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Hike above the mists to the top of Saddle Peak in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Saddle Peak, a notable high point along the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains, consists of two 2800-foot summits: one topped by antennas and fenced off, the other one barren but viewful. Both preside over a coastline that is only 2.5 miles away. During the early morning, especially this time of year, the peak often stands head and shoulders above a mock ocean of coastal fog. If you can somehow arrive early for a visit, the magic of warm sunlight on the pillowy upper surface of the clouds is a memorable sight.

You can make use of one of the newer sections of the Backbone Trail, starting at Stunt Road, for the climb to the top. From Woodland Hills or Calabasas in the San Fernando Valley, take Mulholland Highway about 5 miles southwest to Stunt Road, and follow Stunt Road 2.9 miles uphill to a small roadside turnout (or drive an additional 0.1 mile to a larger turnout).

The hike begins at the mile 2.9 turnout. Proceed uphill on a 0.2-mile-long connector trail leading to the Backbone Trail. Then go left, rising and zigzagging through a chaparral-covered landscape that at first may seem tedious. This section of trail is but one small segment of the not-quite-finished 55-mile footpath running along the backbone of the Santa Monica Mountains.

By 1.2 miles into the hike, you reach some blocky sandstone outcrops that lend a spectacular air to the spacious views stretching north -- assuming you are not still enveloped in fog. Listen for the whoosh of the wings of cliff swallows as they soar and dive among these crags.

At 1.4 miles, turn right (south) on a side trail heading uphill 0.1 mile to a gravel road. Make a left to reach the nearby east (and publicly accessible) peak or a right to reach the "saddle," or low point, of the Saddle Peak summit.

It is also possible to reach Saddle Peak using an east segment of the Backbone Trail, starting from Saddle Peak Road. This is a slightly shorter and decidedly less scenic approach. Or, if you are a glutton for exercise and wish to add about four miles onto the round trip, start hiking at the foot of the Stunt High Trail, a mile from Mulholland Highway.

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Saddle Peak, a notable high point along the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains, consists of two 2800-foot summits: one topped by antennas and fenced off, the other one barren but viewful. Both preside over a coastline that is only 2.5 miles away. During the early morning, especially this time of year, the peak often stands head and shoulders above a mock ocean of coastal fog. If you can somehow arrive early for a visit, the magic of warm sunlight on the pillowy upper surface of the clouds is a memorable sight.

You can make use of one of the newer sections of the Backbone Trail, starting at Stunt Road, for the climb to the top. From Woodland Hills or Calabasas in the San Fernando Valley, take Mulholland Highway about 5 miles southwest to Stunt Road, and follow Stunt Road 2.9 miles uphill to a small roadside turnout (or drive an additional 0.1 mile to a larger turnout).

The hike begins at the mile 2.9 turnout. Proceed uphill on a 0.2-mile-long connector trail leading to the Backbone Trail. Then go left, rising and zigzagging through a chaparral-covered landscape that at first may seem tedious. This section of trail is but one small segment of the not-quite-finished 55-mile footpath running along the backbone of the Santa Monica Mountains.

By 1.2 miles into the hike, you reach some blocky sandstone outcrops that lend a spectacular air to the spacious views stretching north -- assuming you are not still enveloped in fog. Listen for the whoosh of the wings of cliff swallows as they soar and dive among these crags.

At 1.4 miles, turn right (south) on a side trail heading uphill 0.1 mile to a gravel road. Make a left to reach the nearby east (and publicly accessible) peak or a right to reach the "saddle," or low point, of the Saddle Peak summit.

It is also possible to reach Saddle Peak using an east segment of the Backbone Trail, starting from Saddle Peak Road. This is a slightly shorter and decidedly less scenic approach. Or, if you are a glutton for exercise and wish to add about four miles onto the round trip, start hiking at the foot of the Stunt High Trail, a mile from Mulholland Highway.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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