Backbone Trail blocked at the west end of Etz Meloy Mtwy

A locked gate has been blocking the Backbone Trail (BBT) at the west end of Etz Meloy Motorway since mid-October. This interupts a very popular ride from the parking area on Encinal Canyon Road to the Mishe Mokwa Trailhead, covering the two newest singletrack sections of the Backbone Trail.

There has been a standard fireroad gate there for years, but apparently some months ago a side gate appeared that completely blocks passage along the road. This side gate was usually open or unlocked, but was permanently locked at about the time of the federal governement shutdown in October. This led to speculation that it was the National Park Service (NPS), owner of most of the land around this section of the BBT, who closed off the trail to keep people off of federal property during the government shutdown.

However, the locked gate was a surprise to the NPS as much as to the rest of us. Apparently one of the private landowners in the area has locked the gate. One rumor is that it is to keep noisy and littering partiers out.

Etz Meloy Access

Some of the land crossed by Etz Meloy Mtwy at the west end is still in private hands. The NPS is actively trying to acquire this propery or make some other arrangements with the landowners to allow public access. Until that happens, the west end of Etz Meloy has been and continutes to be closed to public access (see map above). The NPS asks that members of the public stay off of this section to help engender his cooperation in discussions to allow everyone to use this trail.

CORBA will provide more information as it becomes available.

14 Responses to “Backbone Trail blocked at the west end of Etz Meloy Mtwy”

  1. Steve Clark says:

    Since I originally posted this article, I have learned that the NPS is requesting everyone to stay off the section of Etz Meloy that is closed to public access. I have updated the blog to reflect this request.

  2. Keith Levites says:

    I am a private landowner with 700+ feet of est meloy frontage, I to am effected since I boarder these @3%%$

  3. Steve Clark says:

    There was a query recently about this route since the gate seems to be open all or most of the time now. The NPS is still trying to get public access to the west end of Etz Meloy. As these always do, the NPS processes and negotiating with the landowner are going very slowly. We should expect this to take months or more to resolve.

    Meanwhile, the NPS is still requesting that we stay off the privately-held west end of Etz Meloy. The presence of the public is irritating to the landowners and is interfering with the NPS’s goal of gaining our eventual permanent access.

  4. vandall bondage says:

    This gate is still locked as of July 11 2014
    So infuriating.
    One day… Karma..

  5. Stan Ogle says:

    We had a group ride last night, went to the gate; we had not yet seen this information. We will gladly try to respect the strategy and stay away; however, It might be a good idea to post some kind of information (sign) on the Etz Meloy trail, to help riders and hikers know where these boundaries are. Some of us have used this trail for decades, hard to take when it suddenly gets closed.

    Perhaps it would be a good idea if this information was posted somewhere so riders do not have to go all the way to the gate and further frustrate this individual… There are other trail areas where the landowners have posted information to expedite their personal expectations “Quiet Please” or “Private Property” Someone must have been very frustrated to cause them to construct such a massive deterrent, make me curious about who they were really trying to keep out? Most mountain bike riders are courteous and helpful and would likely respect a boundary if they understood where it was and why it was there.

    I would be glad to participate in a dialog with anyone in an attempt to resolve this situation. Access to the Santa Monica Mountain range is a great part of living here. I have hiked with my children and biked with my friends for as long as I can remember. If we could all simply respect for the land and each other I’m sure we could resolve this issue.

    Thanks, Stan

    • markmtb says:

      Hi Stan,

      Thanks for the info, and your concern. We too are frustrated at this situation, but unfortunately there’s not much we as an organization can do when it comes to private land owners. For further information and to become involved, you can call Melanie Beck at the National Park Service at 805-370-2300.
      -Mark Langton

  6. Ken Robinson says:

    I concur with Mr. Ogle for the need of some sort of signage to alert riders of the gate on the eastern portion of the Etz Meloy. Little Sycamore Canyon Road is literally within yards of the gate, so riders coming from the east are inclined to loiter at it, talk, and generally aggravate the issue.

    I’ll give Melanie a call and see if there’s anything else that can be done to help move things along.


  7. dedo says:

    I was up there for the first time, love the ride. However land owners acting like a horses rear in constructing the gates(there are 2) when they could have easily constructed them in front of the driveway and not the access road to the driveway is just ridiculous and spiteful. Yes karma will take place, hopefully soon.

  8. steve says:

    There are now three gates as of 7/30/2015.

    I spoke with a representative of the Santa Monica Mountains and was told that the situation is “intractable.” The parks are looking at an alternative route connecting the publicly accessible backbone trail sections.

    There are no public meetings to discuss this. I was told its an internal goal and that is high amongst the goals of the superintendent for next years centennial celebration.

    That being said, it sounds like a survey of an alternative route is being proposed. They have to survey the land for archeological impacts as well as impacting endangered species.

    As for helping to design the new trail, I asked about volunteering to dig holes. I was told there is a trail crew set to do it once approved.

    As for obtaining new information, the best source is to continue calling the visitor center for Santa Monica Mountains @1.805.370.2300.

    For those who want to see the land parcels in question, you can go online at and enter the following 10-digit APNs (Assessor Parcel Number):

    694-0-210-330 and 694-0-220-030.

    694 = Book Number
    0 = ?
    210 = page 21 + appended 0
    330 = parcel 33 + appended 0; 030 = parcel 3 = appended 0

    This will show the parcels which contain the backbone trail for the section that is closed.

  9. michael says:

    Much better to create a new trail, but if that cannot be accomplished, there may be another way – unfortunately, it would involve expense and legal action: California law allow for a “Prescriptive Easement” to be created across land, granting a right of use, even if the user is not the owner. Four conditions need to be met (I am paraphrasing what I read online – I am not an attorney):

    1) The claimant (in this case, we as bike riders or hikers) must utilize the land openly in a way that the land owner is clearly aware of the use.

    2) This use must be continuous and uninterrupted for five years; note the law defines this to mean even occasional use – this does not have to be a daily event.

    3) The users must be claiming a right to use the easement (trail, in this case).

    4) The users must not be on notice that they are not allowed this passage. In this case, prior to land owners putting up fences blocking the trail, we had every reason to believe we were allowed to use it.

  10. Chuck Ungermann says:

    It appears that construction has started on a trail to the east of Yerba Buena/Little Sycamore Backbone trailhead that circumvents the gate. A person I spoke to on Backbone yesterday said the new trail is supposed to be complete by the summer of 2016. If true, this is great news. Does anyone have any details?

    • Steve J says:

      The new trail now has “Caution” tape on it – Progress!

      In the meanwhile, we park at the Mishe Mokwa lot, and hike over to the Yerba Buena Road access point, then turn around, and take the Yellow Hill trail up to the Triunfo Peak fire lookout, then back down the scramble to the Backbone trail, and back to the Mishe Mokwa lot. Nice hike, but watch out for the broken glass all over the fire lookout grounds.

      • Steve Clark says:

        I have learned that the NPS has started the trail, but while it is under construction, it is closed to public access. Please stay off it until they have finished it and officially opened it to the public. Thanks.

  11. Steve Clark says:

    Great news! The gates are now irrelevant because the National Park Service has built a new singletrack to bypass the private property at the west end of Etz Meloy. The new trail officially opened on National Trails Day, June 4 2016. The new trail extends the Yerba Buena segment across Yerba Buena Road and up to Etz Meloy Motorway.

    At the same time, the Schwartzenegger section was opened as well. The Backbone Trail is now complete with no gaps!