Discovering the Hidden Trails of Trippet Ranch – Hiking Topanga State Park

Topanga State Park spans 11,000 acres with 36 miles of trails that wind through a wide variety of terrain, from canyons and cliffs to hills and meadows and some of the most spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean Los Angeles hiking has to offer. It also features tons of cool geologic formations meticulously designed by volcanic activity, millions of years in the making. If you’re an astutely observant explorer you can find a bevy of marine fossils and, if you’re up for the challenge, yes, even those elusive and shifty earthquake faults.

With over 60 different trail entrances, it can be quite overwhelming just to pick a spot to start, but my suggestion would be to enter the park’s main entrance at 20825 Entrada Road, Topanga, Ca 90290. There is a $10 fee to park in this lot, which I have no problem paying considering the desperate financial trouble our state parks are in right now, but you can generally find free parking on the numerous side streets, if you want to add a bit more mileage on to your day’s hike.

Topanga State Park is plucked right from the front of the most stunning postcard you’ve ever seen. All you have to do is walk 20 steps from the parking lot and you’re standing in the middle of a scene straight out of a Tim Burton film, surrounded by the crooked, twisted, welcoming arms of hundreds of ancient live oaks.

Under the shade of this live oak grove, there are many picnic tables and clean bathrooms, making it the perfect place to lounge, play hide and seek, read a book, meditate or have lunch. Walk a few more steps past the picnic area, to the head of the Trippet Ranch Trail and it’s as if you’ve walked smack dab in to a living, breathing Monet. We saw four artists masterfully painting this portion of the trail which conjured up memories of traveling through the french countryside. All that was missing was the Jambon-Beurre on a crispy baguette.

As you make your way up the curved incline you will come to a fork in the trail. To continue on to Eagle Rock, bear left.

This portion of the hike guides you along well-maintained trails through rough chaparral, oak forests and sprawling grasslands. Being a mixed-use trail, you’ll encounter hikers, bikers and even the occasional meandering horse, so watch out for their little presents along the trail!

One of my favorite things about the Trippet Ranch Trail up to Eagle Rock, other than the fact that it’s kid-friendly, are the numerous secondary trails which pop up out of nowhere, allowing extra opportunities for exploration and discovery. None of the informal trails we took actually led anywhere in particular, but when hiking, we’re never in a real rush to get to any place specific anyway. On one of the secret little side-trails, we found a perfect spot for lunch, though, then continued on our wandering way.

As is the norm when hiking with kids, we never did make it all the way up to craggy, panoramic views of Eagle Rock, but we surely found our destination as we arrived back to our car, three hours later, with our imaginations well-used, a nature-calmed mind and de-stressed muscles.


Family Adventure Travel Along California’s Central Coast: Monterey Edition

It was seven o’clock on a foggy Thursday morning, the middle of rush hour for most, but as luck would have it for us, “rush hour” in Monterey, California takes on an entirely different meaning. The seagulls leisurely glide past the sun-bathing sea lions who amusingly watch the sea otters play on a soft bed of the finest California kelp.  This sleepy sea town takes its time with everything, allowing its visitors a chance to take a much-needed rest from the hustle and bustle of big city life. 
With its iconic rocky shores and crashing waves, the coastline in this part of California’s Central Coast is home to supremely magnificent views, on par with even the most far-off exotic lands, only it’s a mere five hours north from Los Angeles. The wild and well-preserved landscape is a spectacle to behold, conjuring up mystifying thoughts and reaffirming Mother Nature’s awe-inspiring imagination.
Tide Pools at Asilomar State Beach - Monterey, California

For more than seventy five years, Monterey has maintained and built upon its vision of acquiring open space and providing access to the waterfront for all who wish to revel in its majesty.  As a result of the city’s tireless work, it currently boasts thirty six parks, more than 6 beaches and hundreds of acres dedicated to hiking and camping. Within its boundaries, it safeguards and nurtures miles and miles of unique coastal habitat not found anywhere else in the world, with a throng of dedicated volunteers the size of army. It’s an outdoor enthusiast’s dream getaway.


