Tuesday, February 21, 2012
So of course, it goes without saying that there are many trails to explore here in SoCal. However, there is one trail that is seemingly on everyone's list. Sandstone Peak/ Mt. Allen seems to rise above all the trails and has been mentioned by no less than Modern Hiker, Weekend Sherpa and even A16 got into the act by listing it as one it's Million Miles From Monday listing of trails to do here in SoCal.
Needless to say, I was chomping at the bit to do this one in 2012. On President's Day I struck out at again another ungodly hour from my warm home as Sandstone Peak is located near the Circle X ranch which is on the border of Ventura and LA counties and thus a long drive. It is well worth it though. This area is rich with trails and is definitely worth the drive for the variety of the terrain and scenery.
First part is getting there which means driving on the windy Yerba Buena Road. Set your odometers, its about 1 mile after the Circle X ranch in a dirt parking lot on the lefthand side of the road. Also be careful, I thought a blew a tire on one of the rocks in the lot so just be cautious as you drive to the trailhead.
While there get limbered up because the first .30 of a mile no matter which trail you take is uphill. Once you do those few tenths of a mile, you come to a fork in the trail.
If you go left, its straight up to Sandstone Peak on a very good incline. If you head left, you hit the Mishe Mokwa trail which takes you in a loop around the peaks with some elevation gain (not bad though) and some great side trails. Overall, if you go straight Stone, its about 3 miles roundtrip but I highly recommend you taking the full loop which is about 6.5 miles (7.5 if you do TriPeaks, which, you know, you should).
I took the Mishe loop. It starts uphill on a pretty easy track
and then surprisingly levels out and even has some elevation drops along the way. What this trail isn't lacking is views. Going along on a flat level allows you to take in the awesomeness of the Santa Monica Mountains.
When I see that scenery, it always reminds me of China, a country I have never been to but in looking at pics of its scenery from its remote provinces, it strikes me as similar.
What also struck me as familiar was the second part of the trail, the trail that seemed like my home turf of the Adirondacks. This trail had intense foliage. I mean, it was everywhere.
It gives you LOTS of shade so definitely bring some layers. Also the overgrowth really was reminiscent of the Adirondacks, especially parts of the Van Hoevenberg trail if ya know what I mean so it put me in a particularly chipper mood.
You come out from the foliage to Split Rock which also has a picnic area. Apparently there are some side trails off this area but you want to keep on the Mishe going toward Sandstone.
Continuing on the trail you start making your way uphill
with some killer views here and there of rocks straight out of a Peter Weir film.
Finally, once you get to the top of the Mishe you are suddenly on this plateau surrounded by rocky mountains, which is pretty cool. Here is the view that awaits you.
For some reason, I couldn't find my Youtube Upload (a new feature here on EastWestHike) but if you want to view it, here it is: http://youtu.be/6GpUfdJ6IKY
As you keep tromping along you will see signs for unmaintained trails which will lead you on several excursions. The one I recommend you take, highly, is the side trip to the Tri Peaks.
As you can see, its only a mile roundtrip. When Modern Hiker last visited the trail, it was overgrown and very bushwhacky. Well, someone got in there with a chainsaw because now, all the vegetation has been cut back and you have a nice saunter up a well defined wash toward the summit.
Once you break out of the wash, you are confronted with the Tri Peaks (big boulders) and navigating a rock scramble up to the highest point. There are rock cairns along the way and they are very helpful.
Eventually you can't go much further but there is a nice ledge
a summit disk by some boy scouts
and some amazing views for your hiking troubles.
Definitely watch out as you come off of TriPeaks. I had no idea where I was going once I lost the cairns but eventually ended up back down the trail just using common sense and very rudimentary orienteering.
Once you get back to the main Mishe trail you start heading up. Sandstone is the tallest peak in the Santa Monica mountains at 3,111 feet and you have to make up the elevation one way or another. While you are trundling up the trail, I would highly recommend another side jaunt of under .10 of a mile to Inspiration Point.
This little side jaunt is worth it, the views are probably the best of em all (Sandstone included).
The foliage becomes slightly dense again as you make your way further to Sandstone but that also mean its time for some orange trees (or at least their wood)
Finally (and I do mean finally because while the trail is only 1 mile to Sandstone the uphill starts taking its toll slightly) you reach Sandstone Peak
well at least the start of the final ascent. I had read a lot of things about this final push. That it was a rock scramble that looked worse than it was but really no pictures to help me figure out how "scared" I should be to get to the peak.
As it turns out, it is really nothing. First you start up these stairs (yes stairs)
Which then leads to a little slippery rock
but nothing terrible (At All) and then you are in a field with many meandering paths that split off and then intersect. I made the mistake and started heading toward the summit but it was a false summit.
(bad, bad summit, newspaper on the nose for you!)
Instead you want take the trails to your left and head that direction. Eventually you will see the true summit and the last little rock scramble.
Now what does that scramble look like? This.
At the end of the day, it was not bad at all and if you have to scoot down on your butt after its cool but in no way are you downclimbing or need ropes or anything like that, just a bit of a scramble is all. It will not test your nerves.
Finally you are on top of Sandstone Peak, errr Mt. Allen
There is a summit register so take advantage of that and then soak in the views.
Overall this was one of my most enjoyable SoCal hiking experiences so far, which just adds another voice to the choir of course but really this is a good un. It is not the most challenging of hikes but it gets the legs going and with the views, who cares if you aren't banging on the crampons after a 10 mile approach hike? At 7.5 miles this was a good lap around the SM Mountains and one you should definitely get to soon.
I found this map and it really does a good job laying out the terrain: http://www.nps.gov/samo/planyourvisit/upload/CircleXRanch8-08.pdf