Environment & Science

Santa Monica Mountains see record-breaking number of visitors, perhaps because of a hashtag

A hiker walks along the Backbone Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
A hiker walks along the Backbone Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
National Park Service

Nearly a million people visited the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area last year, easily breaking the park’s all-time annual visitation record.

National Park Service officials said on Monday they counted 906,606 visitors in 2016, a significant increase from 797,126 visitors in 2015. The increase could be due to a number of reasons, officials said, including the introduction of the hashtag “#findyourpark.”

The social media campaign was launched by the park service last year to encourage visitation to national parks across the country, said Zach Behrens, a park service spokesperson.

“If you just open up your Instagram and search for, let’s say, Sandstone Peak or Solstice Canyon, there seems to be no end of recent posts,” he said. 

It’s true.

The 67-mile Backbone trail also opened last year. The trail has been extremely popular with hikers, taking them through different rock formations and habitats within the Santa Monica Mountains, Behrens said.

On Monday, the park service also announced a record 331 million visits to all of America’s national parks in 2016, the third consecutive record-breaking year.

The park service uses motion-sensor counters on park trails to keep track of the number of park visitors. But the numbers only represent visitors to federal land in the Santa Monica Mountains, which excludes other public land, such as California State Parks, according to park service statement.

The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, which stretches from Los Angeles to Ventura County, can easily handle the increased use, although there may be more competition for parking spots, Behrens said.