Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks

The main entrance into the 1,765 acre Wildwood Park is at the corner of Avenida de los Arboles and Big Sky Drive in Thousand Oaks. The Chumash Indians lived in Wildwood Park for nearly 8,000 years, until the early 19th century, when the Spanish colonized California. Eventually the park became owned by the Janss Corporation, which sold it to the Conejo Recreation and Park District in 1967.

Main trailhead accessible from the parking lot at Ave de los Arboles and Big Sky.

Main trailhead accessible from the parking lot at Ave de los Arboles and Big Sky.

Wildwood Park is an extremely popular hiking and cycling spot and CRPD frequently hosts nature hikes there. The park has 14 trails covering 17 miles, including two year-round waterfalls, Paradise Falls and Little Falls.  Wildwood is known for its spring wildflower displays from January to June.

The park hosted a number of movie/TV productions in the 1930s to the 1960s, including Spartacus, Wuthering Heights, Wagon Train, The Rifleman and Gunsmoke.

Call the CRPD at 805.495.2163 for more information about the park. But for lots of detailed information about Wildwood Park, including trail maps and pictures, visit the Conejo Open Space Foundation website at www.cosf.org/website/html/wildwood.html.

As far as facilities in the park, there are drinking fountains at the main parking lot as well as at the Teepee, at Paradise Falls and the two restroom areas in the park. One of the restrooms are located at Meadows Center, a small building located across the bridge that is adjacent to the short trail to the Indian Cave. CRPD often hosts short hikes from the main parking lot to Meadows Center for fun, games and s'mores.

Bridge over creek that connects Wildwood Canyon Trail to Meadows Center, which has restrooms and a drinking fountain.

Bridge over creek that connects Wildwood Canyon Trail to Meadows Center, which has restrooms and a drinking fountain.

The other restrooms are at the bottom of Wildwood Canyon. You can get there by taking the Tepee Trail roughly 1/2 mile to the bottom of the canyon, or alternatively from Paradise Falls about 1/4 mile down the Wildwood Canyon Trail. The Arroyo Conejo Creek runs down from Paradise Falls to here and is fun to explore (keeping in mind still that this is partially urban runoff and thus you don't want to play around in it too much).

Additional restrooms at the bottom of Wildwood Canyon.

Additional restrooms at the bottom of Wildwood Canyon.

Sign at Paradise Falls indicating this particular water is partially urban runoff and best not to swim in.

Sign at Paradise Falls indicating this particular water is partially urban runoff and best not to swim in.

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Ventura Pier

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The Ventura Pier was originally constructed in 1872 and is a favorite spot for local fishermen. The Pier is 1,600 feet long and underwent a $2.2 million renovation in 2000 that added an 80 foot octagon shaped extension, benches and more. The Pier can be accessed off of East Harbor Boulevard, close to the Crowne Plaza hotel off of California Street. Beach House Fish restaurant and a MadeWest Brewing Company taproom (2nd floor of Beach House) is located on the pier.

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On the west side of the pier is a playground area with some unique play equipment. My kids always enjoy it here because of the great combination of the beach, pier, playground, quick access to bike rentals and food.

The Ventura Wharf (Pier) was designated City of Ventura Historic Landmark #20 on March 29, 1976.

The former Eric Ericsson's (now Beach House Fish) next to the playground on the pier.

The former Eric Ericsson's (now Beach House Fish) next to the playground on the pier.

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Leo Carrillo State Park in Malibu

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Leo Carrillo State Park has 1.5 miles of beach for swimming, surfing, windsurfing, surf fishing and beachcombing, as well as tide pools, coastal caves and reefs for exploring. Giant sycamores shade the main campgrounds (though the campground was damaged by the Woolsey Fire of November 2018). The park also features back-country hiking.

Among the many great features of Leo Carrillo, the most engaging activity for me and the kids is the tidepools. They are exposed twice daily at low tide and provide hours of engagement with sea stars, sea anemones, mussels, sea slugs and more.

