Favorite L.A. Area Spots — Nike Missile Control Site

dsc01829-wince.jpgA stark reminder of L.A.’s Cold War air defense system can be found at the top of San Vicente Mountain, off an unpaved portion of Mulholland Drive.  The official name for this facility is the Cold War-creepy LA-96, a/k/a the Van Nuys/Sepulveda Nike Missile Control Site.  It’s also one of the more scenic spots in L.A., rewarding hikers and mountain bikers at the top of the West Ridge and Sullivan Canyon Trails with stunning 360-degree vistas.

According to the San Vicente Mountain Park website, LA-96 contained a radar tracking station for the Nike-Ajax antiaircraft missiles that were prepared to fire from the nearby Sepulveda Basin at invading Russkie warplanes.  Now the site has picnic tables and bathrooms for hikers and other visitors.

The sign at the entrance to LA-96 sends a bit of a mixed message.  No commies or cars allowed?


This guard looks menacing. He’s armed with … fleece.


Stunningly scenic, creepy, and historic all at once?  That’s what makes LA-96 one of my favorite spots in Los Angeles.

8 thoughts on “Favorite L.A. Area Spots — Nike Missile Control Site”

  1. I love this place, it was especially gorgeous during the wildflower blooms earlier this year.

  2. We have an identical raised platform and guard shack at my office (in Angels Gate Park in San Pedro), also left over from the Nike missile program. They were built on top of the older bunker and gun emplacement infrastructure that we have in the park. We used to occasionally catch the same loony sunbather trying to get nude up on the platform. Down at White Point there are some old buildings and some leftover elements from the launch facilities, too. None of the stuff in the park is as nicely preserved as LA96, though.

    There was a missile site in PV, but other than the buildings, I don’t think any elements from the missile operations are still intact. It’s at the RPV City Hall location, above the Golden Cove shopping center.

    Just North of San Francisco, in the Headlands National Recreation Area, is a pretty stock Nike facility, where they can raise and lower de-armed missiles into position, complete with lights and warning sirens. It’s probably the country’s best preserved Nike site.

  3. Here is a map of the Nike sites that surrounded Los Angeles.
    There’s a plethora of Nike site info on the web and because of the necessary locations of the radar tracking sites, it makes for a great excuse to visit spots around Los Angeles that are pretty cool in and of themselves.

    One of that things that I took comfort in growing up during the Reagan years was that in the event of nuclear war, Los Angeles would be vaporized and there would be no worries about slowly dying of radiation poisoning like in the Day After…

  4. Thanks to those generous commenters who provided all the good info. and cool photos here. Now that’s what I call good interactive use of a blog.

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