Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area Overview

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Santa Monica Mountains NRA
Contact Details
401 West Hillcrest Drive
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
Phone: 805-370-2301
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When you think of the attractions of Los Angeles, a 150,050-acre National Park Service facility probably isn't the first thing that comes to mind. But just minutes from downtown Los Angeles, Santa Monica Mountains NRA, with miles of soft rolling hills and wooded backcountry, offers a quick and idyllic escape from the congestion and stress that typify life for L.A.'s city dwellers. Santa Monica Mountains NRA runs for 46 miles from the Hollywood Bowl to Point Mugu in Ventura County, from the Santa Monica Pier to west past Malibu.

Sure, the park benefits people. But the wildlife gets a break as well. The park is mostly a Mediterreanean broadleaf evergreen forest. Roughly 450 vertebrate species of animals and 13 nesting raptor species call it home at one time or another. Critters include mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, deer, hawks, falcons and eagles. Twenty-five area species are listed as rare, threatened or endangered (with more expected to join the list in upcoming years).

At one point the Santa Monica Mountains were home to two indigenous peoples, the Chumash and the Gabrielleno-Tongva. Over 1,000 archaeological sites can be found in the area.

Santa Monica Recreation Area was established in an attempt to conserve a swath of green in the midst of sprawl. The return? Cleaner air and some handy outdoor adventuring for Angelenos.

Bike Sullivan Ridge & Backbone Trail
Called one of the "jewels of the Santa Monicas" this stretch of single-track stretches for 70 miles, crossing the spine of the Santa Monica Mountains and Point Mugu. Start off on Monaco Drive, just off of Sunset Boulevard and turn onto Sullivan Ridge fire road. The path offers views of Rustic Canyon on the left and Sullivan Canyon on the right. Intrepid riders will eventually reach the Hub, the nexus of several different rides in the area. A short spin down a third ridge, Temescal, delivers you to the Backbone Trail.

More on biking in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

Rubber Necking on the Santa Monicas
Head to the Sycamore Canyon Campground in Point Mugu to start a family-friendly hike laden with jaw-dropping scenery that takes you from wildflower-covered slopes to panoramic views of the Pacific and a sycamore-shaded creek. The trail gains 900 feet in elevation over the first 2 miles, but it is well engineered and the climb can be handled by most.

Just past the Sycamore Canyon's gate you'll see a sign that marks the start of the Scenic Trail. The area's rolling hills, which once suffered heavy damage as the result of a 1993 fire, are now blanketed in laurel sumac, Spanish broom and paintbrush. Farther along, the trail opens up and grants spectacular views of the canyon, ocean, and, eventually, Boney Peak.

Hiking Circle X Ranch
This area has become a haven for sadistic bikers, but that doesn't mean it's out of reach for the rest of us. The Circle X Ranch area, which offers some of the best views of Santa Monicas, is ideal for hikers looking for a manageable challenge. The area includes one of the tallest peaks in the range, and on a clear day, hikers can see all the way to Ventura and the Channel Islands.

More on hiking in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 13 Sep 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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