Nature walks and campfire programs are offered and a small visitor center has interpretive displays.

Trails include Yellow Hill Fire Trail for panoramic views of the beach and the Channel Islands, and the steeper Nicholas Flat Trail, which brings you to a pond.

A view from the Leo Carrillo bluffs as the clouds start rolling in.

A view from the Leo Carrillo bluffs as the clouds start rolling in.

There are 135 family campsites at Leo Carrillo with restrooms and token-operated showers. Visit ReserveCalifornia.com and search for “Leo Carrillo SP” to make reservations.

The park was named after Leo Carrillo (1880-1961), actor, preservationist and conservationist. Leo Carrillo served on the California Beach and Parks commission for 18 years and was instrumental in the state's acquisition of the Hearst property at San Simeon. Leo's greatest fame came from his portrayal of Pancho, the sidekick to Duncan Renaldo's Cisco Kid, an early 1950's TV series.

Leo Carrillo State Park is located at 35000 W. Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. The park office phone is 310.457.8143. Visit www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=616 for more information.

Parking is currently $12 in the parking lot for the day (or $3 per hour)...but free on PCH if you can find a spot. There are plenty of parking spots available in the lot. After you park, you can walk in a tunnel underneath PCH to get to the beach.

The muraled tunnel that takes you underneath PCH to Leo Carrillo Beach.

The muraled tunnel that takes you underneath PCH to Leo Carrillo Beach.

Dogs on a leash are allowed in the Park's day use areas, campground and north beach (north of lifeguard tower 3). Dogs are not allowed on backcountry trails or south beach (south of lifeguard tower 3).

DIRECTIONS

The most direct way of getting to Leo Carrillo from the Conejo Valley is via Westlake Boulevard (CA-23) (aka Decker Canyon) south, which for some is a fun 14 mile drive, but for others, not so much. It is a bit winding, hilly, steep at many junctures. I take this route during daytime hours but coming home I'm not too keen on it. After getting to PCH, turn right and drive 2 1/2 miles to get to Leo Carrillo.

Another more popular, though less direct route is via Kanan Road. Either take Kanan Road straight down to PCH, turn right (west) on PCH about 9 miles to Leo Carrillo, or take Kanan to Encinal Canyon, which is about a 3 mile drive on PCH to Leo Carrillo.

Lastly, if you are in Newbury Park, you can take Potrero Road west to Las Posas down to PCH. In about 11 miles you will reach Leo Carrillo.

Escondido Canyon Trail and Waterfalls in Malibu

Trailhead on Winding Way

Trailhead on Winding Way

The Edward Albert Escondido Canyon Trail and Waterfalls is located off of Winding Way in Malibu.  It also also referred to as Escondido Falls.

The most unique aspect to Escondido Falls is that it is home to the tallest waterfall in the Santa Monica Mountains at over 150 feet, making it a wonderful place to visit. 

That said, in drought years, there is often no sign of waterfall, other than a sparse trickle into Escondido Canyon Creek. But even when that is the case, this is a wonderful, moderate hike, good for all ages. 

To get to Escondido Falls from the Conejo Valley/101, take Kanan south to PCH and turn left. You'll be driving just under 2 miles, past Paradise Cove, to the small parking lot on Winding Way and PCH. Turn left onto Winding Way and an immediate left into the parking lot. There's a sign; you can't miss it. The lot has spaces for only around 16 vehicles; it is full, you'll have to find a spot on PCH and make you way from there...but be careful and watch for the plentiful "no parking" signs on PCH.

Parking is $8. and takes both cash and credit cards. Parking fees contribute to the ongoing maintenance of the trails, including porta potty cleanings, graffiti and trash removal and partial staffing.)

The parking area is on Winding Way and PCH. The initial section of the hike is along Winding Way is called the Winding Way Trail.

The parking area is on Winding Way and PCH. The initial section of the hike is along Winding Way is called the Winding Way Trail.

