Canyonback Trail

A ten mile out and back in Brentwood. This trail parallels all the other north-south fire roads in Topanga State Park and I had wondered about it for some time. It’s not listed in any guidebook as far as I know, and is located just beyond the border of my Tom Harrison map. I could see this fire road from Westridge Fire Road and even passed the upper trailhead while hiking on Dirt Mulholland. Recently I stumbled upon an online review and figured it was referring to my mystery trail. If you’ve hiked the other fire roads in the area then you’ll find it’s very similar only less crowded, both good things.

Driving Directions: From Pacific Coast Highway in Pacific Palisades, take Chautauqua Blvd. up to Sunset Blvd. Turn right on Sunset and drive 3.8 miles to the junction with Kenter Ave. Turn left on Kenter and drive 2.2 miles to the end of the road. Park on the street.

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View from the end of Kenter Ave. as the Sun rises over the Getty Museum and West LA.

3     4   The trail begins behind a fence, which would be quite difficult to get through were it not unlocked.  I hiked a few yards on a paved road to a junction with a dirt trail.  The two will intersect again and there are many options along the way, both high and low trails.  Just keep going north.

5   Another shot to the east


L.A. Opens It’s Eyes

7   This shot shows multiple trails running parallel to one another. When the trails met, I took the low trail on the western side of the ridge.  My goal was a long but not exhausting hike so I stayed away from the ups and downs of the ridgetop.

8     9     10   I passed an area that I assume is used by Freestyle BMX riders. There were a lot of steep ramps fashioned from hard packed dirt. I’m not sure how they construct these but they felt nearly as hard as cement.  Photos 2 and 3 – I’d like to see someone jump this small gap, maybe while doing a flip.

11     12     14   Photo 2 – Idyllic house at the bottom of Mandeville Canyon.  Photo 3 – I asked a few people the name of the canyon to the east of the trail. I was told Kenter Canyon.


Hiking to Heaven

15       16      17       18 19       20   After a couple of miles I reached an old paved road. This is where the trail begins to transition from a wild setting to a well-manicured Brentwood neighborhood.  The lower part of Canyonback Trail ends at a gate. I walked 0.4 miles through the neighborhood on Canyonback Road to get to the upper section of Canyonback Trail.  Photo 5 – The trailhead for Upper Canyonback Trail.  Photo 6 – Private golf course below


Now in view is the east-west ridge which Dirt Mulholland runs below. On this ridge, a mile or so from the junction of Canyonback Trail and Dirt Mulholland, is my turnaround point, the former Nike missile installation now known as San Vicente Mountain Park.

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On zoom, the former radar tower which sits in the center of the park.


Happy Dog

I’ve long had a theory concerning certain human behavior. All the things we can become addicted to, drugs, sex, food, gambling and so on, and all the healthy activities which we really enjoy, such as music, hiking, yoga or whatever it may be for you personally, all of these things are related and have one thing in common.  They bring us into the moment.  Pleasure and pain, distraction and danger, they bring our minds back to a more primitive state.  When truly in the moment, and those moments are so fleeting, we stop analyzing and instead observe and react.  Our minds need this break.  They desire and demand it.  Once, not long ago actually, we needed to constantly pay attention to our surroundings for the sake of survival, avoiding predators and finding food or potential mates. We had no complex language and therefor were incapable of forming complex, analytical thought.  We didn’t worry, we didn’t obsess, we didn’t kill ourselves with stress.  Now, to function in our civilization, we must constantly analyze and problem solve, and in fact spend most of our waking hours in this necessary but  unnatural state as the World and time pass us by.  It’s become a habit and a pattern in all of our lives and we have great difficulty shutting it off.  When hiking I try to stop thinking and let my senses take over.  I smell the flowers in the air, feel the earth beneath my boots, hear buzzing insects and bubbling streams.  I focus on what I am seeing, instead half seeing it and half thinking about something else that’s going on in my life.  Civilization and analytical thought separate us from our true nature.  On the trail I leave these things behind.  On the trail I become an animal again.

25     26   This hawk screeched loudly as he flew past.

27     28     29   Photo 3 – In the distance I spot Mount Lee and the end of the Santa Monica Mountain Range, home to the HOLLYWOOD Sign and Griffith Park. The antenna shown in the center of the photo, I believe, is the one I saw on My Fryman Canyon – Franklin Canyon and Mullholland Scenic Corridor hikes.

30     31     32   After four or so miles I reached Mulholland and made a left.  Photo 2 – Encino Reservoir  Photo 3 – Soon I reached San Vicente Mountain Park a.k.a. LA96C.  This relic of the Cold War once was part of a system which would detect enemies planes and launch missiles to intercept them before they could destroy Los Angeles.  Security was extremely tight.  Now all are welcome to rest, picnic and enjoy the expansive views.



The former radar tower is the big attraction here. Yes, it’s open to the public, anyone who is capable may climb to the platform on top.

36          37   I ascend the rock solid stairs.

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Top of the Radar Tower

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A couple of hazy shots to the south.

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In the distance to the east, the front range of the San Gabriel Mountains.  Mount Josephine to Mount Wilson and beyond.

45     46     47   I returned to ground level. Exploring, I squeezed between two fences to find a secret spot under the antenna.  I then headed over to a shady place with a few picnic tables to rest and eat lunch.


Encino Reservoir again, with Oat Mountain and the rest of the Santa Susanna Mountains in the background.

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51   I promised myself I’d tackle at least a couple of these ridgeline hills on the way back instead of just sticking to the easy route.

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Just a couple more miles now.

54     55   Nipple Mountain???

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Although hazy, there was still a good view of the Santa Monica Bay.

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I passed through the BMX ramps again.  This was a good day and after a couple of weeks off, I really needed this hike.  Thank you, Canyonback Trail.  One final thought, I recently received an email informing me that Silent Hiker had been chosen as one of the top 100 hiking blogs on the internet by This is quite an honor to be included in the company of so many great websites, particularly those based in Southern California which I’ve enjoyed reading for so many years: Modern Hiker, SoCal Hiker and Nobody Hikes in L.A. Thanks, Feedspot!

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