Back to the Home Page California Native Plant Information Chapter Newsletter and Archive Other CNPS Chapters Other Organizations Contact Us!
NEW! The Geoff Burleigh Legacy - a comprehensive photo and information archive
 


SANTA MONICA MOUNTAINS NATIONAL RECREATION AREA
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 (SMMNRA) 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 which begins with the Chumash and Gabrielino/Tongva peoples and continues today in "L.A.'s backyard."

CLIMATE AND 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.

Poppies!

THE BACKBONE TRAIL
The Backbone Trail is the premier recreational resource of the SMMNRA. The trail provides Los Angeles residents and visitors access to more than 65,000 acres of open space and natural parks. Nearly 60 miles of the Backbone Trail are in use now, and efforts are ongoing to raise acquisition and operational funds to purchase and build the remaining trail gap to tie the central/eastern link to the western trail link. Parking and/or camping is available at Will Rogers State Historic Park, Topanga, Malibu and Point Mugu State Parks, and Circle X Ranch.

The National Park Service has published a map of the Santa Monica Mountains which includes a guide to the parklands of the SMMNRA which is a must for visitors. Find it at the NPS visitor center (address below) or call (805) 370-2301 to have a copy mailed to you. Below are descriptions of many of the best locations to view wildflowers categorized by agency jurisdiction.
Check out the SMMNRA home page at www.nps.gov/samo/.

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE (NPS)
(805) 370-2301
Visitors Center: 401 West Hillcrest Drive
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360

From Ventura Freeway:
(U. S. Highway 101) to Lynn Road, go north on Lynn Road
turn 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. 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. More information can be found on the Internet at www.nps.gov .

All of the areas below are within the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA)

 
 

CHEESEBORO / PALO COMADO CANYONS
This northernmost section of the SMMNRA is in the Simi Hills, part of the 100 square-mile Malibu Creek watershed, where the waters that flow in Cheeseboro and Palo Comado Canyons begin their journey to the Pacific. Native plant communities including chaparral, coastal sage scrub, valley oak savannahs and live oak riparian woodlands.

CIRCLE X RANCH
This former Boy Scout camp offers many opportunities for exploration and adventure. Journey to Sandstone Peak, the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains.
The 31/2 mile round trip of the Mishe Mokwa Trail to Split Rock traverses riparian, coastal sage scrub and chaparral ecosystems, and the oak grove at Split Rock provides a shaded picnic spot.

Coreopsis

PARAMOUNT RANCH
Although not a prime location for wildflowers, visitors will find trails, a riparian area, oak woodland and Western Town, a remnant of movie days. The park entrance is on Cornell Road north of Mulholland Drive.

PETER STRAUSS RANCH
The Peter Strauss Trail traverses chaparral and oak riparian habitats along Triumfo Creek. Late winter and spring are the best times to view native plants in bloom. Enter on Mulholland Drive just east of Troutdale Drive.

RANCHO SIERRA VISTA / SATWIWA
The Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center and Natural Area was established by the NPS in partnership with Friends of Satwiwa. A Native American guest host or an NPS ranger is on hand to answer questions from 9am to 5pm on Saturdays and Sundays. The easy 11/2 mile Satwiwa Loop Trail travels through grasslands and chaparral. The park entrance is on Lynn Road at Via Goleta near Newberry Park.

SOLSTICE CANYON
This beautiful canyon contains sycamore and oak woodlands along a perennial stream, with chaparral and coastal sage scrub on the upper portions of the canyon. At the end of Dry Canyon Trail, winter rains bring a 150-foot waterfall to life. Park entrance is just off Pacific Coast Highway on Corral Canyon Road.

ZUMA / TRANCAS CANYONS
The Zuma Canyon trailhead is the end of Bonsall Drive (off Pacific Coast Highway, from Busch Drive to Rainsford Place.) The Zuma Loop Trail, an easy 2 miles along the base of Zuma Canyon, features large and graceful sycamore, oak, willow and black walnut trees in a rare hardwood riparian environment. The Ocean View and Canyon View Trails pass through coastal sage scrub. The Zuma Ridge Trail begins at the Busch Drive parking lot off Pacific Coast Highway and ascends along a fire road to Encinal Canyon Road, and along the ridge between Zuma and Trancas Canyons.

