Nicholas Canyon County Beach in Malibu, East of Leo Carrillo State Beach

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Nicholas Canyon County Beach is 1 mile east of Leo Carrillo State Beach at 33850 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu. This is a nice beach where you can hang out, fish, picnic, surf and go for a great walk in about 25 acres. There's a decent sized parking lot with 150 spaces available, as well as parking on PCH. Parking costs range from $3 to $10 (as of July 2019), depending on time of the year. There are also portable restrooms on hand as well as showers and picnic benches. More information at beaches.lacounty.gov/nicholas-canyon-beach.

LA County beach rules at https://beaches.lacounty.gov/la-county-beach-rules/ - as an fyi, animals (including dogs), alcohol, smoking, fires/BBQ and amplified music are allowed.

View from the top of hte staircase near the parking lot.

View from the top of hte staircase near the parking lot.

Bench yourself for some nice views of the Pacific Ocean.

Bench yourself for some nice views of the Pacific Ocean.

View looking northwest towards Leo Carrillo.

View looking northwest towards Leo Carrillo.

Peace, Tranquility and Views at the Conejo Valley Botanic Garden in Thousand Oaks

Looking for a quick retreat in the center of Thousand Oaks? Visit the Conejo Valley Botanic Garden, adjacent to Conejo Community Park at 400 W. Gainsborough Road.

The Conejo Valley Botanic Garden is a 33 acre sanctuary on a hill that overlooks the Conejo Valley. You will be able to rewind in peace here while enjoying the views and solitude.

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Signs throughout the gardens help visitors find their way around.

Signs throughout the gardens help visitors find their way around.

There are several miles of trails at CVBG that lead you to a variety of sections, including a Salvia Garden, Butterfly Garden, Herb Garden, Bird Habitat, Australian Garden, Desert Garden, Rare Fruit Orchard, Japanese Style Tranquility Garden, Oak Tree Grove, Trail of Trees and more.

Japanese Tranquility Garden is back here.

Japanese Tranquility Garden is back here.

Beauty and color found in the Desert Garden.

Beauty and color found in the Desert Garden.

Benches abound throughout the Conejo Valley Botanic Gardens.

Benches abound throughout the Conejo Valley Botanic Gardens.

The views from up here are nothing short of spectacular. Feeling stressed? Do the 10 minute walk up the hill, where you can watch civilization below. There are several dozen benches as well as a few picnic benches available.

Views beyond the surrounding chaparral. The sounds of the 101 freeway and civilization down below are actually relaxing from up here.

Views beyond the surrounding chaparral. The sounds of the 101 freeway and civilization down below are actually relaxing from up here.

Interesting cactus display in the Desert Garden.

Interesting cactus display in the Desert Garden.

On Sundays (with the exception of some major holidays), the Kids Adventure Garden, adjacent to the Botanic Garden, is open to the public from 11am to 3pm. The Kids Adventure Garden features fun paths to follow, a tree house and more, as well as hiking and access to a creek. Fun place for young kids' birthday parties too!

The Kids Adventure Garden adjacent to CVBG is open only on Sundays from 11am to 3pm.

The Kids Adventure Garden adjacent to CVBG is open only on Sundays from 11am to 3pm.

To learn more about the Conejo Valley Botanic Garden, visit www.conejogarden.org. Open 7 days a week, sunrise to sunset; Closed Easter, July 4th, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. Also closed when it is rainy, muddy and/or very windy.

CVBG is a 501(c)3 non-profit run entirely by volunteers. To maintain these gardens is a lot of work and costs are involved, so consider making a donation.

Areas in the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area Allowing Dogs on Leash

Pooch on leash

Pooch on leash

The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is the largest urban national park in the United States at over 150,000 acres, extending from the Hollywood Bowl on the east to Point Mugu at its western end; including the beaches of Santa Monica and Malibu as well as the canyons and peaks extending north to Simi Valley.

Dogs are allowed in a number of areas within the Santa Monica Mountains, as long as they are on leashes that are no more than 6 feet in length. Here is a listing of areas where dogs are allowed:

National Park Service: Arroyo Sequit, Castro Crest, Cheeseboro/Palo Comado Canyons, Circle X Ranch, Deer Creek Canyon, Paramount Ranch, Peter Strauss Ranch, Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa, Rocky Oaks, Solstice Canyon and Zuma/Trancas Canyons

Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy: Calabasas Peak, Dixie Canyon, Escondido Canyon, Franklin Canyon, Fryman Canyon, Marvin Braude Mulholland Gateway Park, Red Rock Canyon Park, San Vicente Mountain Park, Temescal Gateway Park, Wilacre Park

City of Malibu: Charmlee Wilderness Park, Malibu Bluffs

California State Parks: Pets are not allowed on backcountry trails of Topanga, Malibu Creek, Leo Carrillo and Point Mugu State Parks, including the Boney Mountain Wilderness.