The hike is about 4 miles round trip and can be done in as fast as an hour (if you speed walk and don't hang out) or for most, a couple hours.

The first 8/10ths of a mile is along Winding Way to the trailhead. It has a moderate hill but is not that bad. Near the peak of the initial hill, you will need to cross from the left side of the street to the right side as you make your way up. There are signs that ask that you walk on the dirt trail rather than on the street, so try to abide by that. You will be treated to views of beautiful homes and ocean views along this portion of your trek.

After a short final downhill section, you'll reach the trailhead. After an initial left turn that takes you briefly west, most of the rest of the trail to Escondido Falls is a northeast to northerly direction. You'll be treated to lush oak woodlands and greenery year-round.  

Much of the trail looks like this; canopied by oaks and shrub.

Much of the trail looks like this; canopied by oaks and shrub.

Hikers, equestrians and bikers are all welcome on the trail. Dogs too, on leash of course. I have not seen bikers on this trail, however. There are no restrooms, other than a porta-john at the parking lot. No drinking fountains, so bring water. There are trash cans at the trailhead. 

The waterfall is a treat to see but the rest of the hike is quite nice too, largely shaded and not too hilly or technical. There is a net elevation gain from 150' at the trailhead to 325' at the Falls over about a mile, which is not bad.

After the rainy season, you may have to cross the creek a few times as it criss-crosses the trail. There are a couple forks in the road where you may wonder which way to go. Generally speaking, turn left on your way to the falls and that will get you there.

Believe it or not, this is the end of the trail, where the waterfall flows after the rainy season. In late August pictured here, there is a dribble of water flowing into the creek.

Believe it or not, this is the end of the trail, where the waterfall flows after the rainy season. In late August pictured here, there is a dribble of water flowing into the creek.

The parkland ends at the multi-tiered waterfall area and the trail ends. Except, there are paths that can get you to the upper falls. Technically you are not supposed to do this because you are no longer on public land, not to mention you are literally rock climbing your way up there and it can be dangerous.

This is a fun, family-friendly hike that is worth a try. Quite popular, one could argue, too popular, on weekends.

There's one side trail to the east that will give you views of the waterfall when it is flowing. The white-ish area in the upper right hand of this photo is where the waterfall resides.

There's one side trail to the east that will give you views of the waterfall when it is flowing. The white-ish area in the upper right hand of this photo is where the waterfall resides.

Why is it named after Edward Albert? Well, Edward Albert is the only son of actor Eddie Albert, well known for his role on TV sitcom "Green Acres." Edward died at age 55 in 2006. Prior to his death, he was a tireless advocate for preserving Escondido Canyon. The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy named the area in honor of him several months prior to his death. (1)

Visit the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy site at mrca.ca.gov/parks/park-listing/escondido-canyon-park for more information.

(1) Los Angeles Times obituary dated 9/27/06 at this link.

El Pescador Beach in Malibu

El Pescador Beach ("The Fisherman") has the distinction of being the closest beach in terms of auto mileage from central Thousand Oaks, located at 32900 Pacific Coast Highway, just east of the intersection of Decker Canyon Road and PCH. Along with La Piedra Beach and El Matador Beach, El Pescador is part of the Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach. 

El Pescador Beach is located about 2 1/2 miles east of Leo Carrillo State Beach and 5 miles west of Zuma Beach. Along with the other two beaches, El Pescador has a parking area (for a fee) and a porta-john. Dogs are not allowed on state beaches. There is also limited parking on PCH available, but be sure to look at the signs to make sure you don't park in a "no parking" zone.

Steep, uneven stairs lead you to the beach. Not particularly stroller friendly as a result, but it's not that far to go. This beach never seems to be crowded, which is a good thing.

You can explore trek over to La Piedra Beach from here, at least when the tide is not too high.

Bottom half of the steps from the parking lot to El Pescador Beach.

Bottom half of the steps from the parking lot to El Pescador Beach.

