We love L.A., but sometimes all that traffic and noise and hustle and bustle is just too much and we long for wide open spaces where you can hear yourself think and the air smells clean and fresh. Lucky for Angelenos there are a number of places within a 1 to 3 hour drive where someone can go to find peace and quiet and enjoy the beauty of nature. Here are five dream mini-vacations for your consideration, and we actually discovered one of these treasures during our last photoshoot for the Velvet Heart Fall 2016 look book.
SYCAMORE COVE STATE PARK: We booked the shoot at Sycamore Cove State Park at the northern edge of Malibu, though technically in Oxnard city limits. The beautiful stretch of pristine beach is bordered by craggy rock formations at either end with easy access and parking from Pacific Coast Highway. Picnic tables and barbeques are available for public use, so you can relax, dine, listen to waves and even spot the occasional whale passing by (we saw one!). This beach is a bit of heaven, and to be honest, we hope not too many people visit. It’s simply a bit of paradise. And if you get tired of the beach, just cross PCH and you have access to the Sycamore Canyon Park and miles of hiking trails. Something for everyone.
Photo by Michael Falco
VASQUEZ ROCKS PARK: If a more vigorous activity is your thing, drive about 40 miles north of L.A., off the 14 Freeway to Agua Dulce, and you’re in another world. The almost eerie formation of red, sandstone peaks that make up Vasquez Rocks Park, jut out from the earth like some prehistoric lizard crawling out of the sand. These rocks, formed thousands of years ago by one of those dreaded earthquakes along the San Andreas fault, are just waiting to be climbed. Reminder: wear sunscreen, proper shoes, a hat and bring water.
Photo by Doug Letterman via Flickr
ANACAPA ISLAND: Just 12 miles off the coast of Oxnard lies Anacapa, one of the Channel Islands and the nearest to the mainland. For an easy day trip, we suggest a visit to the eastern most island, officially a California marine reserve. Island Packers offers a variety of tours and activities, but the East End Landing is the perfect introduction to the Channel Islands, and is an easy, one day vacation. Leaving from the harbor in Oxnard, travel time is about one hour. More if the boat comes across whales, seal lions, harbor seals or other wildlife in the channel. A two-mile trail around the top of the island allows an easy walk while taking in the wildlife (mostly sea birds and lizards), native plants and cultural history, which includes that of the Chumash tribes who camped on these islands thousands of years ago. It should be noted that Anacapa hosts the largest breeding ground or rookery for western gulls in the world. Their nests are visible everywhere, and depending upon the time of year you visit, you may see them nesting or the newly hatched chicks fluffing their soft downy feathers. To top it off, you get a bird’s eye view of the kelp forests at the base of the island and when you look north, on a clear day you can see the California coast as it must have looked nearly 500 years ago when Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo first landed on the island shores.
Photo by Gabrielle Tsabag
SWITZER FALLS: Looking for a bit of Eden in Southern California? Check out the Switzer Falls hiking trails located north-east of La Canada-Flintridge off the Foothill Freeway at Mt. Wilson. With a choice of trails rated easy to moderate, you can get some exercise and enjoy the beautiful outdoors. Be sure to wear your bathing suit, or bring one with you, because if the weather is warm you won’t be able to resist a swim in the pool fed by a cascade of crystal clear water from the falls. Bring a picnic (and your dog if you’d like).
Photo by Steve Berardi via Flickr
MALIBU WINE COUNTRY: Last, but certainly not least, take a trip through the Santa Monica Mountains to a spot that has been in the business of wine production for more than 150 years. Malibu’s wines can hold their own against the better known “big guys” up in Napa, Sonoma and Santa Ynez. Accessable via the coastal route (Pacific Coast Highway) or from the other side of the mountains via the 101 Freeway and Mulholland Hwy, you can visit many of the over 40 award-winning vineyards in the region. Drop by the various wineries on your own (here’s a map), but perhaps the best way to experience the wines of Malibu is with one of the many tour operators in the area (they do the driving while you do the tasting).