Canines are not allowed in the backcountry trails of Point Mugu State Park, including the Boney Mountain Wilderness.

Canines are not allowed in the backcountry trails of Point Mugu State Park, including the Boney Mountain Wilderness.

Dogs on leash are allowed at County Line Beach, Leo Carrillo State Park (on beach north of lifeguard tower 3 and campground only), Point Mugu State Park (on beach and campground only in Sycamore Cove and Thornhill Broome Beach), Will Rogers State Historic Park (day-use areas and loop road only)

L.A. City Recreation and Park District: Coldwater Canyon Park, Laurel Canyon Park, Runyon Canyon Park, Temescal Canyon Park

While you're out on the trails with your pooch, remember to pick up after your dog and bring plenty of water and food for you and Fido.

For more information, visit the Anthony C. Beilenson Interagency Visitor Center in Calabasas or www.nps.gov/samo.

Outside of the Santa Monica Mountains, trails in the Conejo Valley, Simi Hills and other local area locations are generally dog-friendly as long as your furry friend is on a leash. 

Dozens and dozens and dozens of local area trails and hikes

Oakbrook Regional Park in Thousand Oaks Back Open to the Public Post-Woolsey Fire

Oakbrook Regional Park sustained quite a bit of burn damage from the Woolsey Fire of November 2018 and was closed to the public for a number of months. The popular replica Chumash village was destroyed by the fire.

The good news is that the park is now back open and most of the trees, many with visible blackened trunks, are recovering and showing distinct signs of regrowth.

Docents from the Chumash Indian Museum are organizing an effort to rebuild the popular replica village and are raising funds on a GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/chumash-indian-museum-wildfire-fund to support this effort. They are also seeking volunteers to help place the tule (plant used for Chumash house structures) on the aps (traditional Chumash houses).

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New Chumash houses (or “aps”)  in process of being built.

New Chumash houses (or “aps”) in process of being built.

Views Abound at the Zev Yaroslavsky Las Virgenes Highlands Park in Calabasas

In greener times (April 2018).

In greener times (April 2018).

The Zev Yaroslavsky Las Virgenes Highlands Park is located on Las Virgenes Road, just south of Mureau Road and north of Highway 101 in Calabasas.

In greener times (April 2018).

In greener times (April 2018).

This is not a park in the traditional sense, with grass, a playground and BBQs. This park is nearly 200 acres of grasslands dotted with oak trees facing drivers on the 101 as they reach the bottom of the Calabasas Grade.

A steep trail takes you to peaks that offer panoramic views towards the Santa Monica Mountains, Agoura Hills, Calabasas,  Simi Hills and beyond.

View from near the top facing south.

View from near the top facing south.

These photos were taken in November 2015, after four years of drought. After the winter rains, these hills green up quite nicely.

The land is also known as "Firehouse Hill" as it is situated next to Los Angeles County Fire Station 125 on Las Virgenes Road.

To access the park from the 101 coming east, you go north on Las Virgenes and there's a small, dirt parking lot on the left. Problem is, there's no left hand turn lane to the lot and there are "No U Turn" signs for like a mile. So you could make right on Mureau Road and turn around and make a left turn back onto Las Virgenes to get to the parking area. Or you can drive half a mile north and do a U turn at Thousand Oaks Blvd.

This land was acquired by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) for $6.25 million in 2010. It was previously owned by Fred Sands and at one point was owned by Bob Hope. 

The park was named in honor of former long-time L.A. County Supervisor and City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, who retired from office in 2014. Zev worked with a coalition of parties to make this preservation of land happen.

About MRCA: MRCA is a local government public entity established in 1985. It is a local partnership between state agency Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy the Conejo Recreation and Park District and the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District. The MRCA is dedicated to the preservation and management of local open space and parkland, watershed lands, trails, and wildlife habitat. MRCA manages and provides ranger services for almost 72,000 acres of public lands and parks that it owns and that are owned by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy or other agencies and provides comprehensive education and interpretation programs for the public.

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Donate to "The Paramount Project" to Rebuild Paramount Ranch's Western Town

The iconic Western Town at Paramount Ranch was destroyed by the Woolsey Fire of November 2018. The only surviving structures were the church and the train station.

