• Stars appear behind a dramatic landscape of rocky mountains, rolling hills, and fields of grass

    Santa Monica Mountains

    National Recreation Area California

Nature & Science

Looking across the rugged terrain of Castro Crest in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Located adjacent to the city of Los Angeles, the second largest urban area in the United States, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area protects one of the largest and most significant examples of Mediterranean-type ecosystems in the world. The climate of the Mediterranean ecosystem, characterized by wet winters and warm, dry summers, along with the diverse topography in the Santa Monica Mountains has created a landscape filled with unique natural resources.

The Santa Monica Mountains are part of the east-west trending Transverse Ranges of Southern California. The range is geologically complex and characterized by steep, rugged mountain slopes and canyons. Elevations range from sea level to more than 3,000 feet. The Santa Monica Mountains are adjacent to 46 miles of scenic California coastline with sandy beaches and rocky tide pools and lagoons.

A bobcat is caught on a motion sensor camera.

There is tremendous ecological diversity within the Santa Monica Mountains. The mountains are home to over 1,000 plant species making up 26 distinct natural communities, from freshwater aquatic habitats and two of the last salt marshes on the Pacific Coast, to oak woodlands, valley oak savannas, coastal sage, and chaparral. Numerous mammals are found in the Santa Monica Mountains, including bobcats, coyotes, and mountain lions. Nearly 400 species of birds have been observed and another 35 species of reptiles and amphibians can also be found in the mountains. The Santa Monica Mountains are home to more than 50 threatened or endangered plants and animals - among the highest concentrations of such rare species in the United States.

California Newt
The California newt (Taricha torosa)
Greater Roadrunner
Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus)

Did You Know?

Rangers from California State Parks and the National Park Service discuss program ideas.

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area was established in 1978, but the National Park Service did not own public parkland in the area until 1980. National Park Rangers devised clever ways to promote the national park goals without land by creating thriving partnerships with many agencies.