Boney Peak, Santa Monica Mountains

Mt. Boney background

Anyone driving South on the 101 over the Conejo Grade has had a glimpse of Boney Peak.  Boney Peak is one of the many peaks which make up Boney Mountain, which includes the Tri-Peaks.  I’ve hiked to the peak six times and I am still unsure if I love it or hate it.  What I do enjoy is the cloak and dagger, unofficial, untamed, it-doesn’t-exist-on-a-map reputation.  Once you go beyond Danielson’s Monument there is no trail to be found on official maps.  So I am here to tell you about it.  I can get you there (but you really can’t miss the trail).


There has been ranching in this area since the early 1800’s.  This area of California was once under Spanish rule from 1769-1821.  In 1803,  two Spanish soldiers, Jose Polanco and Ygnacio Rodriguez where granted 48,572 acres of the area.  They called it “Rancho El Conejo”.  The Rancho encompassed what is now Newbury Park, Thousand Oaks and Westlake Village.  Polanco lost his land due to neglect.  What he did I do not know, but in 1822 his property was granted to Jose de la Guerra y Noriega.

Mt. Boney Jose del Guerra
Jose de la Guerra y Noriega.

The Mexican-American war occurred between 1846-1848.  The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the war.  As a consequences, the cession of California from Mexico to the United States occurred in 1848 following the Mexican-American War.  The Treaty of Guadalupe Hildago had provisions which honored the land grants in the Conejo Valley.  The properties remained in the de la Guerra families and Rodriguez until the 1860s.   During this time a drought decimated the local cattle and the two families began selling the property.

Mt. BoneyMexican–American_War_(without_Scott's_Campaign)-en_svg
The map of the borders of Mexico and the United States before and after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildago. Photo Credit: Google Images

In 1937 Carl Beal, a wealthy petroleum geologist, purchased nearly 8,000 acres of the property and named the area Rancho Sierra Vista.  He built most of the ranch buildings and houses you will see on the property during the hike.  Beal constructed a system of wells, springs, dams and reservoirs that provided water to his ranch.  You can still see some of the 14 miles of steel pipes used to move the water as you hike along the trails.

Carl Beal
Carl H. Beal is credited for finding much of the oil here in California and in Mexico. He wrote numerous geology books. Finding a picture of him proved difficult. This photo was actually taken by him in Mexicali, Mexico after an earthquake in 1915 and published in several Southern California newspapers. Photo Credit: Carl H. Beal


In 1947 Richard Ely Danielson, Jr. purchased the property from Carlton Beal (Carl Beal’s Grandson) for approximately $500,000.  Danielson had inherited a substanial fortune from who grandfather (founder of International Harvester).  Mr. Danielson lived with his family in Los Angeles and would often visit Rancho Sierra Vista.  Danielson donated 5,585 acres of the ranch to the State of California from 1972-73.  When he decided to retire in the 70’s he said that he donated the property because “…it was just too beautiful for any one man to own.”  He sold 850 acres, including the horse ranch, to the National Park Service in 1980.  Thus the National/State Parks sign as you enter the park.

You enter the park from Via Goleta Rd from Lynn Rd. Photo Credit: Aries Moon Adventures

Richard Ely Danielson, Jr. on the left of this picture. Photo Credit: Google Images

Mr. Danielson passed away December 27, 1988.  The Danielson Monument was erected as a tribute to him among Sycamore and Oak trees.  He and his family would often stay at this spot. He is buried there.  Plots are reserved their for the rest of his family.

Peace, Love, and Joy at the Danielson Monument. If you look closely to the riser on the left you see a rifle, to the left is a fishing rod. I think I finally noticed that on my fifth trip up there. Photo Credit: Aries Moon Adventures

According to the National Parks Conservation Association, “the majority of the barns, equipment sheds, well and staff residences from this period (1936-1946) remain, making Rancho Sierra Vista historically significant as one of the last intact 20th-century ranches in the Santa Monica Mountains.

A view of the ranch buildings from the trail, immediately beyond the parking lot. Photo Credit: Aries Moon Adventures

The Hike

Type of Route: Out and Back
Distance: 8-11
Peak Elevation: 2,903 ft
Elevation Gain: 1,100 ft
Time: 4-6 hrs
Difficulty: moderate to strenuous
Dogs Permitted: Yes on the lower part of the hike. Dogs cannot be on the Federal property.  Signs are posted where dogs can and can’t hike.  I would suggest not taking a dog to avoid the confusion.
Permit: none
Fee: none

Mt. Boney map
Map of hike to Boney Peak. This is an official map. You will see that the person who shared this map drew in the trail to Boney Peak beyond Danielson Monument.  If you look on the bottom right you’ll see “Backbone”. This is part of Sandstone Peak featured in my previous blog. Photo Credit: Google Images.

