Santa Monica Mountains


The Santa Monica Mountains is a mountain range that extends from the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles County to Point Mugu in Ventura County. Communities located on the slopes include Agoura Hills, Bel Air, Bell Canyon, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Calabasas, Encino, Hollywood Hills, Lake Sherwood, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Studio City, Thousand Oaks, Topanga, and Westlake Village. The Chalk Hills merge into the Santa Monica Mountains in Woodland Hills.

A substantial portion of the Santa Monica Mountains are located within the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, National Park Service, and California State Parks are all involved in preservation of the area. Over twenty state and municipal parks are located within the Santa Monica Mountains including Griffith Park, King Gillette Ranch Park, The Peter Strauss Ranch, Circle X Ranch, Leo Carrillo State Park and Beach, Malibu Creek State Park, Tapia Park, Paramount Ranch ParkPoint Mugu State ParkTopanga State Park, and Will Rogers State Historic Park.  The Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space is also within the Santa Monica Mountains.

Save Open Space is a non-profit organization, based in Agoura Hills, dedicated to maintaining, protecting and preserving open space in the Santa Monica Mountains.

The fifty-five mile Mulholland Scenic Parkway and Corridor winds through the Santa Monica Mountains and is one of the most famous thoroughfares in the country.

The Backbone Trail is a trail extending nearly 70 miles over the Santa Monica Mountains from Will Rogers State Historic Park in Pacific Palisades to Point Mugu State Park north of Malibu. Saddle Peak Mountain, located in the central part of the Santa Monica Mountains, can be accessed from the Backbone Trail.



Griffith Park

Griffith Park, established in 1952, is a large municipal park located at the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains in Los Angeles County, just south of Burbank and west of Glendale near the Los Angeles River. The beautiful Southern California park covers 4,310 acres which makes it larger than Central Park in New York City and Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. It is the second largest municipal park in California, after Mission Trails Preserve in San Diego and the eleventh largest in the United States.

Some of the attractions in the park include the Los Angeles Zoo, the Griffith Observatory, the Greek Theatre, the Autry Museum of the American West, the Travel Town Museum, the Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum, and the famous Hollywood Sign. The Harding Municipal Golf Course and the Wilson Golf Course are also located within Griffith Park.

In 1942, Griffith Park was used as a relocation holding facility where U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry were rounded up and incarcerated at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.


Griffith Observatory

The Griffith Observatory is an observatory located in Griffith Park on the south facing slope of Mount Hollywood which is adjacent to Mount Lee. The Art Deco observatory, constructed in 1933, is open to the public and offers an excellent view of the Los Angeles Basin clear to the Pacific Ocean.


Mount Lee

Mount Lee is a peak in the Santa Monica Mountains in Griffith Park rising to 1,708 feet above sea level. The famous Hollywood Sign is located on its southern slope. Trails leading to the sign can be accessed from several locations within Griffith Park.



Wildlife - Santa Monica Mountains

The Santa Monica Mountains are rich in wildlife. The most common medium sized and larger mammals include mule deer, coyotes, bobcats, skunks, and raccoons. Mountain lions, grey fox, long-tailed weasels, and ring-tailed cats are also present, but are rarely seen. Seven species of hawks, eight species of owls, golden eagles, northern harriers, peregrine falcons, American kestrels, and white-tailed kite, are commonly observed, as are rabbits and squirrels. The 18 species of snakes include gopher snakes, pacific rattlesnakes, California Kings, and striped racers. Only the rattlesnakes are venomous. Black Bears are found in the nearby Santa Susana Mountains and San Gabriel Mountains.



Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing

The Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing, also known as the Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing, is a freeway overpass at Liberty Canyon in Agoura Hills that connects the Santa Monica Mountains on the south with the Simi Hills on the north. The $90 million dollar bridge allows wild animals, including mountain lions, to cross over the Ventura Freeway without being exposed to danger. Prior to construction of the overpass, the National Park Service reported that, on average, one mountain lion was killed by traffic each year.



Malibu Creek Watershed

The Malibu Creek Watershed is located in the northwest section of Los Angeles County. It is bounded on the north, west, and east by the Santa Monica Mountains and on the south by the Pacific Ocean. The watershed area is approximately 109 square miles. Its major tributaries are Las Virgenes Creek, Triunfo Creek, and Cold Creek. The watershed is comprised of all or parts of Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Malibu, Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village, and unincorporated areas in Los Angeles County, and Ventura County.


Malibu Creek

Malibu Creek is a year-round stream in the Santa Monica Mountains that flows from the dam at Malibou Lake through Malibu Creek State Park to Malibu Lagoon which is part of the Santa Monica Bay and Pacific Ocean. Malibou Lake was created in 1926 after a dam was constructed at the confluence of Triunfo Creek and Lobo Creek. Water that regularly overflows the dam is the headwater of Malibu Creek. Malibou Lake is not spelled like the name of the stream and city.