The iconic Western Town at Paramount Ranch was destroyed by the Woolsey Fire of November 2018. The only surviving structures were the church and the train station.

The Santa Monica Mountains Fund, in cooperation with the National Park Service, has launched “The Paramount Project,” a campaign to rebuild Paramount Ranch’s Western Town, recently destroyed by the Woolsey Fire.

The site, long popular with location scouts looking to replicate a rustic town with a Western motif, was also used for many of the special events that take place at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, including weddings, star parties, music festivals, classic movie nights and a variety of other activities. A National Park Service employee, along with her family, lived in Western Town and was one of three employees who lost park housing in the Woolsey fire.   

The new fundraising initiative is expected to restore the only National Park Service site that interprets American film history. It was purchased by the National Park Service in 1980 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

DONATE TO “THE PARAMOUNT PROJECT” AT THIS LINK.

The focus of the campaign is to tap into the creativity, expertise, and resources of both the entertainment community and the general public to create a temporary set and then, ultimately, a number of permanent structures that will retain the rustic features of the past, but with more fire-resistant materials.

The National Park Service and the Santa Monica Mountains Fund have already been contacted by members of the entertainment industry who would like to be involved in the project.

In 1927, Paramount Pictures purchased 2,700 acres of the old Rancho Las Virgenes for use as a "movie ranch." Thus began an era of film production that had continued until last week with more than 300 films, television shows and commercials being shot here. The current ranch is comprised of 765 acres.

Famous Hollywood actors, from Bob Hope and Marlene Dietrich to Sandra Bullock and Bradley Cooper, have strolled around the dusty streets that could be magically transformed into a real town that included a general store, a sheriff’s jail, a saloon, drugstore and a variety of other settings. After it was purchased by Paramount Pictures, a veritable who's who of Hollywood, such as director Cecil B. DeMille and actors Gary Cooper and Claudette Colbert, practiced their craft here for the next 25 years.

But it was the diverse landscape that was the real star of the show. It offered filmmakers the freedom to create distant locales such as colonial Massachusetts in The Maid of Salem (1937), ancient China in The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938), a South Seas island in Ebb Tide (1937), and numerous western locations including San Francisco in Wells Fargo (1937). The art of illusion was mastered in this landscape.

In the 1950s, Western Town was created for television shows, such as The Cisco Kid. More recent television productions at Paramount include The Mentalist, Weeds, episodes of the X-Files and Hulu’s Quickdraw.

More recently, Western Town gained attention as Main Street in HBO’s hit series “Westworld.” For five years in the 1990s, it stood in as Colorado Springs, Colorado, providing the backdrop for many of actress Jane Seymour’s frontier adventures on the popular TV show Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.  Also, Sandra Bullock had a leading role in The Lake House here.

Less known is the history of the Paramount Racetrack. The track operated from 1956 to 1957 and was known as one of the most challenging in the nation. The movie, The Devil’s Hairpin, was filmed on the course, which closed down after three fatalities within 18 months from its opening. Most of the track still winds through the grass and oak woodlands of the park.

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) is the largest urban national park in the country, encompassing more than 150,000 acres of mountains and coastline in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. A unit of the National Park System, it comprises a seamless network of local, state, and federal parks interwoven with private lands and communities. As one of only five Mediterranean ecosystems in the world, SMMNRA preserves the rich biological diversity of more than 450 animal species and 26 distinct plant communities. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/samo.

The Santa Monica Mountains Fund works to protect and encourage appreciation and understanding of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The Fund achieves this by supporting National Park Service efforts in education, science, research, improved facilities, citizen engagement, stewardship and philanthropy. For more information, visit www.samofund.org.

The General Store seen prior to the Woolsey Fire.

The General Store seen prior to the Woolsey Fire.

Grant Park in Ventura is a No Brainer for Panoramic Views of the Coast

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The 107 acre Grant Park is easily accessible from Downtown Ventura via Brakey Road or Summit Drive in Ventura and is a quick and easy way to get your dose of coastal views. There's no playground, restrooms, water or other facilities at this park. But there's plenty of open space and scenery below.

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The view looking the opposite direction of the Pacific Ocean, over the western-most section residential section of Ventura.Several other notable items at Grant Park are the privately owned Serra Cross Park and the Ventura Botanical Gardens Demonstration Trail.

You can spend 10 minutes up here for a quick dose of views or you could spend half a day up here resting, hiking, picnicking and enjoying the ocean breezes.

At the very, very top of Grant Park is this lone bench.

At the very, very top of Grant Park is this lone bench.