Glamping at Magical Topanga Oasis

Those of us who live in Los Angeles have it pretty good; the amicable weather, the endless entertainment and gastronomy options, the healthy lifestyles - it doesn’t get much better. Still, if you send a girl out in LA traffic twice a day five times a week, she’s bound to get pretty burnt out.

For a quick fix, you can hop over to Runyon for a hike or head to the yoga studio to get a few chaturangas out of your system. But sometimes you need more than an hour long sweat sesh. Sometimes you need to go somewhere your snapchats won’t load, where you can see more than a few stars, where cooking your food requires an open flame.

Typically, to find such serenity, most of us would pack our cars full of camping gear and head 5 hours north to the Sierras. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret - there is a place less than an hour away where you can fully decompress with so much less hassle, and it lives up to its name: Magical Topanga Oasis.

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Topanga Canyon is cozily tucked away in the Santa Monica Mountains surrounded on three sides by State Park or conservancy lands with the beaches of Malibu just to the southwest. Famously known by most as the place where Charles Manson took residence in the 60s, it’s also widely known as an area where many musicians, artists and actors choose to live - a place for people who want to enjoy a more simple way of life, off the grid and away from the buzz of Los Angeles.

When I was assigned to Magical Topanga Oasis on Hipcamp as my first Field Scout assignment I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I’ve always been a bit of a purist when it comes to camping - this would be my first “glamping” experience. But I’m currently in the middle of launching a company and mobile app, so some time spent away from the city without having to lug tents and coolers and sleeping bags was very much welcomed.

We took our time heading out Saturday afternoon. The beauty in this particular trip was that we had less than an hour drive to our destination. We arrived at the property around 4pm and were happily greeted by two of the sweetest pups, Blue and Bastian. Following our new furry friends we had an equally friendly introduction to our hosts Colleen and Mathew. We found them tidying up their garden boxes that are home to the likes of arugula, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes and beets. After a brief tour and rundown of their lovely property, Mark and I were free to explore on our own.

Things are much simpler in the canyon. You would never guess that the city is just a stone’s throw away. We spotted lizards, gnarly spiders, snakes and even mice scattering about the property. Back in the city, those critters would leave us feeling a bit uncomfortable running free so close to our bed, but here, in Topanga Canyon, those little guys just felt like home.

We took our time exploring and familiarizing ourselves with the area and then decided to post up on the second-floor patio where there is a lovely view of the property and a comfy hammock to swing in.

From the second-floor there is a great view of the hills and trees that lie just past the property. It’s hard not to notice the abundance of birds fluttering about, in particular the feral parakeets that have also made Topanga Canyon their home. It can be a challenge to spot them, but you can certainly hear them. Occasionally you might just catch a flash of their bright green wings camouflaged in the Sycamore trees.

Mark and I sat sipping wine, eating chocolate and listening to the birds while watching the sun dip quietly behind the hills. Eventually we made our way back to our cozy little Lotus Belle tent to finish getting settled in before dinner.

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Mathew helped us fire up the amazing wood burning grill and Blue watched patiently as we threw our kebabs and veggies on the fire. The grill gives everything a delicious mesquite taste, and of course we popped open another bottle of wine to loosen up just a bit more. In that moment, as we ate our dinner under the stars, listening to the crickets chirp, I was so very calm and relaxed - I didn’t even mind that a moth nearly drowned in my wine glass.

Finally, after a delicious dinner, we decided to turn in. The air had grown surprisingly cold, but the Lotus Belle was warm and comfy. Normally, when I camp, I have a hard time falling asleep on my first night. This night was different. Mark and I laid in the darkness for a bit listening to the hoots of owls and the chirps of crickets, and before I knew it, I was drifting off to sleep.

We were awoken in the morning by the sound of a rooster in the distance and the excited paws of Blue and Bastian pattering across the yard. I was expecting to wake groggy and a bit sore, as I usually do after camping in an unfamiliar place, but instead I found my head felt so clear and refreshed. Because of this, I assumed it must be late in the morning, only to find out it was just 6am. I can’t tell you the last time I happily awoke at 6am on a Sunday morning (the answer is: never.) 

As clear and refreshed as we felt, coffee was still a priority. Mark and I slowly made our way from the tent with our percolator and coffee grounds and headed for the kitchen. After brewing a couple cups, we took a seat at the table on the front patio and quietly sat embracing the hazy morning air.

Eventually, Mathew joined us, where we had some nice conversation and he suggested a couple different trails for us to hike in Red Rock Canyon Park. The entrance to the park lies just a few hundred yards from their property, so it was a given we’d be spending the rest of our morning hiking (I'll get into the details of our hike in a later post).

After a couple miles meandering and taking in the views of Red Rock Canyon, we headed back to the property and sadly began packing up our belongings.

That following Monday morning was a tough pill to swallow, but knowing we can always retreat to Topanga Canyon for some R&R makes it just a little bit easier.

If you want to experience Magical Topanga Oasis for yourself, you can book your stay (and many other great camp spots) through HipCamp

Perfect Pre, Mid & Post-hike Snackage!

Nourishing yourself before, during and after a hike - whether it's a quickie up Runyon Canyon or a day trek through the Angeles National Forest - is incredibly important. There is nothing worse than getting 3 miles into a 6 mile trail and suddenly feeling hunger pangs. Ooh - or how about those mornings after you hiked a hardcore incline - you're so sore you have to waddle like a penguin just to get to the bathroom to brush your teeth (can you tell I'm speaking from experience?). 

Well, we've gone ahead an compiled a short list of snacks we love to turn to for pre, mid and post-hike fuel. Enjoy! 

Pre-hike - Lucky Jack Nitro Cold Brew Coffee

Okay, first of all, if you know me at all, you know I live for just a couple things: coffee, design, wine and hiking…
but mostly coffee.

Seriously. My day does not officially commence until I have a big mug full of straight up black coffee in my hands. In the Hikeology household we usually use our lovely bodem french press, but lately, to cut cost and time, we’ve been all about the instant stuff. So you can understand my excitement when I came across Lucky Jack’s Organic Nitro Cold Brew Coffee. 

Perfect for the upcoming warmer months, their iced coffee is a nice pick-me-up to have on-hand for an early morning hike! Not only that, I did the Whole30 nutrition plan back in February, which has very strict regulations of added sugar, dairy, legume and gluten intake. I continue to try to stick to the plan as closely to it as possible, and guess what, Lucky Jack products make it super easy. The majority of their brews are sugar free, gluten free, dairy free, nut free and organic (insert prayer hands emoji here).

Personally, I've only tried the Old School and Lean Bean flavors (we're saving the Double Black we have for a camping trip in a couple weeks) but I have a sneaking suspicion the rest are delicious too. Of course, Old School is my favorite, because that’s how I roll, but they have even more flavors left for us to try, like Sweet Thing, Slow Brew and the one I am most curious about, Mary Jane. Yum!

Mid-hike - Three Jerks Jerky

I know I've posted previously about my latest beef jerky addiction, but I just can’t help myself. Jerky was something I enjoyed snacking on immensely while I was doing Whole30, and I got hooked. While Three Jerks Jerky isn’t Whole30 compliant,  it is gluten free and nitrate free. Plus, it isn’t made with any of that artificial junk, which is awesome! Packed with pure protein, it's an excellent snack for a mid-hike fuel up. 

All of their jerkies have an amazing amount of flavor too. They aren’t too dry, or too moist (I’m a texture person, so this is really important to me). What make’s their jerky so tender is the fact that they’re made from the tenderloin of the cow (filet mignon) which so happens to be my favorite cut of steak - so I guess it makes sense that I love this jerky so much. 

Post-hike - Barnana

Even more important than your pre and mid hike fuel is your post hike recovery fuel. Foods that are high in potassium are popular for recovery because potassium works with sodium to balance your fluids and electrolyte levels. Steady fluid levels help regulate your heartbeat and prevent your muscles from cramping up and being super sore the next day. This is where Barnana comes in handy! They're the greatest little bite-sized, potassium-packed snacks that ever did exist!

As if I didn’t love bananas enough on their own, Barnana had to go and cover them in chocolate, coconut, peanut butter, apple cinnamon and of course coffee (can you take a wild guess which flavor is my favorite?).

Not only will your body thank you for choosing Barnana as your post-hike snackage, but the environment will too. Barnana’s mission is to eliminate excessive food waste, which is a HUGE issue, especially in the United States. When bananas aren’t perfect they get rejected for export, leaving tons of perfectly edible bananas behind to rot! So what does Barnana do? They take those “imperfect” organic bananas and turn them into these little potassium packed sweet treats instead of letting them go to waste. Ah-mahz-ing. 

You can find most of these snacks at your local health foods store and other boutique locations. For more information visit their websites!

Escondido Falls - Malibu, CA

This rainy weather we're experiencing in Southern California right now has inspired me to FINALLY get my post up about our hike to Escondido Falls. I can only imagine after a long weekend of steady rainfall the waterfalls will sure to be flowing!

The hike to Escondido Falls is about 4 miles of fairly easy terrain. The waterfall has three tiers. The lower tier is about 50 feet high and the easiest of the three to reach. The upper tier, which you can imagine is more difficult to reach, is around 150-feet tall. From what I hear, it's incredibly stunning when the water is flowing in full force. Unfortunately, the day we made our journey was after a few weeks of dry weather, so we didn't attempt to climb to the upper falls.

The hike begins with 0.75 miles uphill along Winding Way, a paved road, just off the PCH that is lined with incredible homes Spanish and Mid-century modern style homes. Quite honestly, this was the toughest climb (and least exciting) of the day. Don't let this small part of your trip scare you off - you'll reach the trail in no time and the waterfall, even at low-flow, is well worth it. You'll gain about 200 feet on this paved climb, then the road will begin to head downhill and drop you at a wooded public park entrance.

The dirt path just past the park sign will take you down through a field of fennel and mustard and on into the woods where a small creek flows. Cross over the creek, and make a left turn headed upstream into the canyon. From here on out the trail is fairly level as it wanders through the forest and field. Thanks to our Spring season timing, we were lucky enough to enjoy a trail lined with beautiful wildflowers along the way. You will need to cross the creek bed a few more times, which I'm sure is a bit more daunting after a good rain, but it should still be easy enough terrain for anyone to navigate. 

What I loved most about this hike were all the serene little pockets along the trail you could sneak off to grab a snack or just sit and listen to the creek flow. We popped off the trail to sit by a tiny little waterfall amidst the creek to snacked on some Three Jerk's Jerky and just take it all in.

After you've been on the dirt trail for about a mile the trail will begin to ascend about 150 feet from a low spot below the road and then you will arrive at Lower Escondido Falls! The beauty of these falls without much water is simply stunning, I can only imagine what it is like on a real flowing day. There are lots of large rocks at the base of the falls where you can set up, take it all in or enjoy a little picnic. Some people complain of a natural sulfuric smell, but that isn't something we noticed. For us, the lower tier of the falls was a far as our journey took us.

There were many other hikers setting off to explore the upper falls. There is a steep trail to the right of the falls lined with tree roots and ropes to help guide your way. If you choose to go this route, make sure you have the proper footwear and attire and hike at your own risk! 

When you're done relaxing by the falls, simply follow the trail back the way you came!

How to get there: Take the PCH to Winding Way in Malibu. Winding Way is a small street about 4.5 miles west of Malibu Canyon Road on the north side of the PCH. There is a free parking lot for the trail on the left at the bottom of Winding Way. Overflow parking can be found along the PCH.

Address: 27807 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265

Mulholland Dr. to San Vicente Mountain - Santa Monica Mountains

Hiking to San Vicente Mountain Park from Mulholland Drive is the shortest route one can take to get there. Although it is short, it still offers some stupendous views looking out over the San Fernando Valley as well as Beverly Hills and on out to the ocean. 

Atop San Vicente Mountain lies one of the, now unused, Nike missile defense sites scattered throughout the mountