Local Spots to Immerse Yourself in Nature This Summer
Feels like a getaway!
Written byAnna Ephron Harari
Topanga State Park | 20828 Entrada Rd., Topanga
In the heart of the Santa Monica Mountains, and known for its family-friendly hikes, Topanga State Park boasts grassy meadows of wildflowers—the perfect spot to relax and channel your inner hippie. Dine at the picnic tables at Trippet Ranch near the park entrance. You can feel the ocean breeze from the higher elevations, and if you hike up far enough you can soak in a full view of the ocean. Hikers and equestrians can enjoy 36 miles of trails; mountain bikers are restricted to fire roads.
Pick up on the way: Hit Country Natural Foods (415 S. Topanga Canyon Blvd.) for their dumplings and veggie sushi rolls. They also stock a great assortment of healthy drinks and snacks.
Don’t miss: The spectacular live oaks and Braunton’s milk-vetch—an endangered plant with bright purple flowers that can grow as tall as 4 feet.
Franklin Canyon | 2600 Franklin Canyon Dr., Beverly Hills
Don’t let the Beverly Hills address throw you—it’s a hop, skip and a jump from the Valley if you use the north entrance by Coldwater Canyon and Mulholland Drive. Considered by some as Studio City’s secret garden, Franklin Canyon’s main feature is a 3-acre lake, with nearby picnic tables so you can admire the ducks, birds and turtles basking in the water. There are plenty of other areas to spread your banket including an amphitheater. After lunch, walk the perimeter of the lake, or hike one of the many trails. One takes you all the way down to the edge of Beverly Hills.
Pick up on the way: Hit Uncle Paulie’s Deli (3990 Vantage Ave.) in Studio City for sophisticated yet classic Italian-style deli sandwiches. Our favorite is the Gloria. The custom charcuterie boards are also stellar.
Don’t miss: The bird-watching. The Upper Franklin Canyon Reservoir is on the Pacific Flyway migration route, so during spring and fall you can spot transients such as varied thrush, cedar waxwing and the flame-like western tanager.
Victory Trailhead Loop/Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve | Woodland Hills
Steps from suburbia at the western end of Victory Boulevard, Victory Trailhead Loop is its own enclosed pocket of the Valley. Pass the wooden archway at the entrance and you’ll find two picnic tables right at the trailhead. Soak up the scenic landscape: rolling hills dotted with huge oak trees, thick patches of chaparral, wonderful views of the Simi Hills and the Santa Monica Mountains. This expansive open space is historic as well, as the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail passes through: a 1,200-mile route taken by the Spanish explorer as he traveled with 240 people from Arizona to San Francisco in 1775.
Pick up on the way: Hit Pedalers Fork (23504 Calabasas Rd.) in Calabasas for farm-fresh salads and gourmet sandwiches; the buttermilk-fried hot chicken sandwich is a win-win.
Don’t miss: The stands of valley oak trees, some of which are a century old.
Malibu Creek State Park (pictured above)
1925 Las Virgenes Rd., Calabasas
This expansive destination, where the Chumash settled thousands of years ago, features 8,000 acres of dramatic jagged peaks, stunning canyon vistas, oak woodlands and rolling hills of tallgrass.
A trail runs alongside Malibu Creek and it is always dotted with families, rock climbers and casual hikers. The creek is easy to cross as there are well-traversed paths, and you’ll be tempted to dip your toes in on a warm day. For a total cooldown, hit the swimming hole known as Rock Pool, a natural wonder that is surrounded by sandstone.
Pick up on the way: Hit Lovi’s Delicatessen (24005 Calabasas Rd.) for sandwiches that are indisputably among the best in the Valley; the Reuben (enough for two) is truly sublime.
Don’t miss: The Conejo volcanics, a type of rock formation found throughout the park that formed due to submarine landslides and lava eruptions. The volcanic sandstone contains visible marine fossils, including oyster shells.
O’Melveny Park | 17300 Sesnon Blvd., Granada Hills
O’Melveny Park is the second-largest public park in LA after Griffith Park. A verdant space with the vibe of a neighborhood park, its main field has a forest’s worth of trees, casting acres of shade and giving off a serene and tranquil feeling. You can choose from seven main trails that climb as high as 1,492 feet for majestic views of the mountains and the entire Valley.
Pick up on the way: Hit Porto’s Bakery (19467 Nordhoff St.) in Northridge for an assortment of savory pastries such as mouthwatering potato balls and empanadas, and a truly delectable tres leches cake for dessert.
Don’t miss: The California natives including lupine, buckwheat and sage scattered throughout—and the majestic grove of mature grapefruit trees near the entrance.
Lions and tigers and bears—oh my!