Santa Monica Mountains

The Santa Monica Mountains are a low transverse range in southern California in the United States.


They run for approximately 40 mi (64 km) east-west from the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles to Point Mugu in Ventura County. The mountains form a barrier between the San Fernando Valley and the Los Angeles Basin, separating "the Valley" on the north and west-central Los Angeles on the south. Santa Monica Mountains are parallel to Santa Susana Mountains, which is located directly north of the mountains across the San Fernando Valley. Beginning at the eastern end of the San Fernando Valley, the mountains are bordered to the north by the Los Angeles River. The river flows south after Elysian Park, defining the easernmost exent of the mountains. Mount shington, on the other side of the river, has almost identical native flora and climate, however.


Geologists consider the northern Channel Islands to be a westward extension of the Santa Monicas into the Pacific Ocean. The range was created by repeated episodes of uplifting and submergence by the Raymond Fault that created complex layers of sedimentary rock. Volcanic instrusions have been exposed, including the poorly named Sandstone Peak, the highest in the range at 948 meters (3,111 ft). Malibu Creek, which eroded its own channel while the mountains slowly tilted up, bisects the range.


The Santa Monica Mountains have dry, warm to humid summers and wet, mild to cool winters. In the summer, the climate is very dry, which makes the range prone to wildfires. Snow is very occasional (rare) in the Santa Monica Mountains, as they are not as high as the nearby San Gabriel Mountains.

On 17 January 2007, an unusually cold storm brought snow in the Santa Monica Mountains. Malibu picked up 3 in (8 cm) of snow - the first measurable snow in 5 decades (50 years). Snow was also reported in Boney Peak, in the winter of 2005, and in March 2006, snow also fell on the summit of the mountain.


The Santa Monica Mountains are in the California chaparral and woodlands ecoregion and are covered by hundreds of local plant species, some of which are very rare, and others of which have become popular ornamentals. The range is host to an immense variety of wildlife, from mountain lions to the endangered steelhead.

Additional information

The mountains have more than 1,000 sites of archeological significance, particularly in regard to the Tongva and Chumash people. Today, the Santa Monica Mountains face pressure from local populations, who see the range as a recreational retreat, a desirable residential area, and as an increasingly rare wild place in urban Los Angeles.

In local speak, "going over the hill" refers to crossing the range.

Cahuenga Pass, present-day site of U.S. Route 101, is the easiest pass through the range connecting the Los Angeles Basin to the San Fernando Valley. In the 1800s, two battles were fought there, and the Treaty of Cahuenga was signed nearby. In the heyday of Hollywood movie studios clustered on both sides of it. Sepulveda Pass is the main north-south pass to the west, connecting the Westside to Sherman Oaks via the San Diego Freeway (I-405). Further west are Topanga Canyon Boulevard (SR 27), Malibu Canyon Road, and Kanan Dume Road. Mulholland Drive runs much of the length of the Santa Monica Mountains, from Cahuenga Pass to Woodland Hills while the Mulholland Highway runs from Woodland Hills to Sequit Point. The eastern end of the range, located in the City of Los Angeles, is more intensively developed than the western end of the range. The city of Malibu runs between the coast and the leading mountain ridge, from Topanga Canyon in the east to Leo Carrillo State Park in the west. The term Malibu Ozarks is sometimes used derogatorily (or ironically) for the unincorporated part of Malibu beyond the leading mountain ridge and lacking an ocean view; the term is often used synonymously with "818 Malibu" (referring to the less desirable San Fernando Valley telephone area code prefix).

Much of the mountains are located within the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Preservation of lands within the region are managed in part by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. Over twenty individual state and municipal parks are in the Santa Monica Mountains, including: Topanga State Park, Leo Carrillo State Park, Malibu Creek State Park, Point Mugu State Park, Will Rogers State Historic Park, Point Dume State Beach, Griffith Park, Marvin Braude Mulholland Gateway Park, Charmlee Wilderness Park, Runyon Canyon Park, and the Paramount Ranch.

Communities along the north slope of the mountains include (from east to west):

Communities along the south slope of the mountains include (from east to west):

Named peaks

Named Peaks in the Santa Monica Mountains
Peak Height Notes
Sandstone Peak 3111 ft 948 m also known as Mount Allen, rising nearly a kilometer high
Tri-Peaks 3010 ft 917 m
Exchange Peak 2950 ft 899 m
Boney Peak 2825 ft 861 m
Castro Peak 2824 ft 861 m highest peak in the eastern end of the range
Saddle Peak 2805 ft 855 m
Calabasas Peak 2165 ft 660 m
Temescal Peak 2126 ft 648 m
San Vicente Mountain 1965 ft 599 m former site of a Nike missile base, now a Cold War park
Clarks Peak 1965 ft 599 m
Mesa Peak 1844 ft 562 m
Cahuenga Peak 1820 ft 555 m
Brents Mountain 1713 ft 522 m
Mount Lee 1640 ft 500 m the Hollywood Sign is on the southern slope, at exactly half a kilometer high
Mount Hollywood 1625 ft 495 m
Mount Chapel 1622 ft 494 m
Mount Bell 1587 ft 484 m
La Jolla Peak 1567 ft 478 m
Laguna Peak 1457 ft 444 m
Mugu Peak 1266 ft 386 m the westernmost peak in the range, rising directly from the beach

Los Angeles River

The southwestern headwaters of the Los Angeles River are in the Santa Monica Mountains. The Los Angeles River also forms the northern boundary of the mountains from the easternmost part of the San Fernando Valley to Elysian Park, where the river turns south, thereby defining the easternmost part of the mountain range.