We spent the first day of our three day mini-vacation hiking  through an ancient Monterey Cypress Grove, the Pacific Ocean always on our left, affectionately escorting us. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve was the perfect introduction to everything that Monterey stands for, preservation, conservation and steadfast stewardship of the land they call their home. You can quite easily spend the entire day there. The topography changes drastically with every twist and turn of the trail. You can find yourself scrambling over 60 million year old rock out-croppings, drop down into rich tide pools, hike past prairies and coves, then find yourself surrounded by thick forest. We didn’t want to leave, but promises of a table full of fresh seafood at The Grotto Fish Market on fisherman’s wharf coaxed us back to the city. Let’s just say we were amply rewarded.


Day two, we found ourselves at the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. Walking down cannery row, the aquarium’s building is large and imposing, but once inside it is bright, airy, open and inviting. 

Monterey Bay Aquarium Entrance

The energy that you feel as you walk through the doors resonates deep within and that’s not any accident. Thoughtfulness and a deep commitment to conservation of the oceans bursts through its seams, floating all the way down from the top. Executive Director Julie Packard, helped to found the Monterey Bay Aquarium back in the late 1970’s and her work over the last thirty years has been rooted in California nature and oceanic conservancy. Their employees are empowered with an infectious excitement, a wealth of knowledge and are more than willing to share the experience with you.

Making our way through the entrance, en route to the Rocky Shore exhibit, I couldn’t help but soak in all of the fine industrial touches, an homage to its distinct cannery row location. From brilliant sea lemons and bat star fish to stately anemones and rock-like limpets, the Rocky Shore exhibit is a fully hands-on experience that teaches kids about that delicate in-between world where sea meets land. It allows you to explore tidal rhythms, discover coastal currents and a up-close peek into these special shoreline creatures, seemingly lifeless when exposed to the air, that come alive under the water.
Entering the psychedelic Jellies’ maze was mesmerizing. This exhibit reaffirms my belief that Mother Nature is the most visionary of all artists, painting her creations on the canvas of our world, masterpieces our tiny imaginations could never hope to dream up. Jelly fish are some of the most elegant creatures I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing, their ribbons and ruffles, spikes, beads and dots effortlessly gliding, darting, flying through the water. And just for a moment, we forget all about the sting of their graceful tentacles.
Monterey Bay Aquarium - The Jellies Experience
The aquarium’s five spirited sea otters are at least an hour of pure enjoyment, watching them dart in and out of their various caves and caverns, playing hide and seek and performing three full acts for their audience. Rosa, Abby, Gidget, Ivy and Kit were all rescued from precarious situations along the California coast. They now act as surrogate mothers, companions and mentors to other stranded and rescued California sea otters as part of the aquariums Sea Otter Program, which has been studying and trying to save the threatened southern sea otter since 1984. What we stand to learn from our furry friends goes deeper than biological. Their strong sense of community, family and constant need for fun is something we can all weave into the fabric of our lives.
No aquarium would be complete without its fair share of splash zones, penguins and giant octopus, but nothing could top the eerie and mystifying display of the Open Sea, the aquarium’s largest and most impressive exhibit. 
Monterey Bay Aquarium - The Open Sea
Sitting in front of that ninety foot window, watching our daughter, watching the sparkling schools of sardines dart to and fro, the humongous tuna and the graceful sandbar sharks all living in harmony, reminds me of the vastness of this great, big, bewitching world. It refreshed in me the understanding of diversity. It underlined the importance of acceptance and how it plays a role in our capacity to appreciate and relate to all that is different and beautiful. What a gift.

