Corbitt's National Parks
      Santa Monica Mountains
                 National Recreation Area


1978: National Recreation Area

Size: 153,672 acres

2007 visitors: 419,374

Stamp: Yes

Rating (1-5):

About the Site

The Santa Monica mountains border and define northern Los Angeles. They range around Santa Monica Bay, offering good views of both the ocean and the city. The Park's establishment date of 1978 is deceiving; conservation efforts were underway long before then. The NRA is actually a conglomeration of lands belonging to many different agencies, including state parks, preserves and private recreation sites, military land that's closed to the public, and private property. As a matter of fact, the city of Malibu is completely enclosed by parkland!

Famous Pacific Coast Highway, California Highway 1, winds through this land, and here you'll find the Mulholland Highway, Topanga Canyon and Topanga State Park, Palisades Drive and Pacific Palisades Park, and Santa Monica Beach and Pier. In short, this land is beautiful and diverse, and you can find many ways to occupy your time. The rugged coastline offers narrow sandy beaches and rocky shores. Canyon walls are covered in chaparral and sages.

This is an excellent example of how natural wildland can be preserved even as an urban center grows to its edges. Yellowstone and other areas were set apart for the public long before there were many people threatening to overrun it; that didn't happen at Santa Monica, but concerned citizens stepped in before it was too late. Governments listened, and the result is thousands of acres set aside for conservation, for the enjoyment of the millions of people living nearby, and for preservation of important indigenous wildlife.

What You're Going to See

Well, where are you going to go? Take the Pacific Coastal Highway and you'll see beaches, coves, inlets (and Malibu). Point your car through the mountains, and you'll findlone valley oaks accentuating grassy hillsides. This is technically a Mediterranean climate, characterized by hot, dry summers and mild, damp winters.

In the 1920's, Paramount Studios built a ranch to take advantage of the natural beauty of the region. Visitors today might be lucky enough to see a television series being filmed, or even a movie. Astute viewers will recognize backgrounds from M*A*S*H, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, and How Green Was My Valley.

Personal Observations

Once again, my time in the Treasure was limited. But I can recommend without reservation the Visitors Center located in Thousand Oaks. Spacious, well-stocked (Monopoly - National Parks Edition), and with a great view across the 101 Highway to the mountains of the Treasure, it's also staffed with National Parks employees who are more than willing to answer questions from beginners and experts alike. I even got a free pin, and a free CD extolling the virtues of Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

Getting There

From Los Angeles, get on Highway 101 and go north/west. The NRA borders Los Angeles and famous cities such as Beverly Hills, Belair, Brentwood, Encino, and Westlake Village. The Visitors Center is located in Thousand Oaks. To get there, take the Highway 23 North exit, turn left/west onto Hillcrest Drive. There's a well-marked sign at 401 W. Hillcrest.

Nearby Attractions

Just a few miles to the west you'll find Channel Islands National Park. Of course, along the coast is California Coastal National Monument.

Visited March, 2004.

Additional Photos