Trails of

Encinal Canyon Road to Corral Canyon Backbone Trail area, including Zuma Canyon and Zuma Ridge 


Two riders coming up the Backbone Trail between  Latigo Canyon Rd and the Saddle.

Overview

Most the trails in this area provide some great routes for intermediate to advanced hikers and bikers. There is a real diversity of conditions, but all of it it is challenging. The almost 9 miles of Backbone singletrack between Zuma Ridge and Corral Canyon descends into and climbs out of 4 canyons, while the Zuma Ridge Motorway provides some spectacular views of the Malibu coast and a great workout. For a climbing challenge, nothing compares to the Zuma Canyon Edison Rd, part of the Upper Zuma Loop ride, with over 6000 feet of climbing in about 18 miles. The trails in lower Zuma Canyon are closed to mountain bikes. They are easily accessible from Malibu and are very popular amoung hikers and equestrians. Some of the trails in this area are not too long and have only a small amount of climbing so they can be enjoyed by hikers of any experience level. 

Map Key

  Printable map (1.6 MB)

 Aerial View


Looking north from above Point Dume. This view is from Google Earth

Trailheads

There are several major parking areas that give direct access to the trails.

a. Encinal Canyon Road, about 1.2 miles east of Decker Canyon Rd. Map and directions.
b. Encinal Canyon Road, south side. Map and directions.
c. Encinal Canyon Road, west side, 0.2 miles south of Zuma Ridge Motorway. Map and directions.
d. Kanan Road, west side, immediately north of Tunnel #1. Map and directions.
e. Latigo Canyon Road, east side, about 3 miles east of Kanan. Map and directions.
f. Newton Motorway, just off of Latigo Canyon Rd. Map and directions.
g. North end of Corral Canyon Road. Map and directions.
h. North end of Busch Drive. Map and directions.
i. North end of Bonsall Drive. Map and directions.

Geocaches in the area

Trails

[1] The Backbone Trail, Zuma Ridge to Corral Canyon T2.5 to T4
(Watch the Video!)

Description There are two sections of the Backbone trail that experienced riders love. This is one and the other is Rogers Road. Usually we park on Kanan in the lot just north of the tunnel closest to the beach and ride east to Corral Canyon Rd. Except for a couple hundred yards, this is entirely singletrack. The trail goes through three canyons so there's a good amount of climbing;  mostly it's firm and well maintained, but there are some sections that are quite loose and rocky. The easiest section, at least on the way out, and possibly the most fun, is between the Saddle and Corral Canyon parking area. Here is the description of that part.

The ride starts at Kanan with a very steep and usually rocky and loose climb or push up above the road and over the tunnel. From there it continues to climb, then descends to the first canyon. The climb up to Latigo Canyon Rd has a number of ruts and small steps that are really fun on the way back going downhill. After crossing Latigo the trail soon starts downhill. There is one short stretch shortly into the downhill that good riders can ride down and great riders can ride up on the way back. The climb up to the saddle has one loose, rocky section that almost everyone walks, so don't feel badly if you can't ride it. We normally take a break at the saddle to wait for everyone to catch up and maybe have a snack. As mentioned above, the last part to Corral Canyon road is really fun. At the Corral Canyon Rd parking area we turn around and ride back.

Sometimes, for an extra challenge, at the end of the ride we'll continue past Kanan to Zuma Ridge. This is probably the easiest part of the Backbone in this area and is great for intermediate riders but will be a challenge in places for novices. The trail always seems to be in great shape, but it has a deceptive amount of climbing. And occasionally we start at Zuma Ridge and ride to Corral Canyon and back, but you have to be in really great shape for this.

These trails are also great for hikers, of course. However, given the distance, it's best to plan a shuttle, keeping in mind that it's a very long drive from anywhere on the Backbone Trail to the Corral Canyon parking lot. A simpler option is to break the trail into a number of shorter out-and-back hikes.

