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Wonder All Around! (Los Angeles)

L.A. is a great big freeway.  NOT!  Yes, there are lots of freeways here with the famous “the” preceding them.  Take the 405 to the 105 to the 5!  But I say get off the freeway and you’ll see all around are huge, magnificent, amazing and diverse areas of flora and fauna! And once you’re there, let’s engage those wonder muscles!

L.A. is a great big freeway…NOT!

I’ve canoed, kayaked, hiked and otherwise explored much of the Boreal Forest and BWCAW of Minnesota, to Denali National Park in Alaska to the Cascade Mountains of Washington – but very few areas are as uniquely diverse as Southern California.  You heard me right, where else can you grab your surf board, catch a major swell with some dolphins in Huntington Beach in the morning and then just a few hours later be skiing or snowboarding in Big Bear?  Or be standing in the middle of one of the most precious and awe inspiring national parks known as Joshua Tree?


Temescal Gateway Park / Canyon right in the Pacific Palisades is an excellent place for all ages to explore!

All it takes is little bit of purpose and planning.  Soon enough you can be perched above the entirety of the Pacific Ocean coastline at the Parker Mesa Overlook, witnessing Red Tail Hawks soaring above the Hollywood Sign in Griffith Park or wandering in the quiet woods of Franklin Canyon or Topanga State Park.

There are many resources to help you find a place near you.  Modern Hiker is one of my favorites.  They give extremely thorough and detailed information for just about every wild area there is to explore in Southern California and beyond.


Parker Mesa overlook above the Pacific Ocean via the Paseo Miramar trail offers some of the most amazing views in all of Southern California

After 25 years of hiking and exploring greater L.A. there are some places where I continue to find wonder and where I continue to refer others.

My TOP FIVE favorite natural areas to explore within Los Angeles are:

is an absolute gem for just about any level of adventure and fitness.  With hundreds of trails from single tracks above the L.A. Zoo to the wide fire roads that lead up to the Hollywood Sign, you can’t go wrong in Griffith Park.

is HUGE! And no one really knows it’s there.  Why? Because we’re all too busy rushing to LAX and distracted by the Inglewood Oil Fields.  And while those pumpjacks do have an interesting history I’m more interested in seeing you get some fresh air, wetting a line, playing some frisbee golf or just taking a wander – all of which you can do in Kenneth Hahn.

Ever wondered what’s on the other side of those 12 lanes of the 405 when you meet the 101?  Wonder no longer.  Or rather pull off the freeway and wander and wonder in this amazing aviary.  Hundreds of species of birds call this place home or use it as a rest stop on their long migratory route.  This beautifully protected natural area is perfect, especially for families with young children.

Amazing views of the Pacific? Check.  Diverse flora and fauna and quiet trails? Check.  A rich historic site with museum and a polo field?? Check!

is just quietly sitting there minding its own business.  Somewhere between that Beverly Hills to the Valley commute is 650 acres of gorgeous trails, lakes and an amazing nature center!

What places have you explored in Southern California that deserve mention?  Stay tuned for more wonderful tips on where to wonder and wander in L.A., OC and beyond.

Ted Mattison, also known as Ranger Ted, is a Certified California Naturalist, trained in Wilderness First Aid, and has explored, hiked, canoed and kayaked extensively from his home state of Minnesota to Alaska, Washington and California. He’s a graduate of Oberlin College and a former Social Studies teacher. Ted has been a working actor, director, producer and acting teacher in Los Angeles for 25 years. He is the founder of Wonder Outside with Ranger Ted and lives in Huntington Beach with his wife and two daughters. For more info please visit


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