Southern California Watersheds

A watershed is an area of land that collects water whenever it rains or snows and from irrigation. Through gravity, water channeled into soils, groundwater, creeks, and lakes, drain into larger bodies of water and eventually to the ocean. Due to the large volume of storm water, it cannot be treated before it reaches the ocean. Since we all live in a watershed, we can all help in keeping our area free of harmful chemicals and other waste.


Brents Mountain

Brents Mountain is a 1,713 foot peak in the Santa Monica Mountains located east of Malibu Creek State Park and west of Tapia Park. It is easily recognized because a large white cross is located on the summit. Reaching the summit is difficult because there is no established trail. However, the views from the summit are panoramic and include the Pacific Ocean.


Castro Peak

Castro Peak is the highest mountain peak in the central Santa Monica Mountains reaching 2,826 feet. The mountain is located within the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area, south of Seminole Hot Springs, and north of Malibu. It be can be accessed from the Backbone Trail. Castro Peak offers great views of the surrounding mountains.


Circle X Ranch

The Circle X Ranch is a former Boy Scout Camp that is currently used as a campground. The ranch or campground, with its extensive hiking trails, is located in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in Ventura County, within the Triunfo Pass. Hidden Valley is to the north while Leo Carrillo State Beach and the Pacific Ocean are directly to the south. Point Mugu State Park is to the west and southwest.


Camp Bloomfield

Camp Bloomfield is a 40 acre, non-profit campground in the Santa Monica Mountains near Malibu. It was founded by Henry Bloomfield and the Junior Blind of America. It runs several sessions each summer for children who are either blind or severely visually impaired. It also runs sessions for children without visual disabilities and is utilized regularly by local schools. Activities include hiking, swimming, fishing, horseback riding, camping, and more.


Rocky Oaks

Rocky Oaks Park

Rocky Oaks Park is a 200 acre undeveloped open space that serves as a wildlife refuge in the Santa Monica Mountains. Its large pond provides water to a diversity of wildlife and was an important resource for the Chumash People who lived in the area for thousands of years. Access is located on the north side of Mulholland Highway, west of Kanan Road, just south of Agoura Hills and north of Malibu. The park was once a cattle ranch.


Marvin Braude Mulholland Gateway Park

Marvin Braude Mulholland Gateway Park is a 1,500 acre park located in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreational Area and Santa Monica Mountains. The trailhead is at the southern terminus of Reseda Boulevard in Tarzana which is the San Fernando Valley. The Southern California park is owned by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservatory. It connects to the 11,000 acre Topanga State Park and System which winds through the Santa Monica Mountains for nearly 70 miles all the way to Point Mugu State Park in Malibu.


Zuma and Trancas Canyons

Zuma Canyon and Trancas Canyon are neighboring canyons in the western Santa Monica Mountains that support an abundance of plant and animal wildlife including deer, bobcats, mountain lions, coyotes, rabbits, and more. There are hiking trails, perennial streams, dense plant growth, sandstone boulders, deep scenic gorges, and incredible views. The canyons were home to the Chumash People for more than eight thousand years.


Zuma Canyon

Zuma Canyon Trail

Zuma Canyon Trail, one of the most popular trails in Malibu, is a 2.8 mile hiking trail in the Santa Monica Mountains that explores the Zuma Canyon. Both the Ocean View Trail and Canyon View Trail can be accessed from the Zuma Canyon Trail. The Zuma Canyon trailhead is at 5875 Bonsall Drive in Malibu. The hiking trails offer great views of Santa Monica Bay, Malibu, and the Santa Monica Mountains.


Mishe Mokwa Trailhead

The Mishe Mokwa Trailhead is located at 12896 Yerba Buena Road north of the Circle X Ranch near Sandstone Peak in the Santa Monica Mountains of Ventura County. You can take the trail to Sandstone Peak, the Backbone Trail, and Balanced Rock. The 5.9 mile Mishe Mokwa Trail is only open to hikers. Conejo Peak is to the north and Malibu is to the south. The views from the trail are excellent and wildflowers are absolutely beautiful.


Balanced Rock

Balanced Rock is a 40 foot high bowling-pin like rock perched high in the Santa Monica Mountains that is visible from the Mishe Mokwa Trail. It is absolutely stunning making it a popular hiking destination and photo opportunity. You must see it to believe it.


Eagle Rock (Santa Monica Mountains)

Eagle Rock, also commonly known as Elephant Rock, is a prominent sandstone pinnacle located in Topanga State Park within the Santa Monica Mountains in Southern California. The rock, which looks like an elephant head when viewed from the north, can be reached by a popular trail.


