That miles-from-everything feeling starts before you’ve taken a single step on the hike to Topanga Lookout, high in the Santa Monica Mountains. The 10.2-mile out-and-back route up Hondo Canyon packs views of peaks, valleys, and the Pacific. Start along the open, grassy fields on the Backbone Trail
in the verdant canyon before a shaded climb takes you through a forest of fragrant California bays. At Fossil Trail, you’ve gone 3.6 miles. The next 1.5 miles to Topanga Lookout is a push, but ocean views keep things interesting and the occasional sea breeze ushers you along. Top out at the graffiti-tagged abandoned fire lookout and take in 360-degree views: Gaze east far beyond the grand ridges cradling Topanga—all the way to LA basin. Look north across San Fernando Valley and you’ll spot the Santa Susana Mountains. And in the west views stretch from nearby Calabasas Peak and Saddle Peak all the way to Sandstone Peak. Long view for a long summer day.
TIP: Post-hike, refresh with a margarita and fajitas on the creekside patio at Abuelitas on South Topanga Canyon Blvd., just south of the turnoff for the trailhead.
From Topanga Canyon Blvd., 4.3 miles inland from PCH and 8 miles south of the 101, turn west onto Old Topanga Canyon Rd. The trailhead is 0.4-mile up on the left. Look for the Backbone Trail sign and park on either side of the road. To reach the lookout, hike 3.6 miles to the top of Hondo Canyon and turn right on Fossil Trail. Turn right again after 0.6-mile onto the paved Topanga Ridge Mountainway. A quarter mile up, turn left to the lookout. All but the final junction are well marked. Return the way you came. No bikes or dogs.