Archive for the ‘Hiking with Kids’ Category

The Star Trek rocks

January 12, 2010

I’ve been wanting to check out Vasquez Rocks since hearing about it in “cocktail party” conversation when I first moved to L.A. Wish I had made it about 9-1/2 years sooner. It’s awesome — for kids, hikers, first-time L.A. visitors, and longtime Angelenos who just need a quick escape from the usual beach and box office vibe.  You can hike for miles, or just stand in the parking lot and marvel at the natural rock landscape. Fans of “Star Trek”, “Bonanza”, and more recently “Roswell”, will recognize the setting immediately. To jog your memory, there’s a small sign near the entrance with a list of movies and TV shows filmed here.


What I love best about the place is it encourages meandering. Follow any rough trail from the parking lot (vertical or horizontal) and you won’t be disappointed. Bring a pair of hiking boots or sturdy sneakers and you won’t have any problem scaling the rocks for spectacular views of the Antelope Valley. NOW (winter) is the best time to go – the skies are a not-of-this-world and the weather is perfect.

San Fernando Valley respite

December 18, 2009

Amid all the holiday chaos, we managed to sneak in a short hike this week. The very easy, very beautiful Torrey Pines Overlook trail, which begins at TreePeople’s headquarters near the intersection of Coldwater Canyon and Mulholland Drives. This 1/2 mile trail has it all — picnic tables, benches, high maintenance standards and stunning views of the San Fernando Valley. Great for kids 4 and up (Jack didn’t complain once) but wobbly toddlers should probably be confined to carriers, as there are lots of unfenced canyon drops along the trail.

Gabrielino Trail closed until further notice

November 9, 2009


Altadena’s favorite trail, the flat, multiuse Gabrielino, is closed starting at about a half-mile in from the trailhead due to Station Fire debris and potential mudslide danger. With its dense sycamore forests and wide seasonal creek, it feels more like New Hampshire than Southern California sometimes and attracts a wonderful mix of families, cyclists, runners, and lunchtime JPL walkers. Sadly, an Angeles National Forest rep told me it may not re-open until the spring.

Here are a couple of alternative trails to keep us busy while we await the Gabrielino’s relaunch —

* Lower Arroyo Seco trail. Look for the trailhead across the street and a bit to the south of the Rose Aquatic Center. Or pick it up in South Pasadena near the San Pasqual horse stables. It’s not as pretty as the upper Arroyo Seco, but it’s flat and cocooned from car traffic.

* Cherry CanyonPark, Hampstead Road in La Canada-Flintridge. Its trails have bigger elevation gains and less forest than the Gabrielino, but it’s quiet and well-maintained with great views of the Verdugo and San Gabriel Mountains.

* Eaton Canyon, Altadena. Good old Eaton Canyon — flat, attractive, and easy to access with a seasonal creek to boot. It’s at its finest after a good rain (wear your galoshes).

* More hikes are available in my book, 60 Hikes/60 Miles: Los Angeles 2nd Edition (2009), available via or

Hat and mittens weather

February 12, 2009


We really do have seasons in southern California. Here we are near the Eaton Canyon Falls trail in Altadena this week. This is a great trail for kids — mostly flat, though if you show up during rainy season, you’ll have to scramble over rocks or get your shoes wet at the stream crossing.

Earthquake 2008

July 29, 2008

We’re fine.

In fact, we were oblivious to the fact that there was an earthquake until two hours later, when I logged on the Internet. We felt something alright – we just didn’t know what it was. We were hiking at El Dorado Nature Center and I thought I heard or felt a distant explosion, followed by the sound of shattering of glass. Then we passed a woman who was somewhat desperately trying to get cell phone coverage, which seemed odd since we were in the middle of the woods. When we got back to the nature center after our 1.7-mile hike (thanks, GPS) all seemed normal so I didn’t think much of it until we got home and saw the headlines. The house was fine, too, though all this makes me realize it is far from earthquake-proof.

All in all, we had a great morning communing with nature. The El Dorado trails are flat and shady and surround two large ponds. Lots of benches for picknicking and resting, plus plenty of resident turtles, butterflies and ducks. Perfect for the 3-to-5-year-old set.

Cost: $4 to park on weekdays, $7 weekends. 


Butterflies and “pointy oak”

May 30, 2008

Debs Park is a surprise burst of greenery in the middle of one of L.A.’s grayest, most congested corridors. It’s been around forever, but the Audubon Society came aboard a few years ago and really spiffed it up. We spent nearly two hours here (a week in toddler years). There’s a children’s garden with fountains, a water pump, drought-resistant plants, and lots of shovels and buckets for digging. There are well-maintained trails for all levels, but we opted for the half-mile path near the entrance. It’s mostly flat and fairly shady, with lots of poison oak warning signs. When I told Jack poison oak would give him a rash and be itchy, he spent half the hike saying, “Don’t touch the green, Mom. That’s pointy oak.”

This is truly a special place. The visitors center even lets you borrow jogging strollers, backpack carriers, and binoculars to use in the park. It’s open Wed.-Sun.

Griffith Park West

May 17, 2008

We usually stick to the east side of Griffith Park, with its merry-go-round and trains, but we explored the Fern Dell area last week since we were driving past on our way back from the Hollywood Bowl. The playground is old and shadeless, so we abandoned it quickly and picked up a trail that follows an oasis of ferns and trees along a stream with a series of small waterfalls. It was an ideal half-mile hike for a 3-year-old – a rail kept him from falling in, he loved the waterfalls, and I loved the shade (it’s triple digits here now – welcome to fire season). This is an area of the park that was scorched by wildfires last spring, but it’s looking robust and leafy now.

After our “hike”, we stopped at The Trails, a little shack with an urban sophisticate’s menu — pear & goat cheese tarts, scones, vegan hot dogs — and joined a bunch of other moms with kids at the picnic tables.

p.s. One month until the Hollywood Bowl opens for the season. It’s one of my favorite things to do in L.A. in the summer!

Big Sur South

April 26, 2008

Day trip extraordinaire: Palos Verdes Peninsula. I had been to parts of it before, so I wasn’t expecting much besides a pretty drive, but it turned out to be a five-star experience for kids. We had to make a 5 pm airport run, so we left early and made a day trip of it. Palos Verdes is between LAX and Long Beach (sort of) and is known for its expensive ocean-view homes and large population of peacocks. But it also has a fabulous walking path that winds high above the ocean. You can pick it up near the Point Vicente Interpretive Center, which has a little marine-life museum and rest rooms. The path runs at least two miles and is no less than perfect for runners, kids, and just about anybody. The Point Vicente lighthouse is always in view; it was closed but Jack was fascinated by its siren calls.

After a picnic lunch of peanut butter sandwiches, we kept driving on Palos Verdes Blvd., which loops back to Pacific Coast Highway. I was looking for a real beach since we had brought sand toys, but the only one we passed seemed cordoned off. Instead we stopped at the Wayfarers Chapel, a gorgeous glass church designed by Lloyd Wright (Frank’s son). It overlooks the ocean and is surrounded by gardens, a fountain, and a shocking-green lawn. Jack was generally good all day (he even lowered his voice inside the church). It was a long day, but the change of scenery was energizing.