Santa Rosa Loop Hike in Wildwood Park

The Santa Rosa Loop Hike at Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks is a 6 1/2 mile trek with moderately challenging uphills and downhills. You’ll be rewarded with beautiful views of the Conejo Valley and Santa Rosa Valley.

Start at the main Wildwood trailhead at the west end of Avenida de Los Arboles. Take the main Mesa Trail towards Lizard Rock. You'll soon reach the Santa Rosa Trail sign, which points you north.

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As you crest the hill, follow the arrows toward the Lower Santa Rosa Trail.

As you crest the hill, follow the arrows toward the Lower Santa Rosa Trail.

Views of Santa Rosa Valley

So you're heading east and almost feeling like maybe you're getting lost, but this indeed is the Santa Rosa Trail. Just stay towards the left. It is single track much of the way over here. Then, you'll see the following sign as you get closer to the bottom of the Santa Rosa Valley.

So now you are zig zagging down the Shooting Star Trail, which eventually merges into the Lower Santa Rosa Trail.

(That said, you can continue east from the above juncture and make your way to Cal Lutheran.)

Now you're going to turn left (west) on Lower Santa Rosa Trail for some gentle slopes alongside private residences and farms in the Santa Rosa Valley for about a mile or so.

Some old farming equipment on the side of the Lower Santa Rosa Trail.

Some old farming equipment on the side of the Lower Santa Rosa Trail.

Then soon you come to the end of the trail and there's a sign that tells you to get back into Wildwood Park via the Box Canyon Trail, take the road up ahead 4/10ths of a mile. You're actually in Camarillo now on Rocky High Road.

The trail ends at the juncture of Talal Ct (private) and Rocky High Road.

The trail ends at the juncture of Talal Ct (private) and Rocky High Road.

At the end of the short stretch of road is the trailhead back into Wildwood Park.

And soon you'll see the Box Canyon Trail sign. Veer left (although I think if you go right it loops around to the main trail also).

Box Canyon Trail Sign

It's about a 300 foot climb over less than half a mile up the Box Canyon Trail that gets you back to the main Mesa Trail artery in Wildwood Park. Take your time...you're almost there!

Box Canyon Lizard Rock Sign Wildwood Park

Then you'll see the Lizard Rock / Box Canyon sign that signifies you are back at the Mesa Trail to head about half a mile back to the parking lot. Or turn right to check out the views from Lizard Rock before you go.

To see a map of this hike, visit www.cosf.org/website/html/santa-rosa-loop.html.

OK, so if you're looking to take a break and sit back and enjoy the view near the juncture of the Mesa Trail and Box Canyon Trail?  Then head back (west) from the "Lizard Rock/Box Canyon" trail sign above toward Box Canyon and take the trail on the left to the Box Canyon Overlook, where you will find the following place to park your rear end. Not a bad view, eh?

Bench at Box Canyon Overlook.

Bench at Box Canyon Overlook.

Sycamore Cove Beach in Point Mugu

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Sycamore Cove Beach is located at 9000 Pacific Coast Highway in Point Mugu. This beach is one of the closest and easiest to get to from the Conejo Valley and Camarillo via Las Posas and PCH.

Sycamore Cove Beach in the background. Sycamore Canyon Campground entrance on left.

Sycamore Cove Beach in the background. Sycamore Canyon Campground entrance on left.

The beach is popular with families looking to barbecue and enjoy quick and easy access to the beach. There are also porta-johns and restrooms available. Very limited parking on PCH (read the signs carefully as you don't want to get ticketed) but plenty of paid parking available (generally $12 to $14 for the day).

Dogs on a leash are allowed in day use areas, campgrounds and beaches within Point Mugu State Park. Dogs are not allowed on backcountry trails or dirt roads.

A view of Sycamore Cove Beach from the south.

A view of Sycamore Cove Beach from the south.

On the northwest end of the beach you can walk underneath PCH to the other side of PCH, where Sycamore Canyon Campground is located. From there, you can take Sycamore Canyon up to Newbury Park (about eight miles).