RED ROCK CANYON PARK
Red Rock Canyon is a unique riparian canyon within a sandstone gorge. It contains special rockland micro-habitats and acts as a key northern habitat linkage between Malibu Creek and Topanga State Parks. The canyon walls are fortified with huge red sandstone outcroppings, reminiscent of southwest canyons and gorges. 23601 W. Red Rock Road, Old Topanga.

DIXIE CANYON PARK
Dixie Canyon Park is comprised of 20 acres of north slope heavily wooded in California black walnut and coast live oak. Within its shaded crevice lies a perennial stream and its customary shade inhabitants: mushrooms, fungus, poison oak and ferns. End of Dixie Canyon Place, Sherman Oaks.

 

MULHOLLAND SCENIC PARKWAY
There are eight scenic overlooks which offer vehicle parking for those driving along Mulholland Drive.

FRANKLIN CANYON PARK /
WILLIAM O. DOUGLAS OUTDOOR CLASSROOM

The parkland rests on 605 acres at the geographic center of Los Angeles. Within the park boundaries are a 3-acre lake and duck pond, chaparral, grasslands and oak woodlands forest ecosystems.
2600 Franklin Canyon Drive, Beverly Hills.

MARVIN BRAUDE MULHOLLAND (BIG SKY) GATEWAY PARK
Gateway to Topanga State Park, the Big Wild Natural Area (20,000 acres of wilderness area), Serrania Park, and Caballero Canyon. See beautiful displays of California Lilac blooming in the late winter or early spring. 3600 Reseda Boulevard., Tarzana.

WILL ROGERS STATE HISTORIC PARK
(310) 454-8212
The park is located off Sunset Boulevard in Pacific Palisades at 1501 Will Rogers State Park Road. Plant communities include coastal sage scrub, chaparral, riparian and oak woodland.

MOUNTAINS CONSERVANCY
(310) 589-3200
This state agency was established to acquire lands and administer programs on an interim basis until the lands could be purchased by the National Park Service or State Parks. The following sites are under its jurisdiction as of June, 1999. More information plus images, maps and directions to each site can be found on the Internet at  www.ceres.ca.gov/smmc .

ROCKY OAKS
Although less than 200 acres, this site contains a diversity of wildlife habitats including a pond, oak woodland, grassland, coastal sage scrub and chaparral communities. The entrance is on Mulholland Highway, 50 yards west of Kanan Road.

SUMMIT VALLEY EDMUND D. EDELMAN PARK
Located 0.6 mile south of Viewridge Road on the west side of Topanga Canyon Boulevard., this 662 acres of open space features oak woodlands, native grasslands and mixed chaparral communities of upper Topanga Canyon and contains the headwaters of Topanga Creek.

TEMESCAL GATEWAY PARK
15601 Sunset Boulevard, Pacific Palisades.
Covering 141 acres and featuring a year-round stream with a waterfall, this park has hiking trails which access Topanga State Park, Will Rogers State Historic Park, and the Backbone Trail. Temescal's year-round stream provides for a lush riparian zone that runs through the center of the canyon, supporting stands of sycamore and. The Sunset Trail is a 0.4 mile trail that begins at the lower parking lot by Sunset Boulevard. It parallels Temescal Creek to bring hikers to the Loop Trailhead. The Temescal Loop Trail offers a 4.4 mile hike up the canyon (steep in some places) and along the ridge line, with spectacular ocean views. Just 1.2 miles up the south side of the loop you will reach Temescal's waterfall (water flow varies seasonally). Temescal's coastal chaparral is especially evident along the north side of the Loop Trail. The Loop Trail leads from the Temescal property to the Backbone Trail.

WILACRE PARK
Located on the north face of Fryman Canyon in the eastern Santa Monica Mountains, Wilacre Park rests on 128 acres, and includes Franklin Canyon Park, Wilacre Park, Fryman Canyon Park and Coldwater Canyon Park. The most accessible portions are located along the Betty B. Dearing Trail (a.k.a. Maxwell Fire Road). Wilacre Park is at the intersection of Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Fryman Road. This intersection can be found 1.2 miles north of Mulholland Drive and 0.7 mile south of Ventura Boulevard on Laurel Canyon Boulevard.

