At long last, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area has a visitor center in the mountains. For more than 30 years, visitors and the National Park Service alike had to make do with facilities in various office buildings and industrial parks situated near the Ventura Freeway and far from any hiking trails.

Anthony C. Beilenson Visitor Center is located in the King Gillette Ranch, just east of Malibu Creek State Park. With a state-of-the-art photovoltaic solar energy system, it’s the National Park Service’s first “Net Zero” visitor center—powered entirely by its own energy.

Built entirely of recycled materials, the center was constructed from the existing ranch stables. Inside, visitors can learn about the region’s unique Mediterranean ecosystem, rich movie history, and the many recreation opportunities available in the mountains.

The ranch was once home to safety razor magnate King Camp Gillette and features a 1928 Spanish Colonial Revival mansion designed by renowned architect Wallace Neff. Movie director Clarence Brown bought the ranch, followed by the Claretian Order of the Catholic Church, the Church Universal and Triumphant and Soka University.
The 588-acre ranch became public parkland in 2007.

Along with a number of buildings, classic and not, left behind by previous owners, the ranch includes a long eucalyptus-lined entry road, a large pond and wide lawns. And then there’s the wild side of the ranch—grasslands, scrub-dotted slopes and woodlands with valley oak and coast live oak.

No doubt a more extensive trail network will emerge at the ranch. Right now there’s a one mile round-trip  to Inspiration Point, a knoll with 360-degree vistas. More, much more to come, I’m sure.