Griffith Park

Griffith Park and finally Elysian Park are the eastern end of the Santa Monical Mountains. Griffith Park is separated from the rest of the Santa monica Mountains to the west by the Cahuenga Pass, over which the 101 Freeway passes from the San Fernando Valley into Hollywood. Elysian Park is the easternmost part of the mountains and is bordered by the Los Angeles River to the east.

Fauna (Animals) of the Santa Monica Mountains

Native and Non Native Reptiles
(Western Fence Lizard, Bluebelly)
Neotoma spp. (pack rat)
Homo Sapiens (Humans)

Fungi of the Santa Monica Mountains

Flora (Plants) of the Santa Monica Mountains

The Santa Monica Mountains are dominated by two ecosystems, coastal sage scrub along the coast, then chapparal as the Mountains rise from the coast.

Native and Non Native Monocotyledones

Yucca whipplei

Allium peninsulare
Bloomeria crocea
Dichelostemma pulchellum

(Blue Eyed Grass)

Calochortus splendens (“beautiful” “grass”), (“splendid”)
Calochortus venustus
Calochortus spp.
Chlorogalum pomeridianum (“green” “juice”) (“afternoon”) (Soap Plant)
Fritillaria biflora

(Stream Orchid)

Elymus condensatus


(Ice Plant)
Carpobrotus edulis
Mesembryanthemum crystallinum

Malosma laurina (Laurel Sumac)
Rhus integrifolia (Lemonadeberry)
Rhus ovata (Sugar Bush)
Rhus trilobata (Squaw Bush) (commonly confused with Poison Oak, but no petiole on middle of three leaves)
Toxicodendron diversilobum (Poison Oak) (MAY CAUSE EXTREME SKIN PROBLEM IF TOUCHED OR GONE NEAR, petiole on middle of three leaf clusters)

Conium maculatum (Poison Hemlock, looks like fennel, but POISONOUS)
Foeniculum vulgare (Sweet Fennel)

Artemisia californica (Coastal Sage Brush, smells good when rubbed, edible, tarragon is a variety)
Baccharis glutinosa (Mule fat, sticky leaves)
Baccharus pilularis (Coyote Brush)
Centaurea melitensis (Yellow Star Thistle, nasty invader)
Cirsium occidentale
Encelia californica
Eriophyllum confertiflorum
Gnaphalium californicum
Malacothrix saxatilis (Cliff Aster)
Silybum marianum
Misc (sunfowers)

Brassica nigra” (Black Mustard) (“nigra” = “black”)
Stanleya pinnata

Opuntia littoralis

Isomeris arborea
Sambucus mexicana (Mexican Elderberry)

Silene laciniata

Salsola iberica (Tumbleweed)

Cistus villosus
Helianthemum scoparium (“Scoparium” = “broom”)
Calystegia macrostegia (Morning Glory)
Cuscuta californica (Dodder, Orangebeard, Witches Hair)

Dudeya lanceolata
Dudleya pulverulenta” (“pulverulent” = “pulverized to powder”. Refers to chalky wax on leaves.)

Cucurbita foetissima
Marah macrocarpus

Arctostaphylos glandulosa

Euphorbia albomarginata
Ricinus communis

Lotus scoparius {Broom)
Lupinus spp.
Lupinus hirsutissimus
Medicago sativa
Pickeringia montana
Spartium junceum

Centaurium venustum

  • Geraniaceae

Erodium cicutarium

Eriodictyon crassifolium (Yerba Santa)
Phacelia cicutaria (Caterpillar Phacelia))
Phacelia grandiflora
Phacelia parryi

Marrubium vulgare (Horehound)
Salvia apiana (White Sage)
Salvia comumbariae (Chia)
Salvia leucophylla (Purple Sage)
Salvia mellifera (Black sage)

Malacothamnus fasciculatus
Malva parviflora (Cheeseweed)

Abronia umbellata (Verbena)
Mirabilis californica (Wishbone Plant)

Clarkia deflexa
Clarkia unguiculata
Zauschneria californica

Oxalis pes-caprae (lemon flavored)

Paeonia californica

Dendromecon rigida
Dicentra ochroleuca
Eschscholzia californica
Papaver californicum
Romneya coulteri

Leptodactylon californicum
Linanthus dianthiflorus

Eriogonum crocatum
Eriogonum cinereum
Eriogonum elongatum
Eriogonum fasciculatum
Rumex crispus

Claytonia perfoliata
Anagalis arvensis
Dodecatheon clevelandii

Clematis ligusticifolia
Delphinium cardinale:
Delphinium parryi
Ranunculus californicus

Ceanothus crassifolius
Ceanothus cuneatus
Ceanothus leucodermis
Ceanothus megacarpus
Ceanothus oliganthus
Ceanothus spinosus
Rhamnus californica

Adenostoma fasciculatum
Cercocarpus betuloides
Heteromeles arbutifolia
Prunus ilicifolia
Rosa californica
Rubus ursinus

Ribes aureum
Ribes malvaceum
Ribes speciosum

Anirrhinum coulterianum
Antirrhinim kelloggii
Castilleja affins
Casrilleja foliolosa
Castilleja marinii
Mimulus brevipes
Mimulus aurantiacus
Mimulus cardinalis
Mimulus guttatus
Mimulus longiflorus
Mimulus pilosus
Orthocarpus purpurascens
Pedicularis densiflora
Penstemon centranthifolius
Penstemon hetero[hyllus
Penstemon spectabilis

Datura meteloides
Nicotiana glauca
Nicotiana bigelovii
Nicotiana glauca
Solanum douglasii
''Solanum xantii

See also

Nearby mountain ranges

External links

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