Backbone Trail Thru Hike: A Wilderness Finish

I completed the Backbone Trail on February 11, 2023, greeted by family, friends, and my dog at the Ray Miller Trailhead in Point Mugu State Park.

But, let’s back up a little bit, to my morning in the Boney Mountain Wilderness, aka, my favorite part of the BBT.

My morning started as the sun came up and I quickly passed the sign announcing that I was entering Point Mugu State Park: the final state park on the trail.

Why I Didn’t Summit Boney Mountain

Shortly after entering Point Mugu State Park, the trail skirts along the base of Boney Mountain, one of the harder to access peaks in the Santa Monica Mountains. It was early, the trail was already rough, and I knew I still had about 13 miles ahead of me. I tried to follow the spur trail up to the peak, but it was quickly lost in brush and rock.

Despite the fact that this summit had been on my to-do list for years, I was just grateful to get to see it in person for the first time. My childhood dog went by the nickname, “Boney,” so I’d hyped up my summit as an homage to him, only to pass it, feeling like it wasn’t my day to summit, and instead, decided to focus on finishing the miles I had in front of me.

Enter the Boney Mountain Wilderness

The Boney Mountain Wilderness is the only official wilderness area on the BBT, and this makes it the most stunning part of the trail altogether. From the base of Boney Mountain, the trail winds down some steep and rock switchbacks, as much of the BBT does, into a remote section that feels more wild than the rest.

The bottom of this canyon, unlike the many others I’d crossed over, was quiet and covered in wildflowers. The mountains–Boney and Sandstone and Exchange and Tri Peaks–towered over me, creating a haze of morning light. I paused here, to take it in, realizing that this wild place, was so hard to access. I’d probably never come back. But it was worth all of the 60 miles I’d walked so far to stand there that morning.

I ate a snack, staring up at the peaks above me, before continuing on the flat section at the bottom of this canyon, toward Danielson Ranch and Sycamore Canyon.

7 Miles to the Finish Line

I got to Danielson Ranch, my halfway point for the day, before noon and was greeted by feral parrots I’d always heard stories about. I stopped, took my shoes off and rubbed my feet, trying to convince them that they could do 7 more miles–they’d already walked 61.

I eventually stood up, put my pack back on, and began walking again, on a flat section called Sycamore Canyon, to my final incline, which culminated at a classic BBT fire road section.

The fire road led me gradually to the Ray Miller Trail–the final section of the BBT, a steep, 2.7 mile descent back to sea level.

Heading Home

The Ray Miller section was crowded. I passed people hiking off trail to wildflowers, people who wanted to know what I was doing with a 30 pound backpack on, and people who wanted to know how to get into backpacking. I was still handing out stickers with Leave No Trace information on them, and ran out before I finally met someone who asked me, “What’s Leave No Trace?”

The entire point of my hike was to educate about how to recreate responsibly. I wanted to bring awareness to how irresponsible recreation had affected the mountains I grew up in, and serve as a good example of the opposite. Outdoor education is my job, and I do believe that my hike helped inspire at least a few people, to do better and treat their local wild spaces with respect.

Like I said, I was greeted at the Western Terminus by my family, friends, and my dog, who had been staying with my parents, as he wasn’t allowed on large sections of the trail. I snacked on fresh fruit and quickly took my shoes off to give my feet a rest.

I was done. I’d walked every inch of this trail, and felt more connected to the place that raised me than I ever have. And now, it’s time for bigger hikes.

Happy trails.

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Comments 7

  • Jhony Yermo : Mar 1st

    I must tell you how much I adore your hiking and your writing. Been to so many of the places along the trial (I am a LA guy) and of course had heard of the BBT but never had seen a write-up by anyone who had done it. I just want to say a big THANK YOU for letting especially me follow along vicariously.
    Being older I do what I can as a day hiker and you have certainly inspired this old coot to do more!
    • I hope you have even more in store.
    All the best and thanks again.

  • Robert : Mar 1st

    I enjoyed about your excursion into the Backbone.
    Congratulations on a job well done. Very informative hiking notes you have provided as well. Where are you planning to hike next?

    • Halle Homel : Mar 3rd

      Thank you! If I’m able to get a permit, my next thru hike will be the Wonderland Trail this summer!

  • RC : Mar 1st

    Congratulations on finishing. Thank you for sharing. My friends and I planned to start section hiking the BBT last weekend, but the big rains pushed us back to mid March.

  • Carl Jackson : Mar 2nd

    Was very impressed with your blog. I want to know how your van is set up for your adventures. I have an older panel truck which I want to equip for travel and adventure. Would like any tips, you could offer. Thanks so much. Carl Jackson.

    • Halle Homel : Mar 3rd

      Thank you! I do have some vanlife content on my social media channels with van tours and tips!

  • Steve Hall : Mar 19th

    Check out the Jennie lake wilderness area no permits needed. Some great hiking in the area.


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