Backyard Playgrounds

Whether it's for a few hours or a few days, we've all got to get away sometime. Since we can't always explore the Amazon after work or trek Tibet in a weekend, we bring you an inspired list of the country's best city-centric, all-natur
Scene Serene: The tranquil spread at Channel Islands National Park, California (courtesy, National Park Service)
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Los Angeles
WITHIN THE LIMITS: Topanga State Park

Why We Love It:

Situated along the Santa Monica cliffs, this California state park is considered the world's largest wildland within a major city. Hike, bike, or horseback ride your way through Topanga's 36 miles of trails.

Don't Miss:
Topanga's rock formations—from earthquake faults to marine fossils—make the park an armchair geologist's dream.

Getting There:
Enfolded in the teeming sprawl of Los Angeles' city limits, this 11,000-acre park stretches from L.A.'s Pacific Palisades and Brentwood neighborhoods to Rustic Canyon. From the Pacific Coast Highway, go north on Topanga Canyon Boulevard, and turn right on Entrada Road.

The Fine Print:
Parking fees at Topanga vary from 50 cents to $14 depending on length of stay. Overnight camping is by reservation only. For more information, visit or call 310.455.2465.

Additional Information:
Check out's Guide to Biking Topanga

NEARBY: Channel Islands National Park
Why We Love It:

This isolated chain of islands just off the bustling Southern California coast boasts pristine natural splendor—half of the park's 49,354 acres are underwater and the area is home to 2,000 species of plants and animals. Visitors can take to the waters surrounding the islands for some of California's best sea-kayaking and diving, or trek through the interior of the park's more remote islands.

Don't Miss:
In the winter and spring, endangered blue whales visit the Channel Islands' waters, making it a prime spot for whale-watching. Tour operator Island Packers (805.642.1393; ferries passengers from Ventura to all of the islands for fares starting from $42.

Getting There:
Channel Islands National Park is 70 miles by water from Los Angeles. Ferries depart daily from Ventura and Santa Barbara, both north of L.A. on U.S. Highway 101.

Channel Islands charges no entrance fee, but campsite reservations are $10 per night per tent. For more information, visit or call 805.658.5730.

Published: 4 Oct 2005 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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