Big Sycamore Canyon

Big Sycamore Canyon Trail

The Big Sycamore Canyon Trail is an 8.4 mile one-way mountains to the ocean trail through the Point Mugu State Park and Santa Monica Mountains through a deep, wooded canyon, with many trees. It is considered a difficult trail by many experienced hikers. The trail starts in the Newbury Park community of Ventura County and ends at Sycamore Cove Beach in Ventura County which is the location of the Sycamore State Canyon Campground. The trail joins the Backbone Trail at one point and later separates from it. The area is especially beautiful after the winter and early spring rains.


Westridge-Canyonback Wilderness Park

The Westridge-Canyonback Wilderness Park is a 1,500 acre wilderness area located in the eastern Santa Monica Mountains within the city of Los Angeles. It is bordered by San Vicente Mountain Park, Mandeville Canyon, Sullivan Canyon, and Mission Canyon.


Tuna Canyon Park

Tuna Canyon Park is a 1,255 acre park and nature preserve in the western Santa Monica Mountains approximately two miles north of Malibu. The views from Tuna Canyon Park are fantastic and include the Santa Monica Bay east to the San Gabriel Mountains. Tuna Canyon Park links more than 18,000 acres of continuous, protected open space from Topanga State Park west to Las Flores Canyon. For access take Pacific Coast Highway, turn north on Topanga Canyon and then left on Fernwood Pacific Drive.


Runion Canyon Park

Runion Canyon Park is a 160-acre park located at the far eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains. The highest point in the park, which reaches an elevation of 1,320 feet, is known as Indian Rock. The park, which is in the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area, offers extensive hiking trails and excellent views.


San Vicente Mountain

San Vicente Mountain Park

San Vicente Mountain Park is a 10.2 acre open space park located in the Santa Monica Mountains, south of Mulholland Drive, south of Encino, and west of the 405 freeway. The park offers spectacular 360 degree views of the Santa Monica Mountains, Encino Reservoir, San Fernando Valley, and most of the Los Angeles Basin. San Vicente Mountain is a favorite location for viewing sunsets and offers a large network of trails for hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians.

In addition to being a beautiful place to visit, the park is also a part of U.S. military history as it was once one of sixteen Nike-Ajax anti-aircraft missile launch sites that protected Los Angeles from 1956 to 1968. Today there are displays that provide a self-guided tour of the former military base.

The Marvin Braude Mulholland Gateway Park and Westridge-Canyonback Wilderness Park are accessible directly from San Vicente Mountain Park.


Benedict Canyon

Benedict Canyon Drive

Benedict Canyon is a ravine and street in the Santa Monica Mountains that connects Sherman Oaks in the San Fernando Valley to Beverly Hills. Some of the most expensive homes in the Los Angeles Basin can be found in Benedict Canyon from its high point at Mulholland Drive, south to Beverly Hills where it meets Sunset Boulevard at the site of the famous Beverly Hills Hotel. Benedict Canyon Drive splits into N. Rodeo Drive and N. Cannon Drive south of Sunset Boulevard.


Santa Monica Mountains

Natural History Association

The Santa Monica Mountains Natural History Association funds and supports educational programs at Leo Carrillo State Park, Point Mugu State Park, and Point Dume State Preserve. The Association accomplishes its goals through the work of dedicated volunteers and members. Funds are raised from generous business and individual donors, and from grants and foundations.


Resource Conservation District of the
Santa Monica Mountains

The Resource District of the Santa Monica Mountains is governed by a board of directors appointed by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. The District is financed through property taxes. The District is involved primarily in education, consulting, and conservation.


Allied Arts of the Santa Monica Mountains

The Allied Artists of the Santa Monica Mountains and Seashore is a non-profit membership organization whose mission is to promote the appreciation of our environment through art and to support conservation and maintenance of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Artists are invited to participate in local art shows and sell their work with 20% or more of the proceeds being donated to various organizations in the Santa Monica National Recreation Area. Memberships are available and donations are greatly appreciated.


Piuma Overlook

Piuma Overlook is a local overlook in the Santa Monica Mountains, on Piuma Road east of Malibu Canyon Road and Malibu Creek State Park. Piuma Overlook provides spectacular views of the San Fernando Valley, Malibu Creek State Park, Santa Monica Mountains, Las Virgenes Valley, Pacific Ocean, and Catalina Island.

Hollywood Hills

The Hollywood Hills are part of the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains and the name of an affluent, low density neighborhood in Los Angeles. Studio City and Burbank are to the north, Griffith Park is to the north and east, and Hollywood is to the south. Within the Hollywood Hills are the communities of Beachwood Canyon, Cahuenga Pass, Franklin Village, Hollywood Heights, Hollywoodland, Outpost, and Whitley Heights.


Fritz and Alma Meier Nature Preserve

The 120 acre Fritz and Alma Meier Nature Preserve is immediately north of Red Rock Canyon Park in the Old Topanga Watershed area of the Santa Monica Mountains. The preserve includes large colored sandstone formations, lush vegetation, a year-round source of water, and lots of wildlife. A hiking trail runs through the nature preserve. Access is at the end of Zuniga Road in Topanga. The property was made available to the public through a generous gift from Fritz and Alma Meier.


Trebek Open Space

Trebek Open Space is a 62 acre open space in the Hollywood Hills adjacent to Runyon Canyon Park. It is north of Hollywood Boulevard near the north end of Nichols Canyon Road. The open space provides trails for hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians.


La Sierra Canyon

La Sierra Canyon is a valley located in the Santa Monica Mountains near Seminole Springs Mobile Home Park and Seminole Hot Springs. The valley is a habitat for bobcats, coyotes, raccoons, mountain lions, and other wildlife.


Triunfo Creek Park and Pentachaeta Trail

The 600 acre Triunfo Creek Park and the Pentachaeta Trail is located in the southern area of Westlake Village and the southern area of Agoura in the Santa Monica Mountains. The main trailhead is on Triunfo Canyon Road just east of the southern terminus of Lindero Canyon Road. The Pentachaeta Trail, which is within the park, is named after the Pentachaeta Iyoni, an endangered flower found in the park. The flower blooms between April and June of each year.


Malibu Springs

Malibu Springs is a scenic area along the Backbone Trail in the central Santa Monica Mountains, north of Malibu and Leo Carrillo State Park. It is located on the boundary between Ventura County and Los Angeles County. The Circle X Ranch is to the northwest.


Ring of Open Space

There are approximately 15,163 acres of open space within the City of Thousand Oaks’ Planning Area, representing more than one-third of the land within the Planning Area. Following is a summary of the current open space in the Thousand Oaks’ Planning Area, all of which is under public ownership. Public agencies which own open space in Thousand Oaks’ Planning Area include COSCA, the City of Thousand Oaks, the Conejo Recreation and Park District, the National Park Service, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, and the County of Ventura. COSCA manages the majority of the open space set forth below:


Rancho Topanga Malibu Sequit

Rancho Topanga Malibu Sequit was the 13,316-acre Spanish land grant given in 1804 to present day Los Angeles County that included Malibu, parts of Topanga, and a portion of the Santa Monica Mountains. Adamson House, built in 1929, is a historic site in Malibu.


Placerita Canyon State Park

Placerita Canyon Nature Center

Placerita Canyon State Park, in Los Angeles County, was created to preserve and protect the site of the first discovery of gold in California in 1842. Its location links the Angeles National Forest, the Santa Susana Mountains, the Simi Hills, and the Santa Monica Mountains. The 342 acre state park features a nature center with gardens, extensive hiking trails, picnic areas, a waterfall, and various educational programs. The park contains the "Oak of the Golden Dream" site of the first discovery of gold in California and the historic Walker Cabin built in 1920. The Placerita Canyon Nature Center is located at 19152 Placerita Canyon Road in Newhall. Placerita Canyon was home to the Tataviam People, also known as the Tataviam Indians for thousands of years before the area was claimed by Spain and later by Mexico. Wildlife includes coyotes, bobcats, black bears, mountain lions, deer, rabbits, fox, badgers, and skunks.


Sandstone Peak - Mount Allen

Sandstone Peak, also known as Mount Allen, is the highest peak in the Santa Monica Mountains rising to 3,114 feet. The mountain is located at the western edge of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and provides panoramic views of the Conejo Valley, Santa Monica, four of the eight Channel Islands, Malibu, and the Pacific Ocean. The Sandstone Peak Trail leads to the top and connects with the Backbone Trail.


Cahuenga Pass

The Cahuenga Pass, also known as Paseo de Cahuenga (Spanish), is a low mountain pass through the far eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains. The area where the pass is located is commonly referred to as the Hollywood Hills. The pass connects the San Fernando Valley to the Los Angeles Basin.


The Federation of Hillside and Canyon Associations

The Federation of Hillside and Canyon Associations is a non-profit organization founded in 1952. Its purpose is to protect the property and quality of life of the residents of the Santa Monica Mountains and other hillside areas of  Los Angeles County and to promote policies and programs that will best preserve the natural topography and wildlife of the mountains and hillsides for the benefit of all the people of Los Angeles County.

Conejo Open Space Conversation Agency