Hummingbird Sage. Photo by Linda Hardie

 
 

STATE OF CALIFORNIA, DEPARTMENT OF PARKS AND RECREATION
(818) 880-0350
State Parks is by far the largest landowner in the SMMNRA with five major parks, the Backbone Trail
and a multitude of smaller sites. Most of the day use areas charge a parking fee.
Camping reservations for Pt. Mugu State Park, Leo Carrillo State Beach and
Malibu Creek State Park can be made by calling (800) 444-7275.
Visit the California State Parks homepage at cal-parks.ca.gov

POINT MUGU STATE PARK
(818) 880-0350
Enter this park along Pacific Coast Highway and through Rancho Sierra Vista in Newberry Park, at the far west end of the Santa Monica Mountains in Ventura County. The entrance station or visitor center can supply you with small maps guiding you to trails in 16,000 acres that encompass beach, rocky shore, sycamore savannas, oak woodlands, grassy uplands and mountain stretches. Big Sycamore Canyon Trail is a leisurely one, crossing the stream several times. The many sycamores are most magnificent. Several trails branch off before it reaches Rancho Sierra Vista / Satwiwa. The Serrano Valley Trail parallels Serrano Creek through a woodsy canyon to reach a high mountain grassland. La Jolla Valley, west of Big Sycamore Canyon, is unique in natural values and scenic beauty-a rolling grassy plain surrounded by mountains and studded with oaks. The La Jolla Trail is steep and narrow, but the trip is worth the effort. The view is spectacular with Boney Mountain, the highest promontory of the range, in the background. The Ray Miller Trail starts in the parking lot to your right and leads to The Overlook and connects with the La Jolla loop. The trails in the northern portion of the park, filled with sights and surprises, are accessed through Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa, a National Park Service unit in Newbury Park.

LEO CARRILLO STATE BEACH
(818) 880-0350
The park is located 28 miles northwest of Santa Monica on the Pacific Coast Highway. Giant sycamore shade the main campgrounds. The park also features hiking upland. Take the Willow Trail from the campground up through native grasslands and coastal sage scrub to Nicholas Flat.

MALIBU CREEK STATE PARK
(818) 880-0350
The park entrance is 0.2 miles south of Mulholland Drive (or 4 miles north of Pacific Coast Highway) on Las Virgenes / Malibu Canyon Road. The nearly 9,000 acres that make up the park also encompass ranches once belonging to Bob Hope and Ronald Reagan. There are 20 miles of trail to explore on foot or horseback, some of them affording views of unreachable vertical peaks and rocky outcroppings. There are 15 miles of streamside trail through oak and sycamore woodlands and chaparral-covered slopes. The best wildflowers are found in the oak woodlands south of Mulholland Drive in the northwest area of the park, along the road to the lake, and along Las Virgenes Creek in the northern Liberty Canyon area. From the campground, visitors will find easy access to oak woodlands over Tapia Spur Trail. For a real challenge, visitors can try the Bulldog-Mesa Peak Loop. A recent addition to Malibu Creek State Park is the former Tapia County Park. Take Malibu Canyon/Las Virgenes Road north from Pacific Coast Highway for 51/2 miles. Immediately after Piuma road, there is a plainly marked entrance to the park. Tapia Park is a preserve of old oaks with a beautiful view of rocky peaks to the west, with wildflowers along the stream and under the trees. A trail that connects Tapia to Malibu Creek State Park has a variety of flowers and shrubs.

POINT DUME STATE RESERVE
To reach Point Dume State Reserve, drive west along Pacific Coast Highway 101/2 miles beyond Malibu Canyon Road. Turn toward the ocean on Westward Beach Road just before the entrance to Zuma Beach. The Reserve is on the bluffs away from the ocean. Extending down to the 3 miles of wide sandy beach are a generous assortment of the native plants of the Coastal Sage and Dune associations. Westward Beach, operated by Los Angeles County, is along the coast.

TOPANGA STATE PARK
(818) 880-0350
From Topanga Canyon Boulevard, turn east on Entrada, turning left at each intersection where this is a choice until you arrive at Trippet Ranch, the park headquarters. In the more than 11,000 acres of chaparral, oak woodland and grassland, there are 36 miles of trails. The one which is recommended for the lushest displays of wildflowers is the 31/2 mile Musch Ranch Trail loop. An active group of docents conducts public walks during the spring flowering, and there is an informative brochure accompanying a well-marked nature trail. Trails lead into the park from Los Liones, Santa Ynez Canyon, Temescal Canyon, Will Rogers State Historic Park (see below), Caballero Canyon, Serrania Park, Mulholland Drive, and from the parking lot on Entrada 0.1 mile from Topanga Canyon Boulevard.