PCH is above. You can safely get from Sycamore Cove to Sycamore Canyon under this bridge (though at high tide can be a challenge). Beats risking your life crossing PCH!

PCH is above. You can safely get from Sycamore Cove to Sycamore Canyon under this bridge (though at high tide can be a challenge). Beats risking your life crossing PCH!

Due north of Sycamore Cove Beach is Thornhill Broome Beach/Campground, which along with Sycamore Cove and Sycamore Canyon is part of Point Mugu State Park. Across from Thornhill Broome is the large sand dune that makes for some fun climbing.

The humongous sand dune walking distance from Sycamore Cove.

The humongous sand dune walking distance from Sycamore Cove.

Visit www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=630 for more information.

Public Beach Access Between Sycamore Cove and County Line Beach in Malibu

Between Sycamore Cove Beach at 9000 Pacific Coast Highway, which is part of Point Mugu State Park, and County Line Beach, across the street from Neptune's Net and Yerba Buena Road at 42505 Pacific Coast Highway, there are three or four access points to the beach.

Look for the brown "Coastal Access" signs.

The first access point is just over a mile southeast of Sycamore Canyon at about 10302 Pacific Coast Highway. There is parking on PCH and an old staircase adjacent to a Call Box.

The not particularly well taken care of steps to the beach at (approximately) 10302 PCH.

The not particularly well taken care of steps to the beach at (approximately) 10302 PCH.

Another access point is another 1/2 mile east is at approximately 9999 Pacific Coast Highway, near the juncture of Deer Creek Road. You'll see another brown Coastal Access sign and blue Call Box. Park on PCH and look for the staircase. I call this 26 Steps Beach.

Staircase at 9999 Pacific Coast Highway

Staircase at 9999 Pacific Coast Highway

The final southeast stretch of PCH between the access point above and Neptune's Net has even less distinguishable areas, but you can pull over to the side and park over most of this stretch (except when there are No Parking signs). 

CLICK HERE FOR PUBLIC BEACHES STRETCHING FROM OXNARD TO MALIBU

State Fish Hatchery in Fillmore

Temporary closure: The California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Fillmore Trout Hatchery temporarily closed in May 2018 as the facility undergoes maintenance and repairs. All of the rainbow trout normally raised at the Fillmore Trout Hatchery were moved to the Mojave River Hatchery in San Bernardino County to accommodate the necessary work. However, the Fillmore Hatchery was still closed when we last checked in May 2019. Call them at 805.524.0962 during normal hours of 7am to 3pm for updates.

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The California Department of Fish and Game maintains a Fish Hatchery in Fillmore, off Highway 126, just east of downtown Fillmore. Watch for the sign - you make a quick right on Fish Hatchery Road, not more than a mile or so from downtown. The hatchery I believe is now called the Fillmore Trout Hatchery.

The hatchery is open 365 days a year, from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Bring dimes to purchase fish food and learn about fish and their role in California. This is a self-guided tour. More information at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Hatcheries/Fillmore.

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If you have kids and visit Fillmore, put this on your must do list!

Ventura Harbor Village

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Ventura Harbor Village at 1583 Spinnaker Drive, Ventura is home to 33 acres of harborside activities, shopping and restaurants.  The weather is always so cool over there it makes for a nice retreat.

There is a 36 horse carousel and arcade for the kids and plenty of outdoor activities available like kayaking, sailing, pedal boats, sport-fishing and cruises. Ventura Harbor Village hosts events and activities year-round, including music performances, kids' activities, themed events, festivals and more.

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Eateries at Ventura Harbor Village include 805 Bar & Grilled Cheese, Alexander's, Andria's Seafood Restaurant, Baja Bay Surf N' Taco, Boatyard Pub, Brophy Bros. Restaurant and Clam Bar, Coastal Cone (ice cream shop), Coffee Dock & Post, Copa Cubana, Fratellis Pizza & Brew, Harbor Cove Cafe, Le Petit Cafe, Bakery & Restaurant, Margarita Villa Mexican, Water’s Edge Restaurant & Bar, The Greek Mediterranean Steak & Seafood and The Parlor. You won't go hungry here.

The Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center is located adjacent to Ventura Harbor Village. Free admission and an awesome resource for learning more about the Channel Islands and its protected habitat.

Island Packers at the Harbor has numerous boat rides and is the only authorized concessionaire to transport folks to Channel Islands National Park. 

Ventura Boat Rentals rents out electric boats, paddle boats, kayaks, power boats and charters cruises in the Ventura Harbor.  So much fun to be had!

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Across the street from Ventura Harbor Village is beach access at Harbor Cove Beach (a safe beach protected by jetties) and Surfer's Knoll Beach. Local area beaches at THIS LINK.

More information at www.venturaharborvillage.com or call 805.642.8538 (or 877.89.HARBOR).

Arroyo Burro Beach Park in Santa Barbara

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Arroyo Burro Beach is a beach park managed by the County of Santa Barbara. It is also referred to as Hendry's Beach, as the Boathouse at Hendry's Beach is located here at 2981 Cliff Drive. Decent sized parking lot with restaurant serving up moderately priced meals and drinks indoors/outdoors, seven days a week from 7:30am to 9:30pm. Arroyo Burro Beach is a sandy beach, good for surfing, boogie boarding and fishing, with an adjoining park with grassy areas with picnic tables. Restrooms available. From the 101 take Las Positas Road south to Cliff Drive. Turn right and travel 1/2 mile to the park entrance. More information at www.countyofsb.org/parks/day-use/arroyo-burro-beach.sbc.

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Arroyo Burro also has a great doggie park! Dogs are required to be on leash through the parking lot but there's an area where dogs can run around in the ocean. Self service dog wash stations provided by County Park. Details at www.countyofsb.org/parks/dog.sbc.

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Channel Islands Sportfishing Center

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Channel Islands Sportfishing Center (aka Cisco's) is located at the Channel Islands Harbor at 4151 S. Victoria Avenue, Oxnard. They have a fleet of 11 boats (as of July 2019) and operate 7 days a week. They have Military Appreciation Day and Kids Ride Free specials, whale watching trips and more! Visit www.channelislandssportfishing.com or call 805.382.1612 to learn more and book your next fishing trip.

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America's Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College

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Don't want to drive 45 minutes to the nearest zoo?  Well then, stop by local Moorpark College to visit the student-run America's Teaching Zoo

This five acre zoo housing nearly 200 exotic animals is part of the college's Exotic Animal Training and Management Program and is open each weekend from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (excluding holidays).  This interesting collection has included all sorts of animals, like alligators, geckos, monkeys, tigers, camels, snakes, ocelots and more. Animal show times at 12 pm and 2 pm. Animal demonstrations from 3:30-4 pm.

Galapagos Tortoise at America's Teaching Zoo

Galapagos Tortoise at America's Teaching Zoo

Students in the program are required to work most days and weekends.  For a truly unique wild animal experience, stop by and check it out. Don't expect anything fancy. This is a very low key place, but lots of fun as it is usually not very crowded and you can get really close to the animals. This huge Galapagos Tortoise is Clarence. Learn more about him here.

Admission (as of July 2019) $9 for adults and $7 for kids and seniors (checks and cash only). Under age 2 is free.

Visit zoo.moorparkcollege.edu or call 805.378.1441 for more information.

Another handsome occupant of the zoo - “Ghost,” the bald eagle.

Another handsome occupant of the zoo - “Ghost,” the bald eagle.

The Zoo is located at 7075 Campus Road in Moorpark.  Take the 101 North to the 23 North to the 118 East.  Exit Collins and turn left at the stop sign.  Go through 2 stoplights and turn right into the 2nd entrance past the stoplights.  Turn right in the parking lot and continue up the short hill to the right.

A zoo volunteer feeding the lion.

A zoo volunteer feeding the lion.