Technical Ratings

  • Zuma Ridge to Kanan: T2.5
  • Kanan to Latigo Canyon Rd: T3 (except for the first climb over the tunnel: T4 )
  • Latigo Canyon Rd to the Saddle: T4
  • The Saddle to Corral Canyon Rd: T3

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

 Length (miles)

 8.8 total, 6.3 from Kanan-Dume to Corral Canyon

Climb (feet)

 2500 total, west to east, 1950 from Kanan-Dume to Corral Canyon

Descent (feet)

 2000 total, west to east, 1450 from Kanan-Dume to Corral Canyon

Trail Profile      Back to the Top


[2] Backbone Trail, Encinal Canyon Rd to Zuma Ridge T2.5

Description This section of the Backbone Trail unfortunately doesn't quite make it all the way to Zuma Ridge. The last half mile crosses private property and is not open to the public (dashed blue line on the map above)

The Trancas Canyon section of the Backbone singletrack starts across Encinal Canyon Road and a few hundred yards east of Clark Ranch Road. It drops into Trancas Canyon and comes back out at the Trancas Canyon Trail, an Edison Rd. The lower section of this trail goes though a lovely, shady oak forest. The climb out on the east side is moderately steep and often a little loose and dusty late in the year.

In the springtime, a great place to see wildflowers is the western part of this trail where it descends into Trancas Canyon.

A few dozen yards along the Trancas Canyon Trail (Edison Rd) brings you to the trail across private land on the north side of the trail.

There are a few trails that cross the Backbone in the area of Encinal, both north and south of it, shown as dashed blue lines on the map. These were built by the crews of the nearby fire station who use them to practice their fire skills. The National Park Service, the local land manager, requests that the public stays on the Backbone Trail and off of these other trail.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

 Length (miles)

2.2

Climb (feet)

700 (West to east)

Descent (feet)

300

Technical Rating T2.5

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

[3] Waterfall Trail HO ; T2.5

Description This trail gives access to a beautiful waterfall on Zuma Canyon Creek that is very close to the Kanan Road trailhead for the Backbone Trail. It starts about 550 yards from Kanan, just before the Backbone Trail starts to climb again. A few yards along the Waterfall Trail is a spur that leads to an overlook, but you get a better view if you climb down to the the stream. The trail down starts about 100 yards from the Backbone trail and is quite steep but not very long (HO ; T4 ). The trip down is well worth it!

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating HO ; T2.5 ; T4

 Length (miles)

 0.15

Climb (feet)

 120 (East to west)

Descent (feet)

 20

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[4] Trancas Canyon Trail T1

Description This is a well-maintained Edison road that is accessible from Encinal Canyon Rd, where there is some parking along the side of the road near the entrance, and from the Backbone Trail. It's a fairly easy climb and descent, but keep in mind that the only way out is back the way you came. Near the bottom, at a fork, the road becomes completely overgrown to the left but has a bit of a trail hacked through it. This road used to connect to Zuma Ridge Motorway, but a landslide several years ago wiped out a section of the road in the middle, making it completely impassible. The road continues down as far as the next Edison tower. Although this is a fireroad and is probably prohivitively hot and dead in the summer, it's really pretty in the spring when all the blooms are out; it's fun to ride on several soft grassy sections.

The section just about the highest point has a great view west towards Sandstone peak. Further down you can see the ocean from places.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

 Length (miles)

2.2

Climb (feet)

670 (North to south)

Descent (feet)

870

Technical Rating T1

Trail Profile      Back to the Top


[5] Zuma Ridge Motorway T3

Description The Zuma Ridge Motorway is a fireroad that starts at Encinal Canyon Rd, climbs about 1000 feet to the crest before dropping down two and a half thousand feet into Malibu. Even though it's a fireroad, it has three real advantages over the fantastic Backbone Trail singletrack that intersects it. First, it has tremendous views of the coast and, when it's really clear, the Channel Islands. Second, when it's wet, the Backbone Trail quickly becomes a quagmire of super sticky, rubber-clinging mud, but Zuma Ridge is made up mostly of sand and broken sandstone so it sheds water quite well, similar to Space Mountain. This is a good place to ride or hike in the winter. Third, If you're looking for a really good workout, this road has a lot of climbing! The top half is part of the infamous Upper Zuma Loop ride that has over 5000 feet of climbing in about 18 miles. Even if you don't want that much exercise, a simple out and back has 3500 feet of descent and climbing over twelve miles. As you can see from the profile below, it's a pretty constant grade, and too steep for many riders.