OTHER SANTA MONICA MOUNTAINS NATIONAL RECREATION AREAS

COLD CREEK PRESERVE
The Preserve's 1,000 acres embody the full range of physical conditions found in the Santa Monica Mountains, including 13 waterfalls. The Preserve is open to the public by reservation (818-346-9675), free of charge every day of the year. Cold Creek Preserve is owned by the Mountains Restoration Trust. The Stunt High / Cold Creek trailhead is 1 mile from Mulholland Drive on Stunt Road. The trail follows Cold Creek riparian area to a clearing where the Stunt High Trail turns to cross the meadow. The trail continues, jogging back across Stunt Road, twice, before joining the Backbone Trail near Saddlepeak.
Variety and abundance of flowers typify this trail. The Cold Creek Trail goes to Cold Creek Valley Preserve or continues to Malibu Creek State Park.

GRIFFITH PARK
Owned by the City of Los Angeles, Griffith Park is the largest municipal park and urban wilderness area in the United States. Freeway off-ramps leading to the park from I-5 are Los Feliz Boulevard, Griffith Park (direct entry) and Zoo Drive. After leaving freeway, follow the signs into the park. Griffith Park is open to the public from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, but hiking paths are closed at sunset. Over 4,107 acres of natural terrain, from semiarid chaparral foothills to forested valleys, are covered with California oak trees, wild sage and manzanitas. Situated in the eastern Santa Monica Mountain range, the Park's elevations range from 384 to 1625 feet above sea level.. Over the years recreational attractions have been developed throughout the Park, however an amazingly large portion of the Park remains virtually unchanged from the days Native American villages occupied the area's lower slopes.

CHARMLEE NATURAL AREA
(310) 317-1364
2577 S. Encinal Canyon Road, 4 miles north of Pacific Coast Highway. This lovely park, now owned by the City of Malibu, overlooks the Pacific Ocean and has been described as flower patches surrounded by typical Santa Monica Mountains chaparral. Its oak forest and open meadows covers 450 acres.

 
 

OTHER AREAS IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

TORREY PINES STATE RESERVE
(619) 755-2063
South of Del Mar. One mile south of Camel Valley Road on North Torrey Pines Road (also known as the Coast Highway). Gates open at 8:00 am and close at sunset. Day use only. There is a $4.00 parking fee for any car entering Torrey Pines State Reserve. ($3.00 for Seniors) The area is the home of a rare pine tree, the Torrey Pine ( Pinus torreyana ), a relic of the ice age. The plant communities found within the 2,000 acres of the Reserve include coastal strand, coastal scrub, chaparral, Torrey pine woodland, salt marsh, fresh water marsh and riparian.

MISSION TRAILS REGIONAL PARK
(619) 668-3275
One Father Junipero Serra Trail, San Diego. Approximately 4 miles east of Highway 8, just off Mission Gorge Road. Oak woodlands, coastal sage scrub, riparian corridor along the San Diego River with cottonwoods and willows. Great wildflowers in the late winter and spring.

LOS PEÑASQUITOS CANYON PRESERVE
(619) 538-8066
Jointly owned by the City and County of San Diego, the preserve lies between Rancho Peñasquitos and Sorrento Hills to the north and Mira Mesa to the south. The east entrance is located at the intersection of Black Mountain and Mercy Roads. The western entrance is located on the south side of Sorrento Valley Boulevard, approximately 1 mile east of Vista Sorrento Parkway. A convenient northern entrance is near Peñasquitos Creek Park, at the intersection of Park Village Road and Camino Ruiz in Rancho Peñasquitos. Plant communities featuring over 500 plant species include a streamside forest of giant live oaks, groves of majestic sycamore trees, flat mesa tops and grassy hillsides.

CRYSTAL COVE STATE PARK
(714) 494-3539
8471 Pacific Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651. The park is located off Pacific Coast Highway between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach. Crystal Cove State Park has 3.5 miles of beach, and 2,000 acres of undeveloped woodland, which was formerly used for cattle grazing. California State Parks is working to revert the land to native vegetation.

CHANNEL ISLANDS NATIONAL PARK
(805) 658-5730
The park is open all year. It comprises five of the eight California Channel Islands.

BACK TO TOP | BACK TO NATIVE PLANTS PAGE