Manual Hooked on Hiking: Southern California: 50 Hiking Adventures

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The former temple has now been turned into the interfaith headquarters for the Pico-Union Project, founded in by Jewish musician Craig Taubman and dedicated to the Jewish principle of "love your neighbor as yourself. The King Arthur Carrousel is one of the few original rides from Disneyland's opening.

The carousel in Balboa Park is a major throwback to the early 20th century, but it didn't start its life in San Diego. This is one of the best-preserved examples of thematic dining in the L. Historic Broadway Sign District. Miss all the glowing signage of Route 66 at night? When you consider the fact that Figueroa Street formerly known as Pasadena Avenue was a portion of Route 66 that actually became a freeway the Arroyo Seco Parkway, or the in , Highland Park was the first of many communities to be bypassed by a new freeway being built or Route 66 being realigned.

Not only can you find spellbinding architecture and fascinating flora here, but you can also pay homage to celebrated light and space artist James Turrell at his own alma mater, Pomona College. The Dana Point headlands knuckle their way into the Pacific, creating a dramatic landform that has charmed visitors going back at least to Richard Henry Dana, who landed there in Today, the point makes for a refreshing place to amble along the beach. Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. And a trailhead from that perch gives access to hikes where, for miles on end, you will be treated to sweeping views of the Pacific and Catalina Island.

Take the 4 mile trail or the more challenging 11 mile hike. Crystal Cove Hike Moro Ridge. The park offers numerous trails to choose from, of varying difficulties. But you could do worse than hiking Moro Ridge, a trail following the namesake ridge from Pacific Coast Highway to Bommer Ridge Road, and north to the park's entrance on the ridge.

Some of the wildest terrain in this region -- oceanfront sand dunes that could be confused for the Sahara Desert -- belong to off-roaders. Pismo State Beach has nearly everything visitors could want from the Central Coast, but with vast stretches of predominantly sandy beaches, rather than rugged shores.

Crystal Cove Hike Laguna Beach. Make sure to pack a mask and snorkel as the reefs host ample opportunity for submarine exploration. This 5-mile stretch can be done in either direction. The sites here, mostly RV spots, sit on the bay, not the ocean, giving a coastal experience tempered by the marshes and the bay. Two miles south of Cayucos, this dune laden beach hides 85 campsites off of Trinidad Street. Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve Trail. Bolsa Chica State Beach is a refuge for more than bird species, some stopping over on their journeys along the Pacific Flyway, and numerous other critters in the water and on land.

Hikers can avail themselves of five miles of short, flat trails through the wetlands, and possibly glimpse brown pelicans, leopard sharks, jackrabbits, and coyotes. From this pleasant spot, you can look out at the Channel Islands and wonder what it was like to cross the channel in one, as the Chumash did. If heading north, this region seems to be where trees other than palms like to grow on the coast without too much coercion. Located 33 miles west of Santa Barbara, this is the last stop before the highway cuts inland south of Point Conception. Even for this stunning region, there's something magical about Jalama.

Set along 3. Though the coast here is beautiful, this RV-only campground with about sites is near railroad tracks and the freeway. In Sierra Madre, you can find the largest flowering plant in the world, a wistaria plant that grew so fast and so much that it devoured its owners' house in the s. To experience some of the natural wonders in southern California, you have to get the timing just right — because they're as fleeting as they are wondrous.

Such is the case with Amorphophallus titanium — the so-called "Corpse Flower," a rotten-smelling flower that only blooms and stinks for a few hours. Creosote Creosote Larrea tridentate a. Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest.

Hooked on Hiking : Northern California

The Pinus longaeva have to withstand a lot of perils: wind, weather, and a climate dry enough for dry kindling to spontaneously burst into flames. And yet some of these trees still last thousands of years, thriving in the harshest of conditions, growing in the driest of soil that's more limestone than it is dirt. Point Mugu State Park is also home to 1,foot Mugu Peak, a prominent mountain in a landscape of canyons, grasslands, and coastal scrub. With its aggressive system of buttress roots, it can strangle out any competition to clear the space it needs to grow to its tremendous size — which is ripe not only for climbing but also for shade-seeking and fruit-collecting.