It was very difficult to give the stats for this hike.  You can choose to begin from the Trail head 0.3 miles from the Satwiwa Culture Center (I begin here) or from Wendy Drive.  You can visit the waterfall or not.  Depending on the routes you choose, you will be hiking 8.3-11.0 miles.

The Hike

I begin the hike by entering the Rancho Sierra Vista Park on Via Goleta and Lynn Road in Newbury Park.  The gate opens at 8:00 a.m.  Many hikers and bicyclists park outside of the gate to get an earlier start.  I’ve done this a number of times.  It is about 3/4 of a mile to the trail head if you walk.

You enter the park from Via Goleta Rd from Lynn Rd. Photo Credit: Aries Moon Adventures
The gate entrance from Via Goleta Rd. Photo Credit: Aries Moon Adventures.

On the way to the main parking, you will see an “over-flow” parking lot on your left.  At the main parking lot there are restrooms, a water fountain and a working pay-phone.

Occasionally there will be events at the park necessitating the use of the overflow parking. Photo Credit: Aries Moon Adventures
The Main parking lot. Photo Credit: Aries Moon Adventures.

From here it is a 0.3 mile walk to the Satwiwa Native American Indian Cultural Center.

Most of the trails in this areas have signs posted to help you on your way. Many of the hikes intersect. Photo Image: Aries Moon Adventures
Original ranch homes. Photo Image: Aries Moon Adventures
Along this sandy shaded path you will catch glimpses of Boney Peak. Photo Credit: Aries Moon Adventures
At this point you will cross the paved road to the red bridge. If you continue along the paved road you will eventually get to the Pacific Ocean. The trail is 8 miles one way and a good distance training hike. Photo Image: Aries Moon Adventures
Once you cross this bridge, you will take the bridge to the right. Taking it to the left will lead you to the Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center. Photo Image: Aries Moon Adventures
Example of a Chumash dwelling or ‘ap is on the grounds of the Center.  It is made from Willow trees and Tule. Photo Credit: Aries Moon Adventures
Satwiwa means “the bluffs”.  It was the name of a local Chumash Village. The center was established by the National Park Service in partnership with the Friends of Satwiwa. The garden has a path which displays many plants native to the area. Photo Credit: Google Images
Mt. Boney Inside Center
The Center displays a variety of native Chumash items. Native American workshops, programs and art shows occur throughout the year. Photo Credit: Google Images

When you go over the red bridge and take the path to the right away from the cultural center you are on the Big Sycamore Canyon Trail. This crosses over the meadow which in the summertime is dry and brown but in the winter and spring it’s beautifully green and grown over with grass.  At the end of this meadow you will continue up along a fairly steep hill.  You will pass three different trail heads on the way up to the bench.  These hikes are for another day.  Carry On.

Continuing on Big Sycamore Canyon Trail. Photo Credit: Aries Moon Adventures
Sycamore Canyon Overlook Bench. Photo Credit: Aries Moon Adventures

You will continue up the hill until you come to a crossroad.  Stay to the right and you will be entering the Boney Mountain Wilderness area within Point Mugu State Park. At this point, dogs are no longer allowed for the rest of this hike. This trail is referred to as Danielson Road. After .4 miles, you will reach the bottom of the canyon.

The path at this point is rutted and rocky. Watch your step! Photo Credit: Aries Moon Adventures
Rangers are often on the trail. They will turn you around if you bring a dog. Personal experience. Photo Credit: Aries Moon Adventures
You are going downhill at this point. You can see the switchbacks up to Danielson’s Monument to the right. Photo Credit: Aries Moon Adventures
You have reached the bottom of the canyon. This area is the most highly trafficked. In the winter months there will be water crossings to get to the Monument and the waterfall. Photo Credit: Aries Moon Adventures

If you have the time I recommend you stop by the waterfall.  It adds only 0.4 miles to the trip.  I have been hiking this trail for six years.  This year, 2017, was the first year I actually saw a waterfall.  After years of drought it was not flowing.  This year brought rain and the river filled up.  It has slowed to a trickle when I did this hike.  It is a single track trail, slightly overgrown to the waterfall.  There is poison oak on the way.  You will soon come to a fork in the trail.  Go straight on to the waterfall.

