by Charlotte Parry
When you think of National Parks do you imagine yourself in the majesty of Yosemite or the historic splendors of the National Mall in DC? Agreed, they are wonderful, but don’t forget there is a national park right on your doorstep in the Conejo Valley: the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Extending from Pt. Mugu to the Hollywood Hills this is the largest urban national park in the country at over 150,000 acres.
It’s a wonderful place to escape the city streets. And spring is the season to do so as we start to see wild flowers emerge across the mountains. In a good year you will see carpets of California Poppies and other glorious colors spread out at your feet as you hike through the hills. This year has been particularly good for Hummingbird Sage. Other flowers to look out for are Chocolate Lilies, Fringed Linanthus, Shooting Stars and Ceanothus.
However, finding these flowers can be a bit tricky and their appearance is never guaranteed. Good places to check them out include Pt. Dume off PCH and Pt. Mugu State Park. Other places such as Boney Trail can also be good wildflower viewing places. And of course, where you see flowers you may also see one of the many species of butterfly native to the Santa Monica Mountains.
If you see flowers on the hills that you don’t recognize, you can check this website (made possible by the Santa Monica Mountains Fund – it’s also available as a downloadable app):
Even without flowers the sight of green hills after the winter rain is magical. To experience these beautiful meadows head to Rancho Sierra Vista in Newbury Park where there are a range of hikes from easy kid-friendly trails to the tough climb up to Mt Boney Peak. (This takes you into Pt Mugu State Park). Or visit the rolling hills of Cheeseboro and Palo Comado Canyons in Agoura Hills. And you can even walk to the ocean from the Conejo Valley. Just follow Sycamore Canyon from Rancho Sierra Vista for eight miles and you can enjoy a picnic at the beach. Wherever you go in the mountains we hope you enjoy spring in this beautiful part of the country!
Charlotte Parry is Executive Director of the Santa Monica Mountains Fund, the official non-profit for the National Park Service in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area supporting wildlife research, education, trails and facilities.