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A Park a Day: Topanga State Park

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July is National Parks & Recreation Month, and all month long LAist will be featuring a hand-selected park a day to showcase just a few of the wonderful recreation spaces--big or small--in the Los Angeles area.

All those LA vs. NY comparisons are so tired, you’re probably yawning just from reading our opening sentence. But if there’s one thing we can really rub those smarmy city kids’ noses in, it’s our great outdoors. And while many will point to Central Park as a great success for urban open space, you might be surprised to hear that the city of Los Angeles has its own massive chunk of dedicated nature: Topanga State Park. At over 11,000 acres, with more than 36 miles of hiking trails, it sure would take those NY snobs quite a while to walk in our state park shoes.

For everything from superb day hiking to uninterrupted wilderness camping or fantastic views of the Pacific, Topanga State Park is your spot. To make the most out of your trip, consider staying overnight at the top-notch wilderness campsite located a mile in from the trailhead. While technically ‘first-come first-served’, a recent venture to the park on Memorial Day weekend produced only one other overnighter. With flush toilets, garbage facilities and running potable water, camping at Topanga gets you away from the crowds and car exhausts of some of the more popular weekend spots - and at a fraction of the cost.

Even if you’re just interested in a daytime trek, Topanga State Park should be a great addition to your itinerary. Former woodsy bachelor pad for a generation of Hollywood types, Trippet Ranch now serves as the ranger station and trailhead for the many miles of available hiking. At just over one mile, the Musch Trail will lead you directly to the wilderness campsite. However, if you want a little more leg work and a lot more direct sunlight, try the Eagle Rock trail. At about four miles roundtrip, you’ll definitely feel like you’ve accomplished something - to say nothing of the fantastic views from Eagle Rock itself (no, not that Eagle Rock, the other one). From the top, you can see large swaths of Pacific Palisades, the San Bernardino mountains to the east, and an uninterrupted chunk of Pacific coastline. Not bad for LA city proper.

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Other, more extensive hikes take you through grassy open fields or dusty hillsides dotted with chaparral. For those with a daypack and a sense of adventure, consider the 9 mile push from Topanga State Park out to famous Will Rogers State Historic Park.

Whatever adventure you choose, Topanga State Park should be your go-to destination for fun, sun, and exercise. Eat it, New York.