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California

All 67 miles of Backbone Trail are open 8 months after Woolsey fire

Backbone Trail in Santa Monica Mountains
Hikers traverse the Backbone Trail before the Woolsey fire closed it. On Thursday, the last six miles of the trail reopened.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The Backbone Trail, a 67-mile pathway in the Santa Monica Mountains, has fully reopened eight months after the devastating Woolsey fire.

The final six miles of the trail reopened Thursday for the first time since November’s Woolsey fire damaged the area that runs from the Kanan Road trailhead east to Corral Canyon Road. The National Park Service trail crew, in conjunction with the California Conservation Corps and the Trails Council of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, worked to restore the trails, a process further complicated by heavy winter storms.

“We know that the Backbone Trail is one of the most beloved trail experiences in the Los Angeles area, and we are delighted to reopen the full network to the public,” said David Szymanski, the Santa Monica Mountains’ superintendent.

Backbone Trail
 
(Los Angeles Times)

The Backbone Trail was completed in 2016 after a 40-year effort to acquire a tract of land that traverses one of Southern California’s largest undeveloped areas. The trail stretches from Point Mugu State Park to Will Rogers State Historic Park and was established with public funding and private donations from the likes of former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and fitness pioneer Betty Weider.

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“The Backbone Trail is important because it puts the Santa Monica Mountains on the map,” Ron Webster, one of the trail builders, said in 2016. “We may not have the biggest waterfalls or the biggest trees, but we do have the biggest ocean.”

Despite the trail’s opening, the Santa Monica Mountains are far from fully restored. The Woolsey fire burned nearly 100,000 acres — 88% of the area’s federal parkland, including 112 miles of trails and more than 30 structures.

“Most ecologists say it will take 10 to 20 years for the Santa Monica Mountains to look the way they did before the Woolsey fire came through,” Mark Mendelsohn, a National Park Service biologist, said shortly after the fire. “Of course, that depends on rainfall and drought.”

The park is currently exploring a multiyear rebuilding strategy that would prioritize facilities at Paramount Ranch, an area that included a western movie set that had most recently been used for HBO’s “Westworld.” The space was a regular destination for day adventurers.


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