LA96C – Former Cold War Nike Missile Site, on Mulholland Drive


Mulholland Drive takes you out of Hollywood and along the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains.  But if you’re expecting a winding, two lane mountain road to take you out of LA’s traffic congestion, think again.  Plenty of Hollywood’s power players have a home up in these hills, which means you’ll likely end up creeping along, with a BMW behind you, and a Porsche in front.  But it doesn’t really matter, since this isn’t a road you’d take if you were in a hurry anyhow.

overlook along mulholland drive

If you need to get somewhere fast, don’t take Mulholland Drive.  I planned to take the route as far as I could, then cut back over to the coast.  But after what seemed like hours of driving, the pavement ended, and I was running out of daylight.  So instead of dropping down to the Pacific Coast Highway, I ended up in Encino, just a 20 minute drive on the 101 from where I started.

mulholland drive panorama
Mulholland Drive provides several scenic pull-offs, allowing you to take in a wide view of the hills, and the valley beyond.

panorama on mulholland drive
Here’s another stitched-together photo from a different pull-off.

Keep driving, and you’ll find…

LA96C – Former Cold War Nike Missile Site

la96c missile site - entry sign

This former monitoring site was one of dozens scattered around Southern California.  Back in the 50’s and 60’s, the facility was manned ’round the clock, watching for any sign of attack on LA.

This location was home to the control facility (that’s what the C stands for in LA96C).  Nike missiles were ready to launch, just a short distance away.

observation tower, la96c cold war missile site

The observation tower provides a great location to gaze out over the mountains, or watch for a Communist attack.

grey skies at la96c cold war missile site

Thanks to the June Gloom, this was the closest I came to seeing the sun during the first two days of my trip.

At LA-96C, Mulholland Drive turns to dirt.

Continue over the gravel portion of Mulholland, and you’ll pass several interesting state parks, including the home to the old M*A*S*H set.

With daylight fading, I gave up on my plan to explore Mulholland, and went with the paved route–heading downhill to the 101 Freeway at Encino.  The 101 eventually took me back to the coast.

emma wood beach, pacific ocean

I made it back to the ocean just in time to snap a few good sunset pictures.  I believe I took these pictures at Emma K. Wood State Beach, but if I’m wrong, feel free to correct me.

food snack stand at the beach

The snack stands along this stretch of beach probably haven’t changed for decades.

One of these food stands was used as a backdrop in a recent Coca-Cola commercial.  Watch for it in the theatres during the pre-movie commercials.

Parking at this beach access area was relatively cheap, especially since it was after 6pm.  North of here, you’re more likely to find free beach access, than you would closer to LA.

From here, I drove on up US 101, and discovered that motel rooms aren’t easy to find in these parts, especially heading into Memorial Day weekend.  So, I spent a very expensive night in Santa Barbara.

Note: This trip was first published in 2004.

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