Saturday, April 21, 2012

#232: Garden of the Gods

With a name like Garden of the Gods, I had high expectations for this 23 acre patch of Chatsworth. I heard that the Garden was within a stone's throw of the 118 Freeway and residential neighborhoods, so I was naturally skeptical of whether it would be the paradise that its name suggests. But as soon as I caught sight of the Gods' rocky thrones--thousands of beautiful sandstone rock formations jutting out from the earth--I was in heaven.

The park is best known as the film site of numerous old Hollywood films such as The Lone Ranger and Tarzan the Ape Man.  As part of the historic Iverson Movie Ranch, this majestic park is purported to be the most photographed location ranch in film history. In 1987 it was turned into a public park by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

The Garden of the Gods is located just south of the 118 Freeway and is bordered by suburbs. While hiking, you may hear the distant drone of cars and catch glimpses of the houses nearby, so don't expect a hike that will "take you away from it all."

Regardless of the sights and sounds of nearby civilization, however, the Garden feels like a secret oasis. There was hardly a soul when we went. The main attractions of the Garden of the Gods are all the amazing rock formations and the abundant wildlife (we saw rabbits, a small snake, and lizards). There are numerous paths to take, so this was more of an "exploration" than a hike for us.

Street parking is free and plentiful. You will turn onto Red Mesa Drive from Santa Susana Pass Road. Park on the street right before Red Mesa Drive intersects with Horizon Place on the left. See this map for more details.

Do you have a sweet spot for rocks? I am in love with them--especially large oddly formed ones. The mere sight of rocky outcroppings stops me dead in my tracks, and overwhelms me with an urgent kid-like desire to climb all over them. If you love rocks as much as I do, check out some of my favorite rocky places to hike: Vasquez Rocks (#179), Red Rock Canyon (#151), Eagle Rock (#156), and of course Joshua Tree (#181). Oh, and if you really want to experience some amazing rock formations, check out Escalante, Utah's rocks (#166), which are forever etched in my dreams.  


Have you been to Garden of the Gods? What did you think of it? Leave me a comment below!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Spring Picnic in L.A.

Finally, a full week of sun!  Spring is here in L.A.!

Whenever I think of Spring, I think of bunnies, wild flowers, waterfalls, and picnics. Recently a reader asked me if I could recommend unique picnic spots around L.A.. After searching through my archives and my mental file cabinet, I came up with this list of places. Looks like this weekend is perfect for a picnic.

The Old L.A. Zoo

Griffith Park is a natural place to have a picnic. The Old L.A. Zoo in Griffith Park combines the beauty of the park with the coolness factor of eating in one of the old animal enclosures.

Greystone Park and Mansion

The grounds of Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills are beautiful, making it a popular spot for movie filming and weddings. While you can't go inside the mansion, the front lawn is huge and usually empty, making it a great spot for a picnic.

Lake Balboa

I think cherry blossom season is just winding down at Lake Balboa in Van Nuys, but you might be able to catch the tail end this weekend. At the peak of the season, the lake is surrounded by breath taking cherry blossom trees. There are lots of picnic tables surrounding the lake. On the weekend it can get busy.

Barnsdall Park

Barnsdall Park in Hollywood is the location of Frank Lloyd Wright's famous Hollyhock House. With breathtaking views, it's the perfect spot for a picnic. If you're lucky, the art gallery will be open for your enjoyment.

Lancaster Poppy Fields

They are having a rough season, but are hoping the recent rains will bring the poppies to full bloom. Check here for updates. When I went a few years back, there weren't a lot of picnic tables, but we pulled to the side of the road and had a nice picnic lunch on the hood of our car. 

Other Places to Check Out:

Burton W. Chace Park in Marina Del Rey

Hollywood Bowl You can't go to the Hollywood Bowl without packing a picnic! Enjoy music and food in this beautiful open air amphitheater.

Malibu Bluffs Park Have a picnic with a view of the Malibu coast.

Where do you like to picnic in L.A.? Leave me a comment below!