Strolling the Ventura Promenade, like the boardwalks in L. This canyon is a beautiful place to visit year-round with hiking, bountiful lakes, and plenty of granite peaks. It is especially beautiful in the summer and the fall as the wildflowers bloom and change color. At the "Feast of Gratitude and Gravy," you can experience a communal Thanksgiving in the most rustic setting around — deep in the San Gabriel Mountains, with all your supplies having been brought up by a band of pack mules. The focus at Oasis Camel Dairy in Ramona is normally, of course, the camels.

But, during the demonstration and show during Open Farm Days, the camels share the "stage" — with a group of galloping gobblers. Like many of the secret stairs of L.

10 Best Hikes Around Southern California You Gotta Try!

Among the embarrassment of riches that those of us in southern California have to be grateful for is our access to sites of historic, cultural, and artistic significance — and the Maloof Foundation in Riverside fits the bill on all three counts. Heritage Square Museum in Montecito Heights is probably the best example of orphaned Victorian treasures finding their "forever home" elsewhere. Located near Laurel and Hardy Park, these steps are adorned with a commemorative plaque from their feature in the film, "The Music Box".

Los Angeles is full of little bedroom communities that used to be cities — places that got gobbled up by a better-known neighboring municipality, and are now just a footnote on a historic plaque. Willmore City is one of those places. The Dr. Oil baron Edward L. Doheny was one of the most prominent residents in the area, having purchased the room mansion at 8 Chester Place now known as The Doheny Mansion in and renovated it extensively over the next year. This beautiful painted staircase on Sunset Boulevard is lined with flowers and palm trees. Over the years it has been the source of many photographic opportunities for young, hip Angelenos and tourists.

At the bottom, the stairs are liberally spaced out and rise up higher than you might expect, though they become a bit more manageable as you trek upwards. Stairclimbers here range from slow novices to expert runners. The famed racetrack was only open for a few years, having been shut down in the late s once fatalities on it had become too numerous. Bonelli Ranch Stadium a.

Saugus Speedway. The race car history along Soledad Canyon Road at Saugus Speedway may have ended in — when stockcar racing ceased because the grandstands were no longer stable enough to hold the crowds of spectators — but it started all the way back in the s as the Baker Ranch Rodeo. People say that there are two ways to hike Runyon Canyon: the hard way and the easy way. To take the supposed "hard way," turn right at the fork, and soon enough you meet a sign that warns of such steep slopes, you must be in good physical condition to take them.

The Speedway has hosted everything from stock cars to midget cars on its "twin ovals. Los Angeles International Airport. With food, drink, shopping, architecture and history, LAX is its own destination. You might think the season for the Los Angeles County fairgrounds begins and ends in September, with the run of the actual fair.

But there's more to the "Fairplex" than meets the eye. Twenty years later, only a month after the sprawling property was sold off, it burned to the ground in a forest fire. Michael Rubel turned a former water reservoir into a castle, thanks to labor and materials donated by his friends, rocks collected from the Azusa foothills, and tracks and ties scavenged from a local defunct gold-mining railroad.

And it only took him 25 years to complete his fortress, which he lived in until his death in Ron Hubbard himself established the former chateau as The Manor Hotel, a religious retreat for Scientologists. With its labyrinth of hallways, secret passages, spooky phone booth, and piano-playing ghost, this former Victorian home is more akin to The Haunted Mansion or the Winchester Mystery House than it is a castle per se. You can still see piles of tiles in the basement, and the beginnings of a giant outdoor swimming pool, which was never completed after the stock market crash at the onset of the Great Depression.

Opened in October of , this National Landmark is the 17th largest stadium in the world. While known as a college football venue, the location is also used for hundreds of events throughout the year including the New Year's Day Rose Parade and is always open to those who'd like to run or stroll. If you can make it, the payoff is tremendous — with sweeping views and white-knuckle curves giving way to a slot canyon. Sherman Oaks is home to one of the most elaborate residential holiday light displays.

The mile round-trip through the San Gabriel mountains begins at Chantry Flats in Arcadia, where hikers can take a one-mile detour in order to check out the amazing Sturtevant Falls. They literally moved mountains to create Dodger Stadium. Between and , an army of construction workers shifted eight-million cubic yards of earth and rock in the hills above downtown Los Angeles, refashioning the rugged terrain once known as the Stone Quarry Hills into a modern baseball palace.