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The falls were roaring when this photo was taken January 2017. I am sitting next to the area which will become the pool below.  Photo Credit: Aries Moon Adventures
The water is now gentle dripping its way into this pool. Taken July 2017. Photo Image: Aries Moon Adventures

If the waterfall is your destination, this will be your turn-around.  By the time you get back to the parking lot you will have completed a 31/2 mile hike.  That makes for a nice hike.  But we are not done.  We are now going to head to Danielson’s Monument.  Return the way you came down to the falls.  This time when you come to the fork, head up.  You will be beginning a set of switchbacks.

When you come up from the waterfall, veer to the left. Photo Credit: Aries Moon Adventures
You will see these posts along the way. This is to document recovery from the Spring Fire of May, 2013. Nearly 70% of Rancho Sierra Vista was burned. You can upload your images to the site provided on the post.  Photo Credit: Aries Moon Adventures. 
As you continue up Danielson Road you will be treated to some amazing views. Photo Image: Aries Moon Adventures

Just beyond this point, the terrain will change and the trail moves into a wooded area.  When I went through it was very overgrown with tall grasses and poison oak.  It is only 0.2 miles from here to Danielson’s Monument.

Wooded trail to the Monument. It is overgrown. Check for deer ticks when you get to the Monument. Photo Credit: Aries Moon Adventures

Many people hike to Danielson’s Monument.  Many people stop here to rest, snack and head back down the mountain.  While you are here you will be able to see the remains of Mr. Beal’s Cabin.  Some stone pavers and a chimney are all that are left.   The hike to the Monument is 5.5 miles round trip with a 600 foot elevation game.  This a great hike, a worthy endeavor.  If you went to see the waterfall you have done a 6 mile hike.  This is where the official park maps end.  We are going on to the peak.

You’ve made it to Danielson’s Monument. Photo Credit: Aries Moon Adventures
Mt. Boney Danielson stone
Richard Ely Danielson is actually buried here at the site. Photo Image: Aries Moon Adventures
Mt. Boney Cabin_at_Live_Oaks_Spring
The cabin at Live Oaks Springs, Rancho Sierra Vista, January 5, 1939. Photo Credit: Google Images
It is unclear is Beal’s built the cabin. Both he and his son used it for hunting. Danielson used the cabin as well which was lost to fire. The chimney remains. Photo Image: Aries Moon Adventures

The “unofficial” trail to Boney Peak begins to the left of the chimney.  It is overgrown but still easy to follow.  The trail seems to have been created by water runoff from the peak.  The ruts can be very deep.  From this point, it is about 2 miles to the peak.  The hike up is quite steep.  You will be going over several large boulders.  I found my hiking pole very helpful in going up and down this section.

The ruts in the middle of the path at times were deep. The sides were above my hips in many places. Photo Image: Aries Moon Adventures
There are two very steep bouldery sections like this. There is also quite a bit of sun exposure. Water is very important. I recommend 3 liters for the round trip. Photo Image: Aries Moon Adventures
A reminder to keep my eyes open and watch the trail. Photo Credit: Aries Moon Adventures

The path opens up to rock passages.  The path continues to be easy to follow.  Once you reach the rocky area you quickly come up to the summit.

A view on the way up to the summit. Photo Credit: Aries Moon Adventures
Hold on to your hat, the summit is just around this bend. Photo Credit: Aries Moon Adventures
THE SUMMIT! What that you say? Is that it? Yep, that’s it. But by this time you are ready to sit and rest. You are offered a pretty fantastic panoramic view. Photo Credit: Aries Moon Adventures
If you have another half an hour or so, It is well worth the short hikes over to Tri Peaks, pictured in the center. The bouldering there is fun. And you can see the trail to Sandstone. Photo Image: Aries Moon Adventures

Now to get back down.  Went through a few more ruts.  For the first time I found this sign which told me not to camp, made my way to the parking lot and in the bathroom found the best dehydration sign ever.

This area was above my hips. Photo Image: Aries Moon Adventures
I like this sign. I found it by the chimney. Good warning not to camp. The sign is surrounded by poison oak. Photo Credit: Aries Moon Adventures
The Adventure Mobile is there waiting! Photo Credit: Aries Moon Adventures
A pee chart. Who knew. This sign should be every where. Such good advice. Photo Credit: Aries Moon Adventures

Another adventure on Boney Peak.  I still am not sure how I feel about this hike.  It IS a great training hike for the bigger peaks.  It does have its own beauty and it transmutes throughout the year.  I’ll be back.  But now it’s time to wash off these feet and move on to the next adventure.  I can’t wait to tell you about Rose Valley.


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