Frequently Asked Questions

Backbone Trail FAQ's

When did the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation area become a unit in the National Park System?
Four state parks were the triumph of a grassroots movement to protect open spaces minutes from Los Angeles in the 1950s & 60s. Three women, Sue Nelson, Jill Swift, and Margo Feuer further galvanized the movement that helped make Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area a reality in 1978.

Are pets allowed in National and State Parks?
The mountains have many scenic spots and open spaces for you and your pet to enjoy together. For the safety of wildlife, people, and your pet, leashes are required on pets at all times within the park. Leashes, even retractable ones, must be 6 feet (2 meters) or less in length. Pets are required to stay on trails, roads, and developed areas (campgrounds and parking lots).

California State Parks have different rules than National Park sites. In State Parks, pets are not permitted on backcountry trails.

Where can I go camping in the Santa Monica Mountains?
There is only one campground operated by the National Park Service in the Santa Monica Mountains: Circle X Ranch Campground. A minimum of 10 people are required for a reservation.

There are also many California State Park campgrounds in the mountains. Each site has a different fee and unique amenities available.

For more information on campgrounds and how to make reservations, visit our camping webpage here.

What kinds of restoration work is the park doing?
Many hands spanning different generations and agencies continue to turn back the clock on damage to the fragile environment at Zuma Lagoon. After the removal of debris and the restoration of native plants, beach visitors now find a living wetland with 108 species of birds and colorful wildflowers.

A core group of dedicated National Park volunteers, often laboring in the hot sun, built a native plant nursery from the ground up in 2002. Native plants, from the common Ceanothus to the endangered Lyons pygmy daisy germinated in this volunteer-run nursery will help restore disturbed habitat.

Being so close to major movie studios, do they make films using the park?
Unique vistas and cultural significance often draw filmmakers to National Parks. Paramount Ranch is the only place in the National Park System where you can see movie making in action at a historic movie ranch once owned by Paramount Pictures (1927).

How big is the park?
Comprising 153,075 acres, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is the world's largest urban national park. It has more area codes (5) and zip codes (26), including the notable 90210 zip code of Beverly Hills, than any other unit in the National Park System.

Is there any cultural aspect of the park?
On June 13, 1980, Charlie Cooke, hereditary Chief of the Chumash and concerned citizens fulfilled a dream-- a place for families to explore our natural world and learn about the Chumash. Satwiwa in Newbury Park, CA celebrates the beauty of the mountains and all Native American cultures.

What is the history of the park?
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.

At the geographical center of Los Angeles is a national park site. At Franklin Canyon Ranch in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, you can see cityscapes and natural views. The recreation area extends in an east-west direction running through the heart of the city.

Are there any mountain lions?
A study that began in 2002 reveals a lion and his offspring are surviving in the Santa Monica Mountains. Radio collars track them crossing roads and navigating through open spaces. Their future is uncertain, but with conservation efforts, they may continue to make these mountains their home.

Where can I see a Waterfall?
Though there are many seasonal waterfalls in the recreation area, one of the few places to see a waterfall year round is Solstice Canyon. From the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, take Corral Canyon Road. Look for the entrance to Solstice Canyon on the left.

Last updated: May 12, 2022

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