Week 206: Encinal Trailhead

June 07, 2020

Backbone Trail, Encinal Trailhead, 2.47 miles

Serendipity sent Barbara and me to this wonderful, new-to-us trail in the western Santa Monica Mountains. We originally set out this morning to hike Rocky Oaks Park on Mulholland off Kanan Rd. but the park is still closed to visitors because of 2018's Woolsey Fire. Lucky for us, three park rangers gathered at the gate when we arrived and, even luckier, one of the rangers suggested we try the trails in Encinal Canyon. A quick drive west on Mulholland to the Encinal Canyon Road split, then a short drive down Encinal Canyon Rd. to the parking lot for the Encinal Canyon Trailhead. This trailhead is part of the Backbone Trail, 67.79 miles across the length of the Santa Monica Mountains between the western terminus at Point Magu and the eastern terminus at Will Rogers State Historic Park. In the 1980s, the National Park Service, in cooperation with the California Department of Parks and Recreation, started a project to link the series of unconnected paths and backcountry roads through the Santa Monica Mountains. The result: a wonderful jigsaw of connected trails for hikers, equestrians, and mountain bikers of all levels. The Backbone Trail opened in 2016, a designated National Recreation Trail. Today's hike, the Encinal Trail portion of the Backbone Trail isn't listed in any of our hiking books, so the discovery was an unexpected treat. (And thanks again to the Ranger who sent us there!) From the parking lot, we followed the trail to the left of the trailhead sign—a single, in-and-out, path with a turnaround at Mulholland Drive. The day was utterly gorgeous, high 60s, clear sky, mountains in every direction. Coastal sage scrub, Chaparral Yuccas, mustard plants, and various chaparral in tans, yellows, and white bordered the trail. We were joined by tons of lizards and little white butterflies, and stepped aside for a smattering of equestrians, mountain bikers, and one pair of hikers. After a water break at a picnic bench at Mulholland where I hugged an old, burnt out tree, we hiked back to the car, happy and impressed by our good luck. 

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