Description - Comprising 150,050 acres, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) is the world's largest urban national park extending 46 miles from the Hollywood Bowl to Point Mugu in Ventura County. It also runs along the coastline from the Santa Monica Pier west past Malibu. The park rests in a Mediterranean ecosystem containing a wide variety of plants and wildlife. The mountains have an interesting and diverse cultural history as well. It begins with the Chumash and Gabrielino / Tongva peoples and continues today as the large Los Angeles (LA) population uses it mounting annual visitation numbers that exceed 30 million. The preserved land is a cooperative effort between the National Park Service (NPS), California State Parks, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, as well as private landowners, county and city governments.
Copyright: National Park Service
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area was created to protect the natural and cultural resources of this transverse mountain range and seashore. The range rises above Los Angeles and widens to meet the curve of the Santa Monica Bay. Its highest peaks face the ocean, forming a beautiful and multifaceted landscape. Los Angeles is unique among cities in a thousand ways, in particular it is the only city in the world divided in two by a mountain range, the Santa Monica Mountains, thus, it is also a city divided by a national park. Along with the traditional purposes for creating a national park in the Santa Monica Mountains, such as conserving natural and cultural resources, Congress designated this recreation area to help conserve the airshed of the LA Basin, a purpose for creating a park unique among NPS units.
The Santa Monica Mountains is home to some 450 vertebrate species of animals, all within minutes of downtown LA. Among the larger animals are mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, and deer. Thirteen nesting raptor species are found in the Santa Monica Mountains, a number equaling the Snake River Birds of Prey Sanctuary created by Congress in Idaho because of its outstanding hawks, falcons, and eagles. There are currently 25 known species native to SMMNRA listed as rare, threatened, or endangered; another 50 species which are candidates for listing are also associated within the park. One threatened species is the steelhead trout. Among its most southerly reaches are the Santa Monica Mountains.
The California State Parks is the largest landowner within the recreation area, with some 42,000 acres. The National Park Service controls about 21,500 acres. There are some 6,000 additional acres of private recreation and local public parklands. When acquisition is complete, some 50,000 acres will still remain in private ownership. Over 70 governmental entities share jurisdiction with the National Park Service in the National Recreation Area. Malibu, for example, is entirely within the park's boundary.
Since its creation in 1978, SMMNRA has never received a line-item construction appropriation from Congress (the principal source of major project funds for national parks). All facilities for visitors have been inherited, donated, or constructed using operational funds.
- Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and the region is a top tourist destination for national and international travelers. Environmental and cultural educational programs are provided to thousands of children and adults annually.
Features of the park include a variety of internationally recognized recreational and cultural attractions including a 500-mile trail system that provides panoramic views of the ocean, mountains, valleys, and islands. The park also contains two of the most well traveled scenic drives in the United States. One such trail is the historic Mulholland Scenic Corridor, a 55-mile scenic drive linking Griffith Park to Leo Carrillo State Park.
The National Park Service Visitor Center is a good place to get oriented to the region and plan your tour. Other information centers in the area include Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center, Malibu Creek State Park Visitor Center, Malibu Lagoon Museum, Will Rogers State Historic Park, Topanga State Park Nature Center, Sooky Goldman Nature Center and the Charmlee Nature Center. Because Los Angles has the nation's largest population of Native American Indians - over 150,000, the Satwiwa Native American Indian Cultural Center serves as a learning institution to preserve these diverse Southern California cultures.
The park is renowned for one of the greatest densities of archaeological sites (more than 1,000) found anywhere in the world. Two indigenous peoples have made their homes in the Santa Monica Mountains: the Chumash and the Gabrieliño-Tongva. Over 1,000 archeological sites that derive from their past history are known in the mountains. Cultural resources of a more modern vein can be found in the mountains such as the Getty Center. There are other notable cultural resources within the park, including the Paramount Ranch, formerly owned by Paramount Pictures. Historians believe it is the best-preserved complex of structures associated with the "Golden Age of Hollywood"; some think it even merits designation as a World Heritage Site.
Facilities for hikers include over 580 miles of public trails within the park. These include the Backbone Trail that extends approximately 65 miles, linking major park areas. Trail riding is a popular way to explore the backcountry and the park's varied landscape. Horse rentals are available from privately owned stables. Call the visitor center for information on horse stables, trails, and regulations. Mountain bikes and horses are permitted only on designated trails and fire roads. Motorized vehicles are prohibited on all trails and fire roads.
Visit Paramount Ranch, where you may see a filmmaking crew at work. Rangers give talks about the filmmaking history in the park and the Western Town set.
Camping is available by reservation at Point Mugu, Malibu Creek, and Leo Carrillo State Parks. Group camping is available at Circle X Range.
A free quarterly calendar, "Outdoors," describes activities, programs, and special events. It includes a map, directions, and phone numbers. Write to the park or get one at the visitor center.
Most facilities and services are accessible to visitors with disabilities. Call the park for further information.
Recreation - This site offers hiking, mountain bicycling, horseback riding, bird watching, whale watching, swimming, surfing, nature walks, and picnicking to be enjoyed year-round.
Climate - The Santa Monica Mountains have a true Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers (80 to 100 degrees F) and relatively cool, wet winters (40 to 70 degrees F). Nights can be cool any time of the year, so travelers should be prepared with layered clothing in every season. In the summer, the coastal side of the mountains is generally 10 - 15 degrees cooler than the inland side. In the winter this pattern is reversed with warmer temperatures along the coast.
This recreation area lies northwest of Los Angeles along the California coast. State Highway 1 leads along the southern boundary of the area and Highway 101 provides access to the northern portion of the area.