About 45 conservationists joined representatives of the National Park Service and other government agencies last week in the mountains west of Malibu Creek State Park to dedicate a 1.5-mile segment of the Backbone Trail through Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
The Backbone Trail eventually will be a 55-mile hiking path through the Santa Monica Mountains between Will Rogers State Historic Park in Pacific Palisades and Point Mugu State Park in Ventura County.
Twenty miles of the Backbone Trail follow existing trails within Topanga, Malibu Creek and Point Mugu state parks.
The segment dedicated on Sept. 13, the first to be built on federal land in the mountains, was constructed by the federal Youth Conservation Corps. It runs through Newton Canyon between Newton Motorway and Latigo Canyon Road.
From the trail heads, there are views of Castro Crest and Boney Mountain. Downtown Los Angeles and the Channel Islands are visible on clear days, Park Service officials said.
After descending into the canyon, the trail passes through oak woodlands and a streamside habitat, according to Daniel Kuehn, superintendent of the national recreation area.
In that mile-and-a-half stretch, "you can experience quite a bit of what the Santa Monica Mountains are all about," Kuehn said. "It's sort of a microcosm."
Kuehn said that all the eastern half of the Backbone Trail corridor is now publicly owned and park officials are concentrating on acquiring land in the western half.
"I would say there is a good chance the Backbone Trail will be completed within the next five years," he said.
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is a network of city, county, state and federal parks interspersed with private holdings. It covers 150,000 acres between Griffith Park in Los Angeles and Point Mugu State Park on the coast.