Even though it's a fireroad, this trail is rated T3 because the surface is uneven and unpredictable. In the summer, even though most of the surface is very firm, some of the corners are sandy and it's easy to get up too much speed and wash out on a turn. Year round, there are sections that are somewhat rocky, but again, firm. And in the winter, there are generally some ruts to add to the challenge.

One note of caution. With all the climbing on this trail, it's best to avoid it when it's hot out, so this is really a route for the fall, winter and spring.

If you think this trail is steep, see how it compares to other steep trails.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

 Length (miles)

5.9

Climb (feet)

1100 (Encinal Canyon Rd to Malibu)

Descent (feet)

2400

Technical Rating T3

Trail Profile      Back to the Top


[6] Zuma Edison Rd T1

Description This fireroad is a key part of the Upper Zuma Loop ride, connecting Zuma Ridge with Kanan-Dume Rd. Starting at Zuma Ridge, a little over a third of the way down from Buzzard's Roost (the intersection is just a hundred yards or so beachside of the power lines you go under), the road starts with a fairly steep drop into Zuma Canyon, crosses the sandy, when dry, or rushing Zuma Creek, then climbs over the next ridge and down to Kanan. In the picture to the right, the descent can be seen in the foreground and the climb out is in the distance. The road is in good shape, fairly smooth and firm, but the climb out is the real challenge. It is generally considered to be harder than Bulldog, even though there's only about 1500 feet of climbing, about two thirds as much as Bulldog.

Once you get down to Kanan-Dume road, it's a fairly easy ride uphill on Kanan and through the tunnel to get to the Backbone Trail parking area, or you can turn downhill about a half mile to continue on Dume Canyon Motorway, the next stage of the Upper Zuma Loop ride.

This trail is for very strong riders only!

If you think this trail is steep, see how it compares to other steep trails.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

 Length (miles)

4.8

Climb (feet)

1500, approximately (West to east)

Descent (feet)

2000, approximately

Technical Rating T1

Trail Profile      Back to the Top


[7] Dume Canyon Mtwy, Ramera Mtwy and Newton Mtwy T1

Description This is a key part of the Upper Zuma Loop ride, connecting the east end of the Kanan-Edison Rd with the Backbone Trail at the Saddle. It is 100% pavement and fireroad, although not as easy as one might think due to the relentless climbing, especially after climbing out of Zuma Canyon. This part of the route starts across Kanan from the bottom of the Kanan-Edison Rd. Dume Canyon Motorway is paved and has some vehicle traffic on it, but not much. After about a mile of climbing, there is a sharp left turn onto Ramera Motorway, which is also paved. This road follows the ridgeline and, typical of such roads, has short climbs and descents that are on the steep side. After another mile, the pavement gives way to dirt and it gets a little steeper. Cross Latigo Canyon Rd to get onto Newton Motorway, also dirt, and no less steep. It crests after about a half mile, then descends to the Saddle where the Backbone Trail singletrack crosses it.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

 Length (miles)

3.75

Climb (feet)

1500

Descent (feet)

400

Technical Rating T1

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

[8] Zuma Canyon Connector Trail T2

Description This singletrack connects the Zuma Edison Rd at the top to the Kanan-Edison Rd at the bottom. It is moderatly steep, but not so steep that a strong rider would have to walk any of it. It's well-travelled and overall in pretty good shape, except a few short steeper sections are a little loose. This is a fun trail to ride down and the fun continues all the way to Kanan Road on the Kanan-Edison Road.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating T2

