Archives For Santa Monica Mountains

Located near Benedict Canyon at the geographical center of Los Angeles, the Franklin Canyon Park and Lake span 605 acres and feature over five miles of hiking trails. The park’s history dates to 1914, when water tycoon William Mulholland built the Upper Franklin Canyon Reservoir. In the 1930s, the family of oil baron Edward Doheny used the canyon as a summer retreat.


Within the park boundaries are chaparral, grasslands and oak woodlands, a three-acre lake, an ADA-accessible duck pond, and expansive picnic grounds. The lake and pond serve as permanent and seasonal homes for birds in the Pacific flyway.


The park offers an easy stroll around the reservoir with plentiful views of birds and wildlife, as well as access to other, more difficult trails which offer views from West Los Angeles to the Pacific.

Hastain Trail in Franklin Canyon Park

If you are looking for a nice loop hike in the Santa Monica Mountains above Beverly Hills, give Hastain Trail a try. The trail can actually be used for two loops, one easy 1.8-mile loop with 350 feet of elevation gain and one moderate 2.2-mile option with 550 feet of elevation gain. Each trek is a satisfying way to explore the park.

Hastain Trail in Franklin Canyon Park

Both loops begin the same way, heading up Hastain Trail from Lake Drive within the park. There is an information panel at the trailhead with a rough map of the Hastain Trail. The wide dirt trail climbs up the east side of Franklin Canyon. At 0.4 miles, you will pass a single track shooting up the ridge to the left. This is the steepest section of the tougher upper loop (and you could easily walk right past it). The steep single track has slippery footing, so you may want to hike up this way instead of down. To hike down the steep single track, or to hike the easier lower loop, continue up Hastain Trail, which makes its way southeast around a crease in the wall of the canyon.


At 0.7 miles from the start, you will pass through a gate in a chain-link fence and turn into a draw in the ridge that turns the trail south toward a landing that looks out over Lower Franklin Reservoir.

Hastain Trail in Franklin Canyon Park

This great viewpoint, 0.95 miles from the start, is also the point where the two loops split. To the right, a single track descends into Franklin Canyon for the easier 1.8-mile loop. To the left, alongside an outcropping of rocks, Hastain Trail continues up the ridge for the tougher 2.2-mile loop. Take in the view and proceed in either direction.

Hastain Trail in Franklin Canyon Park

The easier loop: If you are ready to descend, turn right onto the single track (no bikes) and take a string of switchbacks down the spine of a ridge into Franklin Canyon.

Hastain Trail in Franklin Canyon Park

After 0.4 miles, you will reach the canyon bottom where there is a large grass lawn lined by sycamore and jacaranda trees. Begin hiking up the canyon and take one of several routes back to the trailhead.

Hastain Trail in Franklin Canyon Park

Walk across the lawn to a driveway heading up to a staff residence. To the right, next to a trail kiosk, there is one path heading up the canyon. Straight ahead there are bathrooms and a parking area along Lake Drive, which you can follow back to the trailhead. To the left, across the road is a branch of the Discovery Trail, which also leads back to the trailhead. There are picnic tables beneath the live oaks along Discovery Trail where you can take a snack break. All routes up the canyon are about 0.3 miles long and make gradual finishes for the easy loop.

Hastain Trail in Franklin Canyon Park

The tougher loop: From the viewpoint at the junction 0.95 miles from the trailhead, turn left, following a bend in Hastain Trail that leads higher up the ridge east of Franklin Canyon. You will pass through two more open fences over the next third of a mile as you progress northeast up the ridge. Just beyond the fences, step out to a landing on the right for a view east and south over Coldwater Canyon and Beverly Hills.

Hastain Trail in Franklin Canyon Park

Continue up the trail until you come to a junction with a single track breaking off to the left. This is the high point of the loop, 1.35 miles from the start. Turn left and begin down the steep ridge trail, leaving the fire road, which continues up the ridge toward houses.

Hastain Trail in Franklin Canyon Park

Heading west down the single track on the ridge, you will pass one more section of fence, the fourth of the loop. There are loose stones on top of firm ground, so be attentive on the slippery descent. Enjoy nice views down the ridge and south across Hastain Trail toward Beverly Hills. After descending 425 feet in 0.45 on the ridge track, you will meet back up with Hastain Trail. Turn right and hike 0.4 miles down to the bottom of the trail, completing the 2.2-mile loop.

Hastain Trail in Franklin Canyon Park

To get to the trailhead: Take Santa Monica Boulevard to Beverly Hills and turn north on Beverly Drive. Go 1.3 miles and turn left to continue up Beverly Drive. After another 0.3 miles, make a second left (at a split with Coldwater Canyon Drive) to proceed up Beverly Drive. Go 0.9 miles and turn right up Franklin Canyon Drive. Go 1.1 miles up the ridge, entering Franklin Canyon Park. Turn right down Lake Drive and go 1/3 of a mile to the start of Hastain Trail (on the left) where roadside parking is available.