Setting Sail on a Channel Islands’ Wildlife Cruise – Playful Pelicans & A Delightful Dolphin Escort

The Channel Islands are a 160 mile-long archipelago sprinkled amidst the sprawling Pacific Ocean. In 1938, five of the 8 islands, positioned just off the Southern California coastal city of Oxnard, were established as a National Monument, then later in 1980 were designated as the Channel Islands National Park. They are a sight to behold and part of one of the richest marine biospheres in the world. From Los Angeles, an easy hour’s drive north will deliver you to a picturesque and thriving land that took Mother Nature thousands of years to engineer.

Channel Islands Wildlife Cruise

If you’re looking for a special outing that will create long-lasting memories for the entire family, a Channel Island’s Wildlife Cruise is one to add to your list. After 17 years of Southern California living and countless visits to national parks all over the world, I found it astounding that we had never made it to this National Park. A few months ago, as luck would have it, an invitation to do a wildlife cruise fell into our laps and excitedly, the whole family piled in to the car and up the coast we went!

On that Sunday, we arrived at the Channel Islands Harbor early, which was our luck because there was a quaint little Farmer’s Market steps from our cruise’s launching dock. We decided that would be the perfect place to buy some snacks and lunch to bring with us! The vendors offered a great variety of perfectly ripe, organic fruits and veggies and we snagged some to-die-for homemade hummus and pita chips, too!

The cruise out to the Channel Islands National Park is a half day affair spent skating across the wide open ocean, meandering about the islands and witnessing awe-inspiring beauty at its best; a day full of exploring, discovering and learning that was fascinating, not only for our 2 1/2 year old, but for the adults as well.

About half way out to the islands we were greeted by a pod of dolphins. Even the crew and captain of the boat commented that it was one of the largest pods they had ever seen in their 20 plus years doing charters. We watched them as they surfed our wake, swam sideways to get a better look at us and jumped for joy at the chance to play with us.

Channel Island Dolphins

The entire boat was so enthralled that when the captain killed the engines to allow us to float with them for a while, no one on board even seemed to notice. The perfect escort for the beginning of a perfect day.

As we approached the island of Anacapa, we were welcomed by Arch Rock, its arresting natural trademark looming 40 feet above the ocean.

Channel Island Rock Arch

The islands are full of breathtaking natural features such as rock bridges, plunging cliffs, sea caves and tide pools. On this particular cruise, we weren’t allowed to disembark, but next time we go we are getting off the boat and you can bet that we will give ourselves even more time to explore the islands from land.

There certainly was no shortage of California sea lions and harbor seals and we had the best time mimicking their raucous manifestos and counting them perched out on the rugged cliffs sunbathing.

Channel Island Sea Lions

Due to the remoteness of the islands, its many secluded beaches and the abundant food of the surrounding waters, you have the opportunity to witness one of the world’s largest congregations of pinnipeds anywhere, representing more species than any other single place on Earth. In the winter months, you may even have the opportunity to spot the occasional Pacific Grey Whale as they migrate between summer feeding grounds in Alaska to their breeding areas in Baja, California.

These protected islands also provide a much-needed sanctuary; vital feeding and breeding grounds for 99 percent of Southern California’s sea birds. 99 percent!

Channel Island Birds

More importantly they are the sole breeding ground for the California Brown Pelican which was only recently taken off of the endangered species list. We watched a brown pelican do laps around our boat for a good 20 minutes. He (or she) was having the time of his life, gliding past the side of the boat, then circling back around. To say it was a joy to watch would be an understatement. Needless to say, we too, were having the time of our lives.

California Brown Pelican

Given its isolated and hard-to-reach location, The Channel Islands are one of the least visited National Parks in the Nation and that’s what makes it even more special to visit. Offering a wide array of exciting activities at your fingertips, the Islands boast world class kayaking, snorkeling, diving, hiking and camping or you can simply enjoy a little well-deserved peace and solitude. I can’t wait to adventure back, hiking boots on and ready to discover the Channel Island’s secret treasures hidden deep in the recesses of the islands coves, beaches and trails!