They say it’s a long way to the top, but if you choose a summer day to bag the highest peak in the Santa Monica Mountains, you’ll still have plenty of sunlight to summit a second peak. The 6-mile loop to lofty 3,111-foot Sandstone Peak is bragging rights in itself, but add on a detour to the summit of Tri Peaks and you’ve gone the extra mile—literally! All told, it’s a 7.25-mile twofer with 1,100 feet of elevation gain. The loop to these Malibu summits travels from the Sandstone Peak Trailhead up Mishe Mokwa Trail, paralleling the Echo Cliffs, vibrant orange walls popular with rock climbers. Two miles in, you’ll pass the teetering and teardrop-shaped Balanced Rock. The adjacent Split Rock Picnic Area makes a great first break. Halfway around the circuit, take the spur trail to Tri Peaks. Trudge up the rugged half-mile to Tri Peaks’ summit, a jumble of rock towers overlooking the green canyons of Point Mugu State Park on the Pacific side. Return to the loop and hike another 2 miles to Sandstone Peak, Malibu’s biggest prize. Views extend west across the Pacific as far as the Channel Islands and inland across the San Fernando Valley toward Mount Baldy in the San Gabriel Mountains. Snap your King of the Mountain photo and enjoy the brisk mile-and-a-half jaunt back down.
BONUS: For some melt-in-your-mouth fish and chips, head to Neptune’s Net, where Yerba Buena Road and PCH meet.
Sandstone Peak is at the west end of the Santa Monica Mountains. Take PCH to the Ventura County side of Malibu. Drive inland up Yerba Buena Rd. for 5.5 windy miles to the Circle X Ranch Ranger Station. Stop to pick up a copy of the trail map and continue another mile to the well-marked turnout for Sandstone Peak Trail. Hike one-third of a mile up the trail and make a right at the first junction on a connector to the Mishe Mokwa Trail. Continue counterclockwise around the well-marked loop, following signs for the peaks. Dog-friendly!