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Pop culture fans will likely recognize Franklin Canyon Park, which is frequently used as a TV and film location, including the famous hitchhiking scene from It Happened One Night with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert.


The 3-acre Franklin Lake was the “fishing hole” in the opening credits of The Andy Griffith Show. Watch a video of the Andy Griffith Show.


Universal Studios shot their horror classic Creature from the Black Lagoon here. The park was also the background for the cover photo of Simon & Garfunkel’s album Sounds of Silence.


Huell Howser visited this park and made a video, watch it here.

Franklin Canyon Park preserves 605 acres in the Santa Monica Mountains including a former ranch acquired by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy in 1981. Dogs are allowed on leashes in Franklin Canyon Park. Bikes are allowed on the wide section of Hastain Trail but not on the single tracks down into Franklin Canyon. No fee or permit is required to hike Hastain Trail in Franklin Canyon Park, so get out and enjoy!


WHAT: Franklin Canyon Park And Lake 
Sun up to sun down
2600 Franklin Canyon Drive | Beverly Hills, CA 90210

CONTACT INFO: (310) 858-7272


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In a wooded canyon with a small stream, the Griffith Park Bird Sanctuary and Trail offers views of many species of birds in their natural habitat along a winding path. It’s a relatively short hike, but one that offers great views and connects to a wider system of trails.


The bird community represented most of the rich diversity found elsewhere in the Santa Monica Mountains before the fire. More than 200 species have been recorded here over the years, and around 150 occur every year. Now, the park and sanctuary are gradually being revitalized.


Some of the more interesting residents of the community include Cinnamon Teal and Black-necked Stilt along the L.A. River, Hutton’s Vireo and Purple Finch in canyons, and Rufous-crowned Sparrow in arid chaparral and scrub. These birds depend on the wild areas of the park for their survival in the middle of the city.


From March through June, nearly 70 species may nest, particularly in the many small canyons that drain off the slopes into the Los Angeles River. The park’s boundaries take in high, chaparral-covered ridges, shady picnic areas, and natural wetland habitat along the river.


The Bird Sanctuary Trail opened back up after the 2007 Griffith Park fire left it unusable to the public. One of the losses in the park fire was the bird sanctuary.


After thousands of volunteers–most notably the Pacific Asian Volunteer Association who adopted the project–the trail once again opened to the public. Of course, Griffith Park’s loudest cheerleader, Councilman Tom LaBonge, was there to tell everyone about it and take a hike with them. The short loop trail has some nicely shaded portions and crosses a small stream.


Find the trailhead next to the actual Bird Sanctuary which is just north of the Greek Theatre on Vermont Canyon Road. The trail begins to the left of the sanctuary’s fence.


Within less than a mile, it ends, but you’ll meet up with three other trails to choose from: the Charlie Turner Trail (left, takes you down to the Griffith Observatory), 3-Mail Trail (straight ahead, takes you Mount Hollywood) and the East Ridge (Hogback) Trail (right, takes you to Dante’s View and later, the Glendale Peak).


If you want to make a loop out of the hike, there’s unofficially a trail heading down back to street level that takes you by a water tank. You can find it before the trail fork where there is a nice view of the Observatory. However, it can get pretty steep and has lots of loose gravel.


WHAT: Griffith Park Bird Sanctuary And Trail
WHEN: Open daily 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
WHERE: Griffith Park | 2900 North Vermont Avenue | Los Angeles, CA 90027

CONTACT INFO: (323) 666-5046

SOCIAL MEDIA: Twitter | Yelp

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The Will Rogers State Historic Park was the private ranch of the world-famous movie star and American Cowboy, Will Rogers. In the early 1930s, Rogers was the most popular and highest paid actor in Hollywood. From his start in vaudeville theater with a trick roping act, he rose to world-wide fame as a columnist, philosopher, and radio personality. During the 1920s, he bought land in Santa Monica, where he developed a ranch. Eventually, Rogers owned 186 acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean, in what is now known as Pacific Palisades.

House exterior

The ranch became the place where Will Rogers could relax with his family and friends, pursuing his favorite pastimes of riding and roping. At his untimely death in a plane crash in 1935, Will Rogers’ ranch consisted of a 31-room ranch house, a stable, corrals, riding ring, roping arena, polo field, golf course, and hiking trails. When his widow, Betty, died in 1944, the ranch became a state park.


Ranch House Tours

Park staff offer tours of the Ranch House and grounds. However, you and your family can enjoy many features of the Park on your own. Download the Self-Guided Ranch Tour Card. Tours run Thursdays and Fridays, from 11:00 am – 3:00 pm, and Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm, on the top of the hour. No tours Monday through Wednesday. School group tours and special group tours run Thursday and Fridays at 10:00 am.


