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Map: Hooked by Ken Burns? Here are the National Park Units Near Los Angeles

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The markings above show units run by the National Park Service. However, areas like Runyon Canyon and Franklin Canyon are part of the National Recreation Area, but run by different agencies | View Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in a larger map

Joshua Tree, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, Yosemite, Death Valley. These National Parks have captured the hearts of Californians and millions of others. Channel Islands, Mojave, Pinnacles, Cabrillo. They're lesser known in Southern and Central California, but sometimes just as beautiful, if not equally. And closer to home here in Los Angeles and heading west into Ventura County are a collection of National Park units hardly spoken about by the millions who live here (and will not be talked about in Ken Burns' 12-hour epic documentary, which debuted last night on PBS). They are within the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, an area between the 101 Freeway in the Hollywood Hills stretching to the Pacific Ocean and down the coast to the Santa Monica Pier (read LAist's first take on this area here).

The first established National Recreation Area was Lake Mead, just past the state border in Nevada. Later, Gateway in the New York City area and Golden Gate in and around San Francisco became some of the first national recreation areas touted as "urban national parks" because of their metropolitan settings. Los Angeles finally got its due in 1978, the same year the closest classic National Park to Los Angeles was founded, Channel Islands National Park.

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In 1963, Congress sought to "fulfill adequately the steeply mounting outdoor recreation demands of the American people," according to national recreation area policy. "Although nonurban in character, National Recreation Areas should nevertheless be strategically located within easy driving distance, i.e., not more than 250 miles from urban population centers which are to be served. Such areas should be readily accessible at all times, for all-purpose recreational use."

Although the Santa Monica Mountains are immediately within a one half hour drive from 11 million people, National Park Service officials found the scale of challenges with the area went beyond a cure for recreation needs such as encroaching development to wildlife corridors, rare plant species and a Mediterranean Biome environment sensitive to global warming.

To that effort, the Santa Monica Mountains is known within the National Park system as a progressive unit, one that manages the 153,000 acres by collaborating with a number of agencies, like state parks, "to create a seamless partnership to coordinate and share scarce resources and maximize their benefits." A new visitor center is being developed where all agencies can work together in a shared space.

Related
- Map of State Parks in the Los Angeles Area (note: As of Friday, September 25th, state parks will not be closed)
- Map: Where the Mountain Lions Live in the Santa Monica Mountains
- Second Century Commission Releases Report, Features Santa Monica Mountains
- Sandstone Peak: Hiking to the Highest Point in the Santa Monica Mountains
- King Gillette Ranch: An Easy Hike with Great Views