All roads may not lead to Barstow, but at the very least, Highway 58 starts there. To see the remains of an intended Nazi command center, hikers need to walk a 3. When you mention Southern California roadside dinosaurs, everybody talks about the giant ones in Cabazon, which have been clearly visible off the north side of the 10 Freeway for over 30 years, and were famously featured in the movie Pee Wee's Big Adventure.

The Tramway, which has been hauling travelers up Mount San Jacinto since September, , is a quick and painless way to escape the heat of the valley. A classic and original 50's diner, Peggy Sue's was built in out of railroad ties and mortar from the nearby Union Pacific rail yard. Appropriately enough for its Calico-adjacent location, it was purchased by another former Knott's Berry Farm employee and reopened in Franklin Canyon Park offers a little-known opportunity for Angelenos to get away from it all, right in the middle of the city. California Nursery Specialties.

The California Cactus Ranch isn't the only nursery in Reseda, but it's probably the wildest. And that's largely in thanks to its mini ghost town whose primary residents are some giant metal dinosaurs. Back in the mids, the nursery's owner, David Bernstein, had been looking for ways to draw more customers to his cactus nursery. Tucked between the Hollywood Bowl and Camrose Drive in the Hollywood Hills sits the cozy and unusual High Tower neighborhood, a place that feels like an exciting peek into old Hollywood.

Saddleback Butte State Park features a beautiful seasonal yellow coreopsis bloom. Looking west from the outlet of Thousand Island Lake, Banner Peak looms in the distance creating a backdrop worthy of a postcard. The deep blue alpine water sparkles in the sun and is speckled with the tiny granite islands for which the lake is named.

Tucked into a mountain canyon in Topanga, the Theatricum Botanicum is where you can watch a Shakespeare production under the shade of native oaks and with the scent of 15th and 16th century herbs in the air. From to the L. Zoo was located farther into the Griffith Park interior, off a trail near the Merry Go Round parking lot.

Grand Performances at California Plaza. Although many buildings in Balboa Park that were built for the Panama-California Exposition of were intended to be torn down after two years, a couple of "anchor" structures were always meant to be permanent. Santa Rosa island is incredibly diverse, from oaks, Torrey pines, and cypress to Island red buckwheat, Island red paintbrush, Island monkey flower, and everything in between.

This island is considered one of those great "day trip destinations" of the Channel Islands, despite requiring a mile boat ride out just to get to the nearly square-mile island. Venice of America is perhaps the most famous home for southern Californian inland islands — famously paved over, that is. The island that once existed at Windward Avenue is no longer surrounded by water and is now the centerpiece of an automotive traffic circle. Manzanar National Historic Site. But the history of California's first thoroughbred racetrack isn't entirely glamorous.

White Point and Furusato Fishing Villages. The Japanese Fisherman's Memorial on Terminal Island pays tribute to the community of immigrant and second-generation pioneers and their families. Unlike the recently designated Sawtelle Japantown in West L. The bunny rabbits still pretty much line the walls from floor to ceiling, but the creatures — which range from dolls and figurines to stuffed animals, pillows, slippers, cookie jars, masks, taxidermy and discarded Rose Parade float pieces — have some room to breathe.

Velveteria's proprietors, Carl and Caren, take the art of black velvet paintings very seriously. There's a museum for us streetlight people — on the second floor of the Public Works building, courtesy of the Bureau of Street Lighting. This is the one you surely already know about: the Batcave. Out of all of the Channel Islands, Santa Cruz is probably the most famous for its sea caves — because not only is Santa Cruz the largest island of California, but it contains one of the largest and deepest sea caves in the world.

If only more people knew how incredible these limestone caverns are. There are beaches that are good for sunbathing, and there are beaches that are good for ocean swimming. El Matador is neither of those.

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Billed as the "largest indoor family entertainment center on the West Coast," the Fun Factory at the Redondo Beach pier is a blast from the past. Yeah, you heard right. It's not as silly as it sounds. Even right downtown, Bakersfield still has darker skies than you'll find in the L. This 95,acre preserve operated by the Wildlands Conservancy just west of Grapevine closes daily at p.

But if you want to step back in time to the turn of the last century, when Newport Beach made its mark on seaside recreation, visit The Balboa Pavilion, one of the last such waterfront recreational pavilions of the time to survive. Kern National Wildlife Refuge. But it's big, and it's quiet. This State Park tucked into the El Paso Mountains has skies as dark as the rest of the western Mojave did way back in There are very few places in Southern California with virtually no light pollution.

This is one of those places. Although you can drive across it now, the Cabrillo Bridge a. Cold Spring Canyon Arch Bridge. Start your journey in your car by crossing the canals along Dell Avenue between South Venice Boulevard and 28th Avenue — but then park your car and finish exploring on foot along the Grand Canal, where there are four bridges you can cross. Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Sister Aimee Semple McPherson founded the Foursquare Church and commissioned its home — the Angelus Temple — to be built as a kind of theater for her illustrated sermons, which were huge productions replete with props, actors, and sound effects.

First Congregational Church of Los Angeles. Fort Tejon State Historic Park. If you go at the right time, hiking your way through this mini ghost town of barracks and mess halls and other military facilities can seem particularly ghostly. Among the unincorporated communities up there, between the turn-of-the-last-century railroad town of Cantil and the watering hole of Indian Wells, lies an expansive California state park with stunning displays of red rocks, sites of paleontological significance and — if the weather cooperates — colorful wildflowers.

This country road between Redlands and Beaumont is lightly traveled at night, with I and route 60 offering far speedier alternatives. That means not too many headlights to destroy your night vision. Skies here still bear the influence of the Pomona and San Gabriel valleys' nighttime illumination, but you should be able to see lots of relatively faint stars here that would be washed out in San Dimas.

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Just a ten-minute drive from Interstate 15, the Lytle Creek Ranger Station is an easily accessed stargazing spot in the foothills of the eastern San Gabriels. One valley north of Lytle Creek, this sleepy mountain road between Wrightwood and Cajon Pass will have slightly darker skies, and fewer nearby lights, than its neighbor. Skies are about as dark here as you can find in the non-desert portions of Riverside County.

This is another place that's great for those nights when you need some stars before you hit the sack. Borrego Springs is a great gateway to the state's largest state park, Anza-Borrego, and its residents and businesses have enthusiastically taken on the task of keeping night lighting to a minimum to preserve Anza-Borrego's night-time environment.

About half of this iconic National Park is in the Low Desert, and that just happens to be the darker half.

Red Rock Canyon SP

Midland Ghost Town, Riverside County. The Colorado River Astronomy Club holds its meetups here, and it's not hard to figure out why: this desert ghost town has nice dark skies aside from the small light dome over Blythe and it's accessible. If being five miles up a deserted canyon in the Palo Verde Mountains seems a bit too civilized for you, then the Black Hills is where you'll want to be. Corn Springs campground is surprisingly quiet for being so accessible, and the formidable Chuckwalla Mountains that surround the campground do a great job of blocking off light from the highway.

This spot might be the only stargazing site we've heard of with a nine-hole disc golf course. Best known for being the one road into Parkfield, the Earthquake Capital of California, Cholame Valley Road also offers nice dark skies within easy striking distance of Routes 46 and 41 east of Paso Robles. Queen Califia's Magical Circle. Niki de Saint Phalle's last large-scale work can be found tucked away inside the Iris Sankey Arboretum of Kit Carson Park in Escondido — unbelievably preserved and, as the name implies, magical. Turn onto Red Hill and find a convenient wide spot away from the occasional headlights on You should be able to find a spot in the first few miles to pull just off the road and drink in the night skies.

For darker skies along the coast it's hard to beat the Santa Lucia Range, which in their Monterey County portion offer night skies to rival anywhere in the California desert. This is as close as you'll get to a desert on the Central Coast, in terms of both habitat and deep dark sky. James T. Hubbell's compound in East San Diego County where he lives and works is worth a visit if only to see his mosaic work.

After years in disuse and finally being sold in , the former Wilshire Boulevard home of the Freemasons of the Scottish Rite Order has now transformed into the Marciano Art Foundation, a contemporary art museum that's free and open to the public. From the moment you arrive at the front gate of the Mosaic Tile House, the tile-covered labyrinth of the front yard — littered with bathtub benches, bathtub planters, and various arches crossing over above and animals arising from the patio below — is completely overwhelming.

Joseph Young was a critically lauded mosaic artist of national repute whose many masterworks in the field of decorative arts included the mural that embellishes the exterior of the Richard Neutra-designed Hall of Records building in the Civic Center of downtown L.

In what's now California's northeast corner, lava flows from Medicine Mountain over the last half million years have left a network of lava tubes and other volcanic formations for you to explore. About a four hour drive from downtown Los Angeles, Mahogany Flat is a great destination for those weekends that start a little early, so that you can get there before the crowds arrive. Walker Pass, Pacific Crest Trail. California's oldest lake sits at around 6, feet, making it a lot cooler in summer than many desert destinations. Mid-Hills, Mojave National Preserve. And at around 5, feet with northern exposure to the breezes off Cima Dome, Mid-Hills is a bit cooler than the big preserve campground at Hole In The Wall, a thousand feet lower.

Lone Pine Campground, Owens Valley. The Owens Valley car-camping experience doesn't get better than this. Cima Dome, Mojave National Preserve. At elevations ranging from the 4,s to the dome's subtle summit a hair above 5, feet, this place is well above the worst heat of the desert summer. That means some pretty dark skies, and the local stargazing community takes full advantage.

If your tastes run more toward small stargazing groups of one or two people, you can still avail yourself of the southeast backcountry's skies. Midway between Palomar Mountain and Anza-Borrego, the placid mountain town of Julian is better known for its apple orchards than its starry nights. It's tempting to call Caltech's observatory a relic of darker nights gone by, but there's still some top-notch astronomy being conducted here.


San Diego State has operated its Mount Laguna Observatory in the county's southeastern mountains since You won't see nearly as many stars from the Torrey Pines State Reserve north of La Jolla, but the Reserve offers darker skies than you might expect, given its close proximity to urban life. In the s, a large swath of land had been devoted to either lima bean fields or sheep and cattle grazing — and that included a large portion of the Rancho San Joaquin and Rancho Lomas de Santiago that James Irvine bought and transformed into his expansive Irvine Ranch. Sunkist , situated along an old Southern Pacific rail spur in the Packing District, is one of the few that remain in Southern California — and the only one left in Anaheim.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, much of the San Gabriel Valley was covered with citrus trees — and the city of La Verne called Lordsburg until was right at the center of it. This peak in Los Padres National Forest in the northeast corner of the county has some of the darkest skies to be found in the Greater Southern California Megalopolis.

About 15 miles or so farther along Lockwood Valley Road from Lake of the Woods, the eponymous Lockwood Valley has some seriously dark sky by coastal California standards. Closer in to the civilized end of the county, the Oak Canyon Community Park in the town of Oak Park near Agoura Hills offers reasonably dark skies for the Freeway corridor. Ventura County's share of the Santa Monica Mountains has some of the darkest skies that urban-influenced range has to offer.

You might not think of Ojai as a prime stargazing location, but the city at the foot of the Topatopa Mountains still has remarkably dark skies considering almost 8, people live there. Any discussion of stargazing in Ventura County would be lacking if it didn't include a mention of the Moorpark College Observatory. The oldest business in Sierra Madre is E. The flat land that remains looks like an archaeological site of the ancient Roman Empire.

Beyond it, you can see how close the city's infrastructure is to the current edge of the cliff, and how it couldn't have been so close to the edge before. Originally developed in as part of a post-World War I building boom, Surfridge then known as Palisades del Rey was filled with charming homes and palm tree-lined streets. As part of the Rancho San Jose, Spadra was the first American settlement in the Pomona Valley and became a thriving village in the s. It was settled mostly by poor families who fled the South. Mentryville is the first thing you see when you come to Pico Canyon in the Santa Susana Mountains to find the site of California's first commercial oil well — a.

Pico Well No. We've lost so many treasures to fire out here in the wild, wild, west. Amboy is probably the most famous of the Route 66 ghost towns in the Mojave Desert, thanks to its appearances in various movies and fashion magazines. In the 19th century, Nipton was at the nexus of both silver and gold mining in the Ivanpah Valley and of two intersecting overland wagon trails one running north-south and the other running east-west.

In , Kelso was built specifically as a depot along the railroad line that ran between L. But business was so big that Kelso ended up becoming a real town, with a post office now closed, but still standing and, in the s, a jail for drunkards also vacant, but there. Located east of Barstow, Daggett has fared only slightly better than its fellow Mojave Desert ghost towns, despite being located right off of the 40 Freeway and not having had any traffic circumvented away from it.

The Tuna Club is widely considered the birthplace of the sport of big game fishing — thanks to its founder, Dr. Charles Frederick Holder, catching a pound bluefin tuna off these island shores in The Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery was one of the first of its kind when it was established in to raise trout even the rare golden trout! You can get a real lesson in aviation history near the freight terminal and cargo planes of LAX at the Flight Path Museum. You might even meet a former pilot with some stories to tell. From the Boeing B Stratofortress a.

At Robinson, you can experience history in the making by taking a free tour of the factory, where they assemble and test helicopters used as newscopters, police helicopters, and private civilian copter craft. If antiques are more your thing, head a few doors down to the volunteer-run Western Museum of Flight. Aviation Museum of Santa Paula. Santa Paula has neither the biggest local airport nor the largest collection of interesting planes, but the no-frills air field and its hangars let the privately-owned vintage planes housed there shine.

Francis Dam flood. This brewery is in an actual aircraft hangar across the street from the Redlands Airport — the very same hangar where master brewer Ben Cook a former homebrewer once gathered with friends for a post-flight beer. Los Encinos State Historic Park. One of the stops on the Portola expedition of — when Spanish explorers first arrived — was right here in the San Fernando Valley, in the L.

Pasadena has become famous for its flock s of parrots, but these tropical tree-dwellers have been convivial enough at least with each other — even sometimes interbreeding — to have spawned multiple flocks that have spread as far and wide in the L. This spot was central to the era of private flying parties, as Brand had his own airfield just south of the mansion and estate that now constitute Brand Library in Brand Park. In Stough Canyon, you can hike a short distance into the canyon past wildflowers, scenic overlooks and lots of spring greenery.

Japanese Gardens at Lake Balboa. Right off Topanga Canyon Boulevard, shortly after exiting the Freeway, right along the Santa Susana Pass, you happen upon a giant boulder outcropping called Stoney Point. Once known as Lake Santa Ynez, it was actually formed when a developer moved earth for grading without filling it back in before natural springs filled it with water.

One of the best payoffs to a Southern California hike is water — but while many of our waterfalls are running dry in the summer months and several years into a drought , you can still hike five miles around Debs Park in NELA and find yourself taking a rest on a lakeside bench, surrounded by ducks and turtles.

The Palos Verdes peninsula has a huge amount of protected land, a welcome refuge in the sprawl of the South Bay and the nearby ports of San Pedro and Long Beach. There's hardly a stretch of coast in California packed with more landmarks and people-watching opportunities than here. The objective of this hike is attaining an incredible lookout point high above the Pacific Palisades, where views stretch as far as downtown Los Angeles and past Catalina Island, much farther out into the Pacific Ocean.

With viewpoints at an elevation of 1, feet, Tuna Canyon offers some of the best views of the Malibu coast and Santa Monica Bay. Corral Canyon resides in a nearly unblighted, acre coastal stretch of Malibu, cleaved by a natural creek draining to the ocean. Templin Highway, Angeles National Forest. The Templin Highway stargazing area has long been a popular spot among amateur astronomers.

Saddleback Butte State Park is an unsung gem in L. County's desert. Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve seems like an obvious spot for L. County stargazing, what with its being out in the middle of nowhere in the desert, and yet just an hour and a half from downtown Los Angeles. Closer to downtown, the Santa Monica Mountains offer some remarkably dark skies considering that the mountain range is hemmed in by the San Fernando Valley and the L. A bit west of Topanga, and thus with a slightly darker sky, Malibu Creek State Park is another popular stargazers' hangout.

Mount Wilson, Angeles National Forest. Okay, so you don't have the car this week and can't get out to Malibu or the Antelope Valley. All is not lost: you can still see a few astronomical objects from the streets of the western San Gabriel Valley. Even though the western end of the Santa Monica Mountains is far darker, there's a spot all the way at the brightly lit east end of the range that's not a bad place for urban stargazing, and it's easy to find: there's an observatory right there.

We listed this spot in our Kern County night sky listicle as well, and for good reason: it's an easy jaunt from Southern California's crowded urban core. Even with the presence of other campers and the light from a nearby visitor center, this part of the preserve gets pretty dark.

It's not easy to find a higher spot in the high desert than this favorite among Southern California astronomers, at 8, feet in the pinyon juniper forested slopes of the White Mountains, well into the Inyo National Forest. Benton Hot Springs is solidly into the sagebrush belt of the California desert, and despite being a few miles off all-weather, transcontinental Route 6, it's really quiet. Now we're talking. This campground nine miles west of Stovepipe Wells is not precisely "no-frills": it's got piped in water and flush toilets.

Of all the spots we've featured in all our stargazing guides so far, this easily accessible campground in the northern reaches of Death Valley has the darkest skies. Many of Los Angeles' hillside neighborhoods are situated near open space, giving residents convenient opportunities to outdoor recreation.

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With Ascot Hills, you can add El Sereno to that list. On the shores of the San Pablo Bay, it was settled in the s by Chinese immigrants. The shrimp fishing village soon grew to nearly residents, with three general stores, a marine supply store, and a barber shop. Border Field State Park has a network of horse and hiking trails through the largest coastal wetland in Southern California. The name "Sunset Cliffs" gives an idea of what might draw visitors to this undeveloped stretch of coast along Point Loma. But the truth is the cliffs and beaches are gorgeous any time of day or night.

Take a cue from the locals and grab a skateboard, bike, or rollerblades and cruise the boardwalk between Pacific Beach and Mission Beach. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. This park's lovely namesake trees are a must-see for anyone in the area. You'll pass underneath the world famous Torrey Pines Golf Course and amble through Black's Beach, a spot famous for its beauty and powerful surf and infamous for its nude sunbathers. This region of San Diego County, from San Elijo to San Clemente, offers some of the best beach backpacking in Southern California because of the abundance of appropriately spaced campgrounds.

Rather than walking along the beach, the idea here is to explore a 1,acre coastal wetland, the type of which many did not survive the 20th century. This hike technically begins in Orange County, on the wide, sandy beaches of San Clemente, the kind Southern California is famous for.

Whittier Narrows Recreation Area. The paths throughout Whittier Narrows are certainly walkable, but the soft, dirt paths make for a nice bike ride and an efficient way to meander on your hunt for monsters that seem to have crawled out from the lakes and gotten a relatively recent paint job. The famously enchanting rocky Central Coast coastline is on full display here, on the headlands between Avila Beach and Morro Bay.

The Bluff Trail gives hikers a lovely taste of it all. Valencia Peak serves up enchanting coastal views during the hike to its 1,foot summit. At 1,feet, Hazard Peak is twice as tall as surrounding peaks, making it the ideal perch from which survey the coast and mountains.

The rocky point known as Hazard Reef hosts the best of both worlds -- rocky and sandy -- that make up most of the coast in this region. It may be hard to believe now, but flooding was once a major concern in the L. River and build other flood control measures. Located at the foot of the Angeles National Forest near Big Tujunga Wash, the massive horseshoe-shaped Hansen Dam was built after the catastrophic floods of Beginning from Cloisters Park in Morro Bay, this 3. While not the most dramatic coastal landscape in the county, Harmony Headlands State Park embodies the rolling coastal terrain that makes up parts of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.

This path is a portal to the Cambria coast, another appealing mix of rocky shore and sandy beaches, easily accessible by this flat, 3-mile round-trip trail and boardwalk. Wildlife is a defining factor of the Central Coast, from the Peregrine falcons of Morro Rock to the whales, dolphins, and the honking, stinking elephant seals of San Simeon.

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Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area. Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area offers an embarrassment of riches in the Valley — from wildlife viewing and birdwatching at the Wildlife Reserve to the cherry blossoms of Lake Balboa, The Japanese Garden of the water reclamation plant, and the model airplane field, archery range, and cricket fields of Woodley Park. This protected stretch of bluffs in south Santa Barbara makes for a convenient, easy, and lovely outing. Rest assured this lookout point, the 1,foot summit of a peak in Los Padres National Forest, will live up to its name.

This reptile-shaped sandstone formation basks in the sun above Santa Barbara, with its mouth agape. Again, this is the type of beach Santa Barbara it littered with: bluffs, intermittent stretches of rocky and sandy beaches, and serene ocean views. If you like hiking high above the beach, into easy-to-reach backcountry with spectacular views of the coastline and the Santa Ynez Mountains, then this trail will be your cup of tea. Ocean views hardly get more dramatic than from the 6-mile Trespass Trail. This horror props house by the Burbank Airport sells and rents anything from coffins to aliens, dinosaurs, and incredibly realistic-looking-but-fake corpses.

It gets a lot of its business from Hollywood, but it also supplies the creators of home haunts as well as collectors of oddities like vintage surgical instruments, skulls and other bones, and jars of preserved critters some fake, but some real. The hills above Gaviota State Beach are a wind-sculpted sandstone dreamscape. Ever wish that your antiques store sold medical equipment?

Or that there was somewhere to get your crazy cat lady friend a black cat Ouija board? With its collection of bug, bones and skeletons, and sea creatures and shells some of which have been made into jewelry , Necromance can definitely satisfy your curiosity of the natural history and wonders of this earthly realm. Dearly Departed specializes in bus tours and walking tours of L. If even Mesquite Springs campground is full -- which does happen on weekends -- there's another option in the environs of Death Valley National Park that may yet have spaces available: the privately owned Panamint Springs Resort just 70 miles away.

The Mojave National Preserve's most-developed campground is also its most winter-ready, even though its 4, foot elevation might make it a little chilly at night. The Chuckwalla Mountains sit in the transition area between California's high and low deserts, and thus enjoy winter temperatures somewhat warmer than those in the Mojave Desert. One of the chief joys of camping at any season in the California desert is the prevalence of open areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

As long as we're talking primitive camping, we might as well discuss a truly isolated spot in California's largest ironwood forest. Tuttle Creek Campground, Owens Valley. Winter camping in the Owens Valley sometimes strays out of the strictly defined boundaries of "comfortable. This is one of the California desert's hidden gems, passed by millions of people a year crossing the Colorado River on I Built in in time to host the Golden Gate International Exposition that is to say, the World's Fair , the island is chock-full of old buildings listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, was until recently the home to a foot tall sculpture from Burning Man, and offers perhaps the best view you're going to get of gorgeous San Francisco.

The drive from California to the Arizona border on Interstate 8 can be an uneventful one, until you reach a foot, pink-marble pyramid curiously erected in the Sonoran Desert. If you pay a few bucks to enter the striking structure, you get to stand on a dot on a bronze plaque and make a wish. Because this area was essentially the original town square before moving a few blocks west, it was also the town gallows and the site of public hangings and their hanging trees. Some of them occurred directly in front of City Hall, which seems bedeviled by a ghost or two.

It sits at the bottom of a hill, on the very end of a cul de sac, where rows and rows of homes face the river. That also meant that the museum is about a minute walk from the nearest Metro train station, the Southwest Museum Station. Pasadena's Colorado Street Bridge bears more than a passing resemblance to an ancient Roman aqueduct. In a way, that makes sense. Both use the same engineering solution — colossal arches — to create an artificial topography and overcome the natural contours of the land.

It is also thought to be haunted. The city of Glendale purchased Rockhaven in , but they have yet to restore, reopen, or develop it, leaving it essentially abandoned. But according to security guards, live-in caretakers, and cleanup crews, the former sanitarium is anything but vacant. You can find the garden variety of hauntings at Greystone -- footsteps, voices, doors opening and shutting, lights flickering, objects moving -- but they all seem to be a sign of unrest and distress.

Unexplained phenomena have sent more than one security guard running from the manor, never looking back. The Bob Baker Marionette Theater. However the hike is nice and the scenery is beautiful! Remember to pack out what you brought in. We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Overall rating:. Isaac Orloff. Trash everywhere , graffiti everywhere, glass everywhere, noisy boisterous people with no regard to those around them. Would not return unless its a weekday morning. Falina Grell. We LOVE this place! Bringing the kids to play is so awesome. Josh Heineman. Beautiful hike with natural pools to go swimming in. Definitely going back!!

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