Printer Friendly

Exploring L.A.'s vast island of wilderness amid 11 million people.

Meanwhile, back at the Paramount Ranch, the ranger pointed to the falsefronted western town plunked down among valley The Cisco Kid rode here." Above the false fronts rose a genuine mountain, "That's Sugarloaf Peak. A lot of people think it inspired the Paramount Pictures logo."

We looked up, Come to think of it, we had seen that triangular summit looming behind a few hundred opening credits. And we suddenly realized that Paramount Ranch and the other lands of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area are not like other places. These

mountains are stars.

If you're visiting Southern California, consider foregoing a day of star-spotting on Rodeo Drive for a day in the SMMNRA. Unlike human celebrities, the Santa Monicas need no pancake make-up to delight especially in spring. Sycamores and oaks are leafing out; poppies and Indian paintbrush are blooming.

For an island of wild in the city, a still-to-be-finished park

The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area was founded in 1978, with the hope that local, state, and federal governments would work together to create the nation's biggest urban park. The mountains, which run 46 miles from the Los Angeles River to the Pacific at Point Mugu, would become an island of wilderness in a sea of 11 million people.

A decade later, the park is anything but complete. The chief hurdle: a lack of money. The SMMNRA began life just as federal money for land acquisitions dried up. The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy-a state-funded agency charged with purchasing land for the park-could not make up the difference.

The end result is a jigsaw puzzle of a recreation area, with state and federal lands wrapped around private inholdings. Still, some choice land has been saved. The trail system is expanding. And no park in the nation has a more active cadre of volunteers: 54 organizations to lead hikes and tours for every taste.

Even the SMMNRA's financial prospects look brighter. Last year Congress appropriated $11 million for the park. A state parklands initiative earmarked $30 million more. Says acting superintendent Bill Webb, "My hope is that in five years we'll see a completed Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area."

Five trips to sample the SMMNRA

The Santa Monicas shelter a surprising variety of plant communities-chaparral, of course, but also salt marshes and riparian woodlands. Fifty species of land mammals live here, including a dozen holdout mountain lions; more than 400 species of birds live in or migrate througb the range. Our five outings show the SMMNRA's diversity. Families with children might try the nature walks at Solstice Canyon. Ambitious hikers can head for Circle X Ranch or the Backbone Trail. For more information on trips, call the SMMNRA at (818) 888-3770. Two cautions apply in these mountains. You're not likely to see rattlesnakes, but they do live here and in spring may venture out in daytime. Poison oak is met more often; consider hiking in pants and long-sleeved shirt.

1. Circle X Ranch. Drivers might have to reassure queasy passengers that the twisting road is worth it. But the ranch is arguably the SMMNRA's most spectacular chunk of land.

From Malibu, take State Highway I about 16 miles west to Yerba Buena Road. Turn north and drive 5-1/2 miles to the Circle X entry and the ranger station, which has trail maps.

For superb views gained with almost shamefully little effort, take Boney Mountain Trail from the equestrian parking lot. In 2 miles, the trail climbs to 3,111 -foot Sandstone Peak, the highest summit in the range. On a clear day, the view can extend from the Palos Verdes Peninsula to the Channel Islands.

The trail then meets Boney Ridge Trail, which branches to the south just before Inspiration Point. The trail is steep and occasionally hard to find amid dense brush; persevere and in a mile you'll reach the ranger station, From there, take Canyon View Trail or the road to your car.

Circle X has two group lodges and two campgrounds; for reservations, call the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy at (213) 456-7807. Space at the backpack camp on Boney Ridge is on a first-come, first-served basis; check in at the ranger station on your arrival.

2. Paramount Ranch. This isn't Universal Studios; if you want mock fist fights you'll have to stage them yourself. But the 456acre ranch with the western town movie set has a film history dating back to Wells Fargo in 1914.

Paramount Ranch also has a picnic area and nature trail and, this month, good wildflower displays.

To reach the ranch, take U.S. 101 to Agoura Hills. Exit south on Kanan Road and go 3/4 mile; turn left onto Cornell Road and continue 2-1/2 miles south.

3. Solstice Canyon. This sycamoreshaded canyon above Malibu makes as vernal a setting as anyone could hope for. It's owned by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and managed by the conservancy foundation, whose office doubles as visitor center.

The longest trail here follows Old Solstice Road for 2 miles, passing an 1865 cottage said to be the oldest building in the mountains. It then connects to the 4-mile Sostomo Trail for wide canyon views.

To reach the park, take Pacific Coast Highway 2 miles west of Malibu Canyon Road. Turn north on Corral Canyon Road, then left through the white gate. If the eight parking spaces are full, return to Pacific Coast Highway and scout for legal parking along its shoulders.

