Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

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Santa Monica Mountains rise above Los Angeles, widen to meet the curve of Santa Monica Bay and reach their highest peaks facing the ocean, forming a beautiful and multi-faceted landscape. Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is a cooperative effort that joins federal, state and local park agencies with private preserves and landowners to protect the natural and cultural resources of this transverse mountain range and seashore.

Located in a Mediterranean ecosystem, the Santa Monica Mountains contain a wide variety of plants and wildlife. The mountains also have an interesting and diverse cultural history that begins with the Chumash and Gabrielino/Tongva peoples and continues today in "L.A.'s backyard."

Contact Information
401 West Hillcrest Drive
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
(818) 597-9192

Visitor Center Operating Hours
The National Park Service Visitor Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. The Visitor Center contains a bookstore, which is open during the same hours.

Mountains: Highest in spring; lowest in summer
Beaches: Highest in summer; lowest in winter

Recreation Facilities & Opportunities
Hiking, mountain bicycling, horseback riding, bird watching, whale watching, swimming, surfing, nature walks, festivals and picnicking may be enjoyed year-round.

Visitor Centers/Exhibits
National Park Service Visitor Center, 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.

There are over 580 miles of public trails within the park. When completed, the Backbone Trail will extend approximately 65 miles, linking major park areas. Hiking guides and other publications showing the entire park are available at the National Park Service Visitor Center.

The historic Mulholland Scenic Corridor is a 55-mile scenic drive through the Santa Monica Mountains from Griffith Park to Leo Carrillo State Park. The California Coastal Trail travels through the NRA.

Request a copy of the Outdoors calendar from the National Park Service for a complete listing of organizations, programs and activities.

The National Park Service also offers a variety of educational opportunities for school groups. Contact the education office for reservations and information. For educational opportunities contact California State Parks.

Lodging/Camping Facilities
Numerous hotels and motels are available in and near the park.

Contact the National Park Service for information about camping at Happy Hollow Campground at the Circle X Ranch Site. Individual and family tent campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Reservations for individual and family campsites at Point Mugu State Park, Leo Carrillo State Park and Malibu Creek State Park may be made in advance by calling California State Parks for more information.

The privately operated Malibu Beach RV Park provides facilities for recreational vehicle camping.

A variety of group camping facilities is also available in the park. For reservations at the group campground at Circle X Ranch contact the National Park Service. Group camping facilities are available at Leo Carrillo State Park, Malibu Creek State Park and Point Mugu State Park. Reservations for these facilities can be made by calling California State Parks. The Danielson and Sycamore group multi-use areas in Point Mugu State Park may be reserved. Contact the Los Angeles City Department of Recreation and Parks to reserve the group camping facility in Decker Canyon.

All amenities are available in surrounding cities and within the park in the community of Topanga and the city of Malibu.

Horse Rentals
Dos Vientos Stables
Adventures on Horseback

Many sites are accessible to some degree. Fully accessible trails designed for people with physical and/or visual limitations are available in Upper Franklin Canyon and Malibu Creek State Park.

Climate & Recommended Clothing
The Santa Monica Mountains have a true Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers (80 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit) and relatively cool, wet winters (40 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit). Nights can be cool any time of the year. In the summer, the coastal side of the mountains is generally 10 to 15 degrees cooler than the inland side. In the winter this pattern is reversed with warmer temperatures along the coast.

Layer your clothing to be comfortable anywhere in the mountains. For safety and comfort, use a hat, sunscreen and appropriate shoes or boots.

Additional Information
State parks are closed during periods of extreme fire danger. Call (805) 488-8147 for a recorded fire condition message.

Some National Park Service trails are closed after significant rainfall. Call (805) 370-2301 for the status of trails.

Landslides commonly occur on park roads during the winter. Call Cal-Trans at (800) 427-7623 or visit their Web site at You may also contact the National Park Service at (805) 370-2301.

The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is located west of Griffith Park in Los Angeles County and to the east of the Oxnard Plain in Ventura County. U.S. Highway 101 (Ventura Freeway) borders the mountains on the north, and State Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) and the Pacific Ocean form the southern boundary. Access to most park areas is available via many roads that cross the mountains between these two major highways.

A portion of the park also stretches into the Simi Hills, north of U.S. Highway 101.

The National Park Service Visitor Center is located at 401 West Hillcrest Drive in Thousand Oaks, California.

From Ventura Freeway (U.S. Highway 101) to Lynn Rd. turn north on Lynn road, turn east (right) on Hillcrest Drive and left onto McCloud Ave. First driveway on the right.

From the 23 exit at the Thousand Oaks Blvd/Hillcrest Drive exit go west or right onto Hillcrest and turn right onto McCloud.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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