The Mountains of California •
Sandstone Peak • Highpoint: Santa Monica Mountains
• Santa Monica Mountains Nat'l Recreation Area
• Ventura County

The rocky summit ridge with wildflowers

Not far after the start

There's the top, not too far off.

The final scramble bits

Looking back from Triunfo Pass

Date: May 14, 2007 • Elevation: 3,111 feet • Prominence: 2,201 feet • Distance: 2.5 miles • Time: 1.5 hours • Gain: 900 feet • Conditions: Hot and humid, yet so close to the ocean


Sandstone Peak is the highpoint of the Santa Monica Mountains, which lie within the western appendage of Los Angeles County, north of the Pacific Coast Highway (CA-1) and south of the suburbs of Calabasas and Westlake Village. The summit itself lies barely inside Ventura County. The range is known for its scenic byways such as Mulholland Drive, and its smattering of big mansions. Fortunately, most of the range is still wild and undeveloped.

I was on a week-long hiking tour in Southern California, hiking a few easy summits in the Los Angeles-Ventura County area. I was also battling a cold. Two days ago I had hiked Reyes Peak, then took yesterday off to be lazy and try to get a handle on my cold.

I spent some of yesterday in Santa Barbara, scouting a way up Santa Ynez Peak, but decided not to hike it. I then drove to Oxnard, trying to locate my parents' second home they had there in the late 1980s-early 1990s. Try as I might, I couldn't find it. They all look the same. It's been so long that I could not pick it out of the hundreds that looked just like it. This killed about an hour. Then I watched golf on TV at a sandwich shop to use up another hour. I felt lousy.

From Oxnard, I drove on the Pacific Coast Highway toward Leo Carrillo State Beach, which sits on the L. A. side of the Los Angeles and Ventura county line, at the base of the Santa Monica Mountains. Sandstone Peak looms high, obscured by the hazy mist coming off the ocean. Although only 3,111 feet in elevation, it looked impressive given I was barely 10 feet above sea level on the highway. The misty haze gave the peak an ethereal appearance.

We used to camp at Leo Carrillo when I was a kid in the 1970s. The place is geared toward big families and groups. The spaces have room for multiple vehicles, and the beach is a short walk away. I got a spot, pulled in and parked, then just sat there. I was still feeling sick, so I planned to do absolutely nothing. The group across from me numbered about twenty people. All the guys were shirtless, with big bellies. They were grilling things. There were about eight kids, and the women were constantly trying to line everyone up for photographs. This went on for hours and they made a lot of noise, but by the late afternoon, they had packed and left, as did just about everyone else. This being a Sunday night, very few people were here. It was peaceful and quiet that night.

The next day, I still felt like there'd been a party on my head, and everyone was invited. I did not get moving until 10 a.m., but I had just this one peak on my agenda. From Carrillo, I drove the Pacific Coast Highway a couple miles to Yerba Buena Drive, then followed this narrow winding road into the hills for 6.3 miles (going by the mileage markers) to a parking area at the Sandstone Peak trailhead. One other car was there.

I noticed that there were little piles of broken car-window glass, all about the same size and consistently spaced. Evidently, someone was busting into cars here, presumably yesterday. This now being Monday, I hoped that this joker was now toiling at his hot, loud, low-paying, fume-breathing, boss-yelling job. I hoped that my windows would all be intact when I returned.

This would be a short hike, as I could see my destination above me. The sign at the trailhead said the peak was 1.1 miles one way via the direct route (an old ATV road), or 3 miles if I went on the Misha Makwa (sp?) Trail. I hiked the ATV track, and 0.3 miles later, came to a junction that would allow one to transfer on to the Misha Makwa Trail. The sign here said the peak was still 1.1 miles away. Apparently, I had not made any progress. I stayed on the shorter trail.

The trail is short and a direct route up the back side of the Sandstone Peak ridge (the photo in the left sidebar from Triunfo Pass shows the trail, seen as zig-zags on the brushy hillsides). I took one break in a shady spot. I was going slow due to my cold. The air was humid, being so close to the ocean, but there was no cooling effect nor any winds, so it was rather hot. Within 40 minutes, I was at the base of the summit outcrops.

Sandstone Peak isn't sandstone. It is volcanic tuff, which erodes differently from sandstone. The ridge is an interesting collection of these tuff towers, whereas the rest of the range is more rounded. Wherever there isn't a road, trail or home built in, the range is covered in dense, thick impenetrable grass and scrub.

I left the main trail at a side junction and scampered up through a chute, gaining about 20 feet, and putting me on a rocky clearing. Nearby peaks looked a lot higher and for a moment I thought I was on the wrong peak, but looks can be deceiving. Although I thought I was "close", I still had another 50 feet vertical to go. I covered this quickly and was on top. A memorial to a Mr. Allen sits on the summit, with a register found in an opening beneath the memorial. Mr. Allen was instrumental in establishing the Circle-X ranch (which deeded the land to the state as a park for public use). He was also a major figure in the Boy Scouts, too. There are people who are trying to get the peak's name officially changed over to Mount Allen, but as of now, the change is not official.

I spent a little while up here to relax and drink water. The views were nice, but not as crisp due to the haze. And it was hot, and as you know by now, I felt terrible. When I had the energy again, I clambered down the rocks back to the trail. Occasionally a stray breeze cooled me down and felt wonderful, but mostly I was hot, sweaty and swatting away the flies. I made the downhill hike in 30 minutes. Fortunately, no one had bashed in my truck's windows while I was gone. It was only noon, and I wasn't due to meet my buddy Schneider until 6 that evening in Monrovia.

I killed time by sitting in my truck at the trailhead, just vegging. Then I drove the scenic roads within the range, stopping often for photos. This was my first time ever exploring the range. Then I started to drive by pricey homes and I knew I was getting close to the city again. I think I was in Calabasas now. Eventually, I would meet my old pal at his place, where we watched the Dodgers lose on TV and read old Mad magazines. I coughed a lot.

Two days later I was back in Arizona and teaching, but that damned cough never went away. I finally went to a doctor. They did an x-ray to make sure it wasn't something bad like Valley Fever or pneumonia. It wasn't. I apparently had bronchitis and probably a bacteria thing going on, so they gave me some antibiotics. In a few days, I was over my cough and back to normal.

(c) 2007, 2019 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.