Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area


Overview: Covering 153,000 acres near Los Angeles, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area ranks as the world's largest urban park. It comprises rolling terrain, canyons, beaches, streams, and waterfalls. This region is the home of Native American Indians, including the Chumash and Gabrielino/Tongva. Often called "L.A.'s backyard," the territory was in danger of being swallowed by the adjacent metropolitan area. A federal, state, and local effort to preserve the natural resources of the Santa Monica Mountain range resulted in its designation as a National Recreation Area in 1978. That same year an uncontrollable fire set the woods and brush along the top of the mountain range ablaze. The recreation area has since recovered and refoliated, and offers both Los Angelenos and out-of-state visitors a variety of opportunities for exploration and play. The area also is popular as a movie location, providing backdrops for westerns and exotic locales. What to see and do: Stop by the visitors center open 9 AM to 5 PM (except on major holidays) to get oriented and to get current information on exploring the backcountry and fire season updates. If you're planning to spend the day in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, you can go hiking, biking, horseback riding, or picnicking. Trails range from the scenic to the densely forested. The beaches that form the southern edge of the recreation area have lifeguards on duty in the summer months. Nature walks allow visitors to appreciate the Santa Monica Mountains' Mediterranean-type ecosystem up close. Some of the area is a wildlife refuge for such animals as cougars, bobcats, and eagles. Bird and whale watching are also popular recreation area activities. Inquire about optimal seasons for these activities. Campers can reserve sites at Leo Carrillo State Beach or Point Mugu State Park, both within the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area boundary. State beaches, including Dan Blocker State Beach, Las Tunas State Beach, and Topanga State Beach dot the Pacific edge of the Santa Monica Recreation Area. Visitors are advised to call ahead for details, as there are hundreds of campsites and RV sites in the recreation area. The J. Paul Getty Museum of Fine Art lies within the Recreation Area. A replica of a Roman villa, the Getty Museum houses the oil baron's fine collection of Greek and Roman antiquities. Other sites of note include: Will Rogers State Historic Park, Sooky Goldman Nature Center, Charmlee Nature Center, Satwiwa Native American Indian Cultural Center, King Gillette Ranch, Franklin Canyon Ranch and Adamson House, a lavish 1930s estate. Mulholland Drive, a winding road that cuts along the ridge of the Santa Monica Mountain range, is a scenic option for those visitors interested in driving through the area. The Pacific Coast Highway cuts across the southern edge of the recreation area and allows for beautiful ocean views. Adventurous visitors might also want to hop over to the Channel Islands National Park, islands off the coast north of the Santa Monica National Recreation Area. Again, contact the National Park Service for information on transportation to and from the islands.


401 West Hillcrest Drive
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360


34.08928000, -118.87102000
Visit Website
(805) 370-2301

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