Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
Park Phone805-370-2301
Weather & ForecastLatest Conditions
Stay SafeCopy 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

Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 1
As you approach the trailhead, Sandstone Peak will be looming above.

Sunrise is a great time to enjoy the colors of the rock and landscape.

Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 2
Look for the trailhead sign on the side of the road.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 3
The parking lot is in good shape and has a restroom.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 4
There’s also a small picnic area.
Hike Sandstone Peak On The Mishe Mokwa Trail Alt Parking
If the parking lot is full, you can park just up the road at the Mishe Mokwa Trailhead (in the square), and then join the hike shortly after the start.

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

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

Lone Peak 6 Yellow

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 Ergo Poles 2

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

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: REIAmazon 
Men’s Latest Prices: REIAmazon 

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated May 2022.

My May 2022 Top Gear Picks

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

Click Here To View

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.

To access this guide when out of cell phone range on the trail, simply save the webpage on your phone ( iPhoneAndroid ).

Elevation Profile

Hike Sandstone Peak On The Mishe Mokwa Trail Elevation
The hike is a bit of a roller, with short but steep climbs up to Tri-Peaks and Sandstone Peak.

3D Map

Hike Sandstone Peak On The Mishe Mokwa Trail 3d Map
We’re going to do the hike counter-clockwise, with a short out-and-back to both Tri-Peaks and Sandstone Peak.

Hike Brief

W Herbert Allen Sandston
If it were up to the Boy Scouts, Sandstone Peak would be called Allen Peak, named after W. Herbert Allen, the guy in the middle of this photo. Allen was a real force in the community. He donated the land with Sandstone Peak on it to the park system, he was president of the local Boy Scouts organization, he led a commission that created the LAX airport that we know today, and helped raise millions of dollars for war widows in Korea (after the Korean War). Photo USC

Sandstone Peak Hike Directions

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Video Directions

Turn by Turn Directions

Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 5
Hike through the gate at the end of the parking lot.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 6
This is the sign at the start of the hike. There are two ways to get to the top, go straight up, or take the more gradual and scenic Mishe Mokwa Trail, which I’ll show you in this guide.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 7
When you get to the t-junction, hike to the right.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 8
Here’s the sign at the junction. We’re heading to the Mishe Mokwa Trail.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 9
The views to the east are great as you ascend. Down below Yerba Road goes through Triunfo Pass.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 10
When you get to the junction, hike left. The trail to the right leads to the Mishe Mokwa parking area.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 11
Now you wind around into Carlisle Canyon, away from the road, and really get to enjoy the beauty of the Santa Monica Mountains.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 13
You’ll pass a trail off to the right that offers some nice views of Echo Cliffs. Otherwise continue straight on the trail.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 12
As you hike up Carlisle Canyon you’ll get views all the cliffs, which are popular with hikers.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 14
Once you pass the junction, look up to the right for great views of Balanced Rock.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 15
Continue hiking along the folds of the hillside.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 16
And at about 1.7 miles in the scenery will start to change as you approach the oaks and laurels by the creek. You can see the fire damage from the 2018 Woolsey Fire.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 17
When you cross the creek, make the right at Split Rock.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 18
You can squeeze through the middle of Split Rock, a Boy Scout tradition.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 19
Keep straight (after making the right) after Split Rock.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 20
Just after leaving Split Rock, the trail splits, Make the left.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 21
The trail to the right at the last junction is a spur to Balance Rock, which you saw earlier on the hike.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 22
Now you’ll follow the creek up to the west. In front of you is Tri-Peaks, only a few feet lower than Sandstone Peak, and our next destination.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 23
To your right is Big Dome.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 24
Stay straight on the main trail, avoiding any small use trails to the side used by climbers.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 25
At about 3.3 miles in you’ll get to this junction. We’re going to make the short spur hike up to Tri-Peaks, and then back down to this junction and continue left to Sandstone Peak.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 26
Here’s the sign from that last junction.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 27
Just after the turn is another junction. Stay right.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 28
Here’s the sign from that junction.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 29
And then another split! Hike right.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 30
And here’s the sign from the last junction.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 31
Now you’ll wind around toward Tri-Peaks.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 32
When you get to the saddle, bear right and hike up the rock face. There’s a few worn paths to follow up.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 33
Down to the left you’ll have great views up into Ventura County and out to the Channel Islands.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 34
Keep hiking up the rock path.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 35
When you get up to the big summit block, you’re “at the top” of this big pile of boulders called Tri-Peaks. If you have climbing skills you can ascend the block, but most of us just explore the summit area below.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 36
The views from Tri-Peaks are incredible.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 37
When you’re done at the Tri-Peaks summit, turn around and hike back to the first junction. The views west and north are spectacular as you descend.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 38
Okay, when you get back to the junction I mentioned earlier, make the hard right to continue.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 39
And here’s the sign from that junction. We’re heading up the Backbone Trail for 0.9 miles to Sandstone Peak.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 40
When you get to the hill with the water tanks on your right, continue left.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 41
Now you’ll be following the ridge toward Sandstone Peak, with lots of great rock formations along the way.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 42
Keep your eyes open for the spur trail to Inspiration Point, which is worth a quick visit before continuing.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 43
The views from Inspiration Point are impressive and you’ll be able to view the coast to the south for the first time.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 44
There’s a memorial here to an Eagle Scout who died on the trail in Kings Canyon NP at the age of 16. He had fallen, hit his head, felt okay and continued hiking, only to die shortly afterward from a cerebral concussion and internal bleeding.. The lesson is to treat a head injury seriously and use a satellite communicator to talk to emergency coordinators if something similar happens to you.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 45
After continuing on the Backbone Trail, keep straight toward Sandstone Peak, passing the trail back to the right.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 46
You’ll get some great windows to the west and the Pacific. In the distance is Catalina.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 47
At the trail winds around, keep your eyes open for this cut-off trail at about 5.3 miles.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 48
Hike uphill on the cutoff.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 49
And you’ll reach this big intersection. Take the stone stairs up to the right. When you come back here after the peak, you’ll be taking the (counter-intuitive) uphill to go back to the parking area.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 50
Hike up the stone stairs.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 51
At the top, make the left.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 52
And continue up the ridge to the summit of Sandstone Peak. It’s a bit of a “choose your own adventure” where you generally want to stay to the left.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 53
Some people say that the scrambling is tough, but this is about as bad as it gets.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 54
Soon you’ll see the monument at the top. Head for that.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 55
And here you are at the summit of Sandstone Peak.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 56
You’ll see the monument to Allen that the Boy Scouts erected.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 57
You can explore the summit area and take in the 360 views.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 58
When you’re done, head back to the big junction where we were earlier and make the right. There are also some cutoff trails back down.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 59
Here’s the sign from that junction. We’re heading toward the Parking Lots.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 60
There’s a short uphill.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 61
And then you have about 1.5 miles and 1000 feet of descending.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 62
In front of you is Angeles National Forest and Mt Baldy.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 63
And down to the left you can see Balanced Rock.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 64
In front of you are great views of the Pacific and Catalina.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 65
And back up to the right are some nice photo-ops of Sandstone Peak.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 66
When you get to the intersection near the bottom, where we made the right at the beginning of the hike, make the right again.
Sandstone Peak Hike Directions 67
And soon you’ll be back at the parking lot where we started. That’s the hike!

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.

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