From the parking lot, it's a 10-minute walk to the foundation office, where you can get maps and information between 8 and 5 daily.

4. Cheeseboro Canyon. SMMNRA's only holding north of U.S. 101, this dimpled, oak-dotted valley provides a wildlife corridor from the Santa Monicas to lands to the north a corridor thought essential to maintaining genetic diversity of species in the mountains.

The 1.8-mile Sheep Corral Trail runs the canyon's length. Bring binoculars to view kestrels and other raptors; you might also see goldfinches and woodpeckers.

To reach the canyon, take U.S. 101 to Chesebro Canyon Road and exit north. Turn right on Palo Comado Road, then right again on Chesebro, a total of 0.8 mile. You'll see the parking lot on your right; turn in and drive 1/2 mile.

5. Backbone/Saddle Peak Trail Hikers have long dreamed of a route running the crest of the Santa Monicas from Griffith Park to Point Mugu. Today this Backbone Trail is about half complete. One scenic, geologically interesting 4-mile stretch is the Saddle Peak Trail.

Take U.S. 101 to Las Virgenes Road; turn south 3 miles and turn east on Mulholland Highway. Go 3-1/2 miles, then go right on Stunt Road and drive 2.8 miles. Park on the shoulder. On the north side of the road, a small sign marks the Stunt High Trail; our walk begins across the road, 25 feet to the west.

The trail skirts the northwestern face of Saddle Peak. On smog-free days, you'll get urban views north to the San Fernando Valley and wilder vistas west to the peaks of Malibu Creek State Park.

In 4 miles, you reach Piuma Road. If you've left a second car here (1.4 miles east of the intersection with Malibu Canyon Road), shuttle back to your start. Otherwise, return the way you came.

SMMNRA events, camping, guides

For more activities in the SMMNRA, get the free calendar Springtime in the Santa Monica Mountains and Seashore-1989 by visiting or calling SMMNRA headquarters, 22900 Ventura Boulevard, Woodland Hills; (818) 888-3770. It's open 8 to 5 daily except Sundays.

The Sierra Club also sponsors a series of hikes, Sundays in the Santa Monicas. For a schedule, send a stamped, selfaddressed envelope to 6223 Lubao Avenue, Woodland Hills 91367.

State parks and beaches. Three state parks and nine state beaches lie within SMMNRA. Point Mugu, Malibu Creek, and Topanga parks offer particularly good hiking. You can get trail guides for them at SMMNRA's headquarters. For other information, write or call the State of California Department of Parks, Santa Monica Mountains District, 2860-A Camino dos Rios, Newbury Park 91320; (805) 499-2112 or (818) 706-1310.

Camping. Point Mugu State Park and Leo Carrillo State Beach have developed campgrounds. Reserve for each through MISTIX: (800) 444-7275. Point Mugu and Topanga state parks also have walkin campgrounds. Reservations aren't accepted; get a permit at the park on the day of your visit. For camping at Circle X Park, see the end of the listing for trip 1, above left.

Book & SMMNRA headquarters carries numerous guides to the Santa Monicas. The most helpful hiking volume is Milt McAuley's Hiking Trails of the Santa Monica Mountains (Canyon Publishing Co., Canoga Park, Calif. 1987; $9.95).

The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy's map, The Santa Monica Mountains and Rim of the Valley Corridor is also useful. It's sold for $2 at Solstice Canyon and Circle X Ranch.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, California
Publication:Sunset
Date:Apr 1, 1989
Words:1486
Previous Article:Joining in on a bike trek; Marin, Yosemite, San Juan Islands, other choices.
Next Article:Wine-and-song festivals at California and Washington wineries.
Topics:


Related Articles
Wilderness tomorrow.
LARGEST ACQUISITION TO PRESERVE WILDERNESS IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA MOUNTAINS
OUT THERE: NO REST FOR THE WEARY ON BBT.
$319 MILLION PARK BOND DRAWS SUPPORT AT SUPERVISORS' HEARING.
AS THE GRASS IS GREEN : TRAIL LOST?: MISSING PIECE IN PATH'S COMPLETION WOULD BE FORFEITED IF BALLOT MEASURE IS REJECTED.
MOUNTAIN RECREATION AREA MAY DOUBLE.
MALIBU PARK OPEN TO TOURS LAGOON, RANCH ARE FEATURED.
BUILDING THREATENS PARKLAND FUNDS: NO MONEY TO BUY, MAINTAIN NEW NATIONAL PARK ACREAGE.
VALLEY WILDERNESS AREA NEARS PARKLAND STATUS STUDY: DRIVE FOR FEDERAL PROTECTION OF CORRIDOR ADVANCES.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters