Topanga State Park - Los Angeles - A Wildland Adventure in the Heart of the City

Within the Los Angeles city limits is one of Southern California's best natural attractions - Topanga State Park. Featuring about thirty-six miles of trails surrounded by grasslands and live oak trees, Topanga State Park is an example of what makes California such a popular place to visit and live.

Views of the ocean from beach level are one thing, but Topanga State Park gives visitors breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean from the top of the Santa Monica Mountains. The park is a preferred site for walking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Individuals with interests in Earth science will also find plenty to see and explore, including exposed earthquake faults, volcanic intrusions, and various sedimentary rock formations.

The park's name is derived from the dialect spoken by members of the Shoshonean Indian tribe, whose ancestors called the canyon their home for thousands of years prior to the arrival of the Spanish missionaries. Despite its prime location, settlements were never truly established in the region, and the park soon became a favorite getaway place for residents of Los Angeles. A small tourist "industry" emerged at the park as individuals built cabins and provided tours of the local "spots".

The park's boundaries include Pacific Palisades on the southern end, Topanga Canyon of the western side, and Rustic Canyon on the eastern side. Visitors to the park usually begin their day's journey at Trippet Ranch, a site that allows for convenient access to most of the parks trails. Highlights of the Topanga State Park trails include Musch Trail that leads visitors to areas of the park basked equally in shade and sunlight, as well as the Eagle Spring loop trail that gives visitors dramatic views of the park. Visitors traveling north of the park's entrance will find themselves on an unpaved section of Mulholland Drive which cuts right through Topanga State Park.

Besides trails and incredible views, Topanga State Park also contains a humble nature center dedicated to the flora, fauna, and geography of the region. Visitors fo the Topanga Nature Center will find a collection of mounted animals and birds that are native to the park and the area. Displays of Native American artifacts also make up the center's collection.

In terms of actual acreage, Topanga State Park contains approximately 11,000 acres of land, and is often referred to as the largest state park located within the limits of a city. The area making up the park actually represents about five percent of the total land area of the City of Los Angeles. The sheer size of the park has led a group of interested and concerned individuals to establish a docent program dedicated to providing educational tours to groups and individuals.

In 2008, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed closing the park as a result of the state budget crisis. A successful protest by local residents and environmentalist resulted in the collection of more than 17,000 signatures, which were delivered to the state's governor by local sixth grade students. Needless to say, the campaign garnered local and national attention, and the park remains in full operation today.

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