Equestrian Activities

The Will Rogers Polo Club plays polo every weekend from April to October. Riding Lessons are available on Monday through Saturday; see their Horseback Riding Lessons Information Page. Equestrians are welcome to bring their horses to the park for day-use to enjoy the riding and roping arena, Sarah’s Point, and the trail to Inspiration Point.


Horseback Riding

Will Rogers Trail Rides provide guided trail rides on safe, reliable horses on the beautiful trails of Will Rogers State Historic Park. You will experience the park in the way Will Rogers used to love to experience it, on horseback. Their wranglers are experienced and safety oriented, so you can relax and enjoy the trails of one of the most beloved parks in Los Angeles. Will Rogers guided trail rides are available every day except Mondays. Tuesday through Fridays you can book a private guided ride by calling (310) 662-3707 or go online for more information.


Hiking Trails

Hikers can enjoy a moderate 3-mile loop to Inspiration Point. Adventurous hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians can tackle the Backbone Trail into the Santa Monica Mountains, which can take you all the way to Point Mugu.


Activities at the Park

The Park is undergoing a major historic renovation project that will restore the landscape to its appearance during Will Rogers’ time. In the past two years, the Department has restored the ranch house and completed significant portions of the landscape restoration program. Over the next several years, the Department will be restoring the historic structures and relocating the maintenance facilities away from the historic zone. Details of the restoration program may be found in the Historic Landscape Management Plan.


Visitor Center

The Visitor Center is open to the public after a major renovation and has new exhibits. The Gift Store in the Visitor Center contains Will Rogers books, Will Rogers DVD’s, and Will Rogers radio broadcasts. It also carries polo mallets and polo balls and a fine line of Indian Jewelry. Gift Store Hours are Thursday – Sunday 10:30 am – 5:30 pm.


WHAT: Will Rogers State Historic Park
Open daily, including holidays | 8:00 am – Sunset
1501 Will Rogers Park Road | Pacific Palisades, CA 90272


  • Parking $12.00, Seniors parking $11.00

CONTACT INFO: (310) 454-8212

SOCIAL MEDIA: Facebook | Twitter | Yelp

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Solstice Canyon

January 23, 2012 — 1 Comment

As some of you know, Los Angeles is full of natural wonder, and contrary to popular belief, Angelenos don’t spend all their time in cars or on movie sets. Ok, maybe some of you do, and that is why this is a great opportunity for you to venture out. So if you’re new to LA or just want to explore another hiking trail, visit Solstice Canyon Park in the Santa Monica Mountains.

This is a popular and incredibly picturesque, mostly shaded canyon hike with well-maintained trails, much better then some of the streets in LA. The Park opened on the summer solstice, 1988. The park offers an easy walk alongside a creek in a wide, open canyon. The place is great for an outdoor picnic and a stroll. The wide trail is so level it can be walked in flip-flops, making this one of the most family-friendly hikes in Los Angeles. Don’t forget to pack plenty of water and your favorite snacks.

The big attraction on the hike is a small waterfall next to some interesting ruins. This is a great place to spend some time exploring before returning down the trail. Also a good place to snap a new profile picture.

The trail ends at the ruins of Roberts Ranch House. Designed by architect Paul Williams and built in 1952, the brick structures found harmony with nature by incorporating the creek, waterfall, and landscape into their design. The house must have been a relaxing retreat, until it was burned down by wildfires in 1982. The remaining foundations are now protected by the National Park Service. You can also see ruins of The Keller House which was built in 1865 and is said to be the oldest house in Malibu, but was destroyed in the corral fire of 2007.

Another Solstice Canyon structure of note is a really strange one. It resembles a kind of futuristic farm house that looks like something out of the movie Jurassic Park. From 1961 to 1973, Space Tech Labs, used the building to conduct tests to determine the magnetic sensitivity of satellite instrumentation. Who knew Los Angeles has it’s own Area 51. The building is now headquarters for the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

There are a handful of other trails in the park. Canyon Trail is the main drag, and easy to follow. Good for beginners and those with a hangover. Those looking for more of a challenge should try the Deer Valley Loop off Sostomo Trail. The 3.9 miles of rolling trails offer occasional ocean views and plenty of good exercise.

Florence Roberts, expressed her feelings about Solstice Canyon in a poem.

Leave behind your worries and cares,

And climb with us these 13 stairs.

Our bubbling brook, our waterfall,

Here we relax and enjoy it all.

I believe this poem sums it up, so put this hidden gem on you’re ‘to do’ list and tell your friends and family.

For more information, watch this video on Solstice Canyon:

WHAT: Solstice Canyon
WHEN: Daily from 8:00 a.m. to dusk
WHERE: 3999 Solstice Canyon Rd | Malibu, CA 90265

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