 Length (miles)

 0.75

Climb (feet)

 50 (North to south)

Descent (feet)

 390

Trail Profile      Back to the Top

 

[9] Kanan-Edison Road T1 - T2.5

Description This road can be broken into three segments. The northern-most 0.8 miles is a moderate climb up from Kanan Rd and is well-maintained. The next 500 yards is somewhat overgrown but easy to travel and fairly level. These first two segments have a rating of T1 . The rest, from where it meets the Zuma Canyon Connector Trail singletrack, has narrowed to a singletrack. This section is mostly downhill and rates T2.5 . The last 150 yards, where the trail turns north-east to reach Kanan Road, is a little more rutted and technical.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating T1 (From Kanan to the Zuma Cyn Connector Trail);

 Length (miles)

 2.8

Climb (feet)

 350 (North to south)

Descent (feet)

 1050

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[10] Zuma Canyon Trail T2.5

Description This trail starts at the parking area at the north end of Bonsall Drive and runs along the bottom of Zuma Canyon, crossing the creek in several places. This is a popular trail and on weekends you can expect to see several groups of hikers and equestrians. The trail surface is mostly a little soft and sandy. It ends after about a mile and a half, but you can continue by making your way up the creekbed if you like hopping between rocks and climbing boulders.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating T2.5

 Length (miles)

 1.4

Climb (feet)

 300 (South to north)

Descent (feet)

 100

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[11] Scenic Trail NB ; T2.5

Description This is a short loop trail that connects to the Zuma Canyon Trail on both ends. It is almost level but is somewhat loose and trenched from horse traffic.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating NB ; T2.5

 Length (miles)

 0.2

Climb (feet)

 30

Descent (feet)

 15

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[12] Canyon View Trail NB ; T3

Description This broad singletrack climbs from the bottom of the canyon up to the Kanan-Edison Rd on the ridge to the east. It's moderately steep and loose from horse traffic with a mild trench going down the middle. From this trail you'll have good views of the canyon and Zuma Ridge to the west. With the Ocean View Trail and Zuma Canyon Trail, it provides a popular route for hikers and equestrians.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating NB ; T3

 Length (miles)

 1.4

Climb (feet)

 750

Descent (feet)

 155

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[13] Ocean View Trail NB ; T3.5

Description With the Canyon View Trail and Zuma Canyon Trail, this trail provides a popular route for hikers and equestrians. It is a broad singletrack and mostly quite firm, except for the top third where it is steeper, very loose and deeply trenched. The best views are to the north of the Canyon View Trail, and to the west of Zuma Ridge. There's a stream crossing at the bottom so if there's a lot of water in Zuma Creek, it may be best to plan not to hike on this trail.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating NB ; T3.5

 Length (miles)

 1.1

Climb (feet)

 630

Descent (feet)

 30

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[14] Zuma Loop Trail NB ; T3

Description This trail climbs up the west side of the canyon towards Zuma Ridge and back down again, starting and ending at the Zuma Canyon Trail. In the steeper parts it becomes somewhat rocky and loose which is where its T3 rating comes from. When it descends back into the canyon at the north end it goes through a shaded, heavily treed area.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating NB ; T3

 Length (miles)

 1.1

Climb (feet)

 390 (South to north)

Descent (feet)

 350

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[15] Ridge-Canyon Access Trail NB ; T2.5

Description This well-used trail links the Zuma Ridge Motorway trailhead with the Zuma Canyon Trails via the Zuma Loop Trail.

Download the GPS track to help you find your way.

Technical Rating NB ; T2.5

 Length (miles)

 0.45

Climb (feet)

 250 (Zuma Canyon to Zuma Ridge)

Descent (feet)

 20

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This page last updated on August 19, 2011

 

Thanks for looking at Steve's guide to trails in Ventura County, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) and other locations.