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Franko’s Map of the Santa Monica Mountains After pondering mapping the fabulous Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area for years (I first mountain biked there in the Potrero Trail in 1990, before I even made my first map), I’ve finally done it! The first edition of Franko’s Map of the Santa Monica Mountains was at last introduced in August 2007. This map is the ultimate handy guide for hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians and other visitors to this tremendous, park-filled mountain range. The Santa Monica Mountains comprise some of California’s most wonderful, rugged, scenery right next to the giant megalopolis we call L.A. Running west to east, the mountains begin at Point Mugu in Ventura County, and stretch across over 50 miles of largely open terrain to Griffith Park in Los Angeles. Collectively this area is called the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The Santa Monica Mountains have more miles and more diverse mountain bike riding than any other urban open country area in the world. The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is also full of wildlife, forests, chaparral, and even a few beautiful pools of water big enough to swim in. Mountain bikers, hikers, and horseback riders will see grand vistas in every direction. You might also see deer, bobcat, soaring raptors, snakes, lizards, songbirds, and possibly even a mountain lion. In some valleys you might mistake the scene for Arizona or Utah. In other areas you will see grand vistas overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands. Interestingly, the development of this map, and the improvements in digital data and map making technology has led me to update and renew my Channel Islands National Park Map as well. In the Santa Monica Mountains Mulholland Highway runs from end to end in the Santa Monica Mountains, from Leo Carrillo State Beach at the Los Angeles/Ventura County line to the Cahuenga Pass in the Hollywood Hills. Millions of people live within minutes of these parks. This road provides access to many of the best bicycling, hiking, and horseback riding in the Santa Monica Mountains. Between Topanga Canyon and Encino Hills Drive there is an 11-mile stretch of Mulholland Highway that is not paved. This road is rideable and provides access to many high roads on the west side of L.A., the San Fernando Valley, plus Topanga State Park. The backbone trail ascends from Will Rogers State Historic Park near Sunset Boulevard and meanders clear through the Santa Monica Mountains to Point Mugu State Park.To do justice to the wonderful open space, canyons, mountains, and beaches of the Santa Monica Mountain National Recreation Area in the form of a handy and informative map is a tall order of business. Indeed it took me several years of dabbling at it. The map starts with a beautiful shaded relief background, base on USGS digital elevation models, which are process and then “Frankoized”, to make them pleasing to the eye. Every canyon and peak can be easily seen, making real-life travel withing the mountains easy to follow. The mountains you see in front of you can easily be seen on the map as well. With this map in hand, and with the ability to see the canyons and hills right on the map as they actually appear, the map becomes all the more useful. To make it even more useful for hikers and mountain bikers, I’ve also added topographical lines, representing elevations at 200-foot intervals. If you really know how to use a map, then this becomes the ultimate map of the Santa Monica Mountains. It fits in your pocket or pouch, it is impervious to sweat, rain, or any amount of water, it won’t simply rip or fall apart, it is highly accurate, and it shows the entire Santa Monica Mountains range on a two-sided 14”x21” maps. I think that most Franko Maps owners realize that I don’t personally like big, difficult, cumbersome maps, and thus I make them as clear and accurate as I can in a handy, easy format. That’s why they are the size they are. It is amazing what a lot of information the picture conveys. It includes descriptions of the major parks and recreation areas within the Santa Monica Mountains, plus basic park rules, phone numbers, major roads, trails, peaks, valleys, elevations at intersections, and much more. Since this map was made simultaneously with Franko’s Map of Los Angeles County Trails, Franko’s Map of the San Gabriel Mountains, plus 6th and 7th editions of Franko’s Map of Orange County Trails, Franko’s Map of the Santa Ana Mountains and Chino Hills State Park, Franko’s Map of Big Bear, Franko’s Map of Santa Catalina Island, and Franko’s Map of Channel Islands National Park, you might realize why it has been so-o-o-o-o long in the making.While making this map I’ve learned much about the historical significance of the Santa Monica Mountains. During this past Century or so, until the 1960’s the Santa Monica Mountains were used almost exclusively for ranching and for exclusive houses for the rich and famous. But during the 1960’s the ever expanding L.A. megalopolis began to encroach into these mountains, alarming local environmentalists, outdoorsmen, and some of those rich locals who had already claimed the Santa Monica Mountains as their home. The fight over the use of the Santa Monica Mountains began. The United States Congress pledged in 1978 to create the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area with the ultimate goal of a continuous National Park in the Santa Monica Mountains. Many national, state, county, and city agencies now control the lands and parks of the Santa Monicas. This means that much of the Santa Monica Mountains has been preserved forever for open space and recreational use. This has also preserved thousands of acres of oak woodlands and wildlife corridors that would have otherwise been developed. Please note that Franko’s Map of the Santa Monica Mountains features parking symbols so that you can get into these parks and onto these trails with ease. Please always park legally and respect the privacy and rights of the locals.Franko’s Map of the Santa Monica Mountains is presented to you in an effort to show the beauty and uniqueness of what we now call the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. When visiting the Santa Monica Mountains, from Point Mugu State Park on the far western end to Runyon Canyon Park on the far eastern end, or anywhere in between please consider an honor and a great privilege to enjoy this fabulous backcountry.Because the Santa Monica Mountains runs over 50 miles in a west – east direction, yet is only between 1 and 10 miles wide, it was natural for the map to be divided into two halves, with the western half comprising side 1 of Franko’s Map of The Santa Monica Mountains, and the eastern half making up side 2. The descriptions of Franko’s Map of the Santa Monica Mountains presented below utilize many of the words that are actually right on the map. To truly describe these mountains would take a book, rather than a handy-size Franko Map. However, a picture tells a thousand words, and this map could be described as a thousand pictures coming together. The Santa Monica Mountains are one of my favorite places in the world. I would suggest you get a map and study it instead of reading all of these words, but if you want to know a bit about what I’ve put on the map, here you go:Franko’s Map of the Santa Monica Mountains Side 1: Starting at the far western end of the Santa Monica Mountains, you’ll find Point Mugu State Park rises above Ventura’s farms to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the south. Point Mugu State Park lies entirely in Ventura County and covers 15,000 acres with 5 miles of pristine coastline. Anciently inhabited by Chumash Indians, this park still bears the name “Mugu,” which the Chumash gave it. This word means “beach.” There are many miles of multi-use trails in the park, although mountain bikers are limited by a 15 mph speed limit. Point Mugu State Park is virtually a true Southern California wilderness. However, the park is unique in that its trails are dotted with drinking fountains every few miles. Point Mugu State Park has ample picnicking and camping, including Thornhill Broome Beach and Sycamore Canyon. Right next to Point Mugu State Park is the Circle X Ranch, which is also mostly in Ventura County. Circle X Ranch boasts the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains, which is Sandstone Peak at 3111 feet. Bicycles are allowed on the fire roads but not on single track trails. Circle X Ranch has wonderful trails, picnicking, camping, and a ranger’s station. Both Circle X Ranch and Point Mugu State Park are divided by the Backbone Trail. On the northern edge of Point Mugu state park lies a park called Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa. “Satwiwa” means “the bluffs” in the language of the Chumash Indians and it was the name of a Chumash village here. This park has a wonderful museum called the Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center. It is open on weekends. Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa has great trails, particularly for equestrians and there is an equestrian parking lot near Potrero Road. You can also enjoy the Rancho Potrero open space adjacent to Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa. North of the Ventura freeway there are several parks and recreation areas including Liberty Canyon Park, Rancho Simi Recreation Area, Oak Canyon Community Park, Conejo Creek Park, Wildwood Regional Park, and Conejo Canyons Park. You will also find the National Park Service Headquarters and Visitors Center for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreational Area located just north of the 101 freeway off the Lynn Road offramp. The Cheeseboro/Palo Comado Canyons Park area lies in the Simi Hills at the northernmost part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Within these dry hills wildlife abounds including many birds of prey. Mountain bikers may ride on the fire roads but not on the single tracks. Moving eastward to the next major park is Leo Carrillo State Park located at the beach just into L.A. County, at the intersection of Mulholland Highway and Pacific Coast Highway. It covers over 2000 acres and almost 2 miles of coastline. This park is designated for hiking only, meaning no mountain bikes or equestrians are allowed. It has a popular campsite at Leo Carrillo State Beach plus group camping in the canyon. Just inland straddling the Ventura and L.A. County lines is the fabulous park called Malibu Springs. Malibu Springs is a spectacular part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. It features Truinfo Lookout at elevation 2658 feet, and also the backbone trail which runs across its northern part. Classic Santa Monica Mountains scenery can also be found at tiny Arroyo Sequit Park, located along Mulholland Highway. Arroyo Sequit features a stream, meadows, picnic area, and a beautiful loop trail. Next Charmlee Natural Area, also called Charmlee Wilderness Park, covers 590 acres, and includes a nature center and a fabulous Ocean Vista at 1150 feet elevation. From Charmlee’s Ocean Vista 4 of the Channel Islands can be seen on a clear day. They are San Miguel Island, Santa Cruz Island, San Nicolas Island, and Anacapa Island. Just south of Westlake village, in the heart of the Santa Monica Mountains is the 200-acre Rocky Oaks Park. Rocky Oaks could easily be missed by motorists traveling along Mulholland Highway or Kanan Road. It serves as a wildlife refuge, and a nice place to visit, picnic, or mountain bike. Presiding over Point Dume is the Zuma/Trancas Canyons area, which was once called Rancho Malibu and owned by Frederick and May Rindge. For many years they fought the construction of Pacific Coast Highway through their ranch, but eventually the U.S. Supreme Court forced them to allow it. In the language of the Chumash Indians the word “Zuma” means “abundance.” Mountain biking is allowed in this park. Another tiny park is the Peter Strauss Ranch. The Peter Strauss Ranch was an amusement park from the 1930’s until 1960. The site fell into disrepair until the actor Peter Strauss bought the property in the 1970’s. He restored the site to its pre 1960’s splendor. In 1987 the property became a part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Castro Crest is another magnificent park through which the backbone trail runs. It features the prominent Castro Peak, elevation 2824 feet. Just above Malibu lies Solstice Canyon which features and easy trail to a great picnic spot at Tropical Terrace, the ruins of a mansion that burned down in 1982. Just south of Agoura Hills lies Paramount Ranch, which has been the site of the filming of Western television shows and movies. The movie set called Western Town stands for all to enjoy. Bicycling is permitted. Squarely in the center of the Santa Monica Mountains is one of the best parks in the State of California, and that is Malibu Creek State Park. Within its 10,000 acres is its main feature, a gorge called Malibu Canyon, carved by Malibu creek. Other points of interest include a wetland estuary, a freshwater marsh at Century Lake, a visitor’s center, and ruins of some vacation homes called the Mott Adobe. This is a hugely popular spot amongst TV and movie makers to film fabulous country scenery for their productions. Mountain bikers are allowed on fire roads only. Near Pepperdine University lies Malibu Bluffs Recreation Area. It has 90 acres overlooking the ocean and it has a staircase that leads down to the base of the bluff and Amarillo Beach below. A few more parks and open space areas in the Santa Monica Mountains are Lake Eleanor Open Space, Truinfo Canyon Park, Westlake Vista/Decker Canyon Open Space, Ladyface Mountain Open Space, Calabasas Open Space, Liberty Canyon Natural Preserve, Udell Gorge Natural Preserve, Kaslow Natural Preserve, Corral Canyon Park, and Malibu Equestrian Park.
Franko’s Map of the Santa Monica Mountains Side 2: No description of the Santa Monica Mountains would typically include the fabulous surfing spots that are located at the shoreline below, but since this area includes Malibu, which is possibly the best surf sopt in all the world, I absolutely must add a few words on surfing both to my map and to this description. Malibu Creek empties into the Pacific Ocean just east of Malibu Point, right at the site of California’s best and most famous surfing spot. Although this subject is well covered by Franko’s Map of L.A. County surfing, the description on the map is as follows: “Malibu Surfing: THE fabulous, famous, classic, miracle right point waves, defined by three separate and unique take-off zones. During some swells these three zones are capable of connecting together to produce one of the most stimulating rides in the world.” Those few words sum up a million fabulous surf rides by a million surfers over many decades of surfing at Malibu. Incidentally, I also described a couple of other of the Santa Monica Mountains best surfing spots as follows: Sunset Surfing: Right at Sunset Blvd., an occasional beachbreak/point combo gets good during larger winter swells. Rock bottom. Topanga Surfing: The first real point at the base of Topanga Canyon, Topanga is a long, sectiony right break seen from PCH. Topanga breaks best on large, west swells and little wind. Extremely long rides are possible if you’re fast enough. Also good for longboards and beginners when it's not too big. The Santa Monica Mountain trail map owner who also likes to surf will want to refer to Franko's Map of L.A. Surfing for details of the whole county’s surfing opportunities.Meanwhile, there are plenty of fabulous open spaces and parks spread across the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains on this side of Franko’s Map of the Santa Monica Mountains. Each is listed in this paragraph with the exact words found on Franko’s Map of the Santa Monica Mountains. They include: Tuna Canyon Park This 1,255-acre park features lovely sycamore riparian woodland, coastal sage scrub, and native grasslands. Topanga State Park covers 9,000 acres, and is located between the San Fernando Valley and the Pacific Ocean. The word "topanga" is a Chumash Indian word that means roughly "the place where the mountains meet the sea." Points of interest include Will Rogers State Historic Park, Temescal Gateway Park, and the park headquarters at Trippet Ranch. Mountain bikes are allowed on fire roads only. Red Rock Canyon Park Located in the heart of the Santa Monica Mountains, this park features beautiful canyon walls with red sandstone outcroppings. Las Virgenes View Park Hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians enjoy climbing through chaparral, oak woodland, and a riparian zone with sycamore, black cottonwood, willow and bay. The park covers 696 acres. Summit Valley Ed Edelman Park 652 acres of wonderful oak woodlands, native grasslands, and mixed chaparral. Marvin Braude Mulholland Gateway Park Hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians enjoy gorgeous city and mountain views in this 1,500-acre park. Westridge-Canyonback Wilderness Park Hikers, bikers, and equestrians enjoy hiking theFire Roads. Dogs are permitted off-leash in this park of over 1,500 acres. Wilacre Park encompasses 128 acres, and features trails linking the park to Fryman Canyon and Franklin Canyon. Fryman Canyon Park covers 122 acres, and features a fitness course and spectacular views at Fryman Canyon Overlook. Runyon Canyon Park covers 160 acres. Good dogs are allowed off-leash in most of the park. Laurel Canyon Park is a nice place for a picnic, and features a fenced children's area and a 3-acre dog park where your dog can run free without a leash during certain hours of the day. Franklin Canyon was once part of a ranch owned by oilman Edward Doheny. The National Park Service purchased the land in 1981, and it became a part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Mountain bikes are allowed on fire roads only. Will Rogers State Historic Park was a ranch built by the famous actor Will Rogers, who died in 1935. After Mrs. Rogers died in 1944, the site became a state park.Now, get a copy of Franko’s Map of the Santa Monica Mountain and enjoy it! I mean, get out and enjoy the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. It is close by, and there are surprisingly few people out there. While you’re at it, grab a few more Franko Maps and enjoy those areas as well. It is an interesting phenomenon that if you study a Franko Map, whether it be the Santa Monica Mountains, Big Bear, Hawaii, or where ever, it causes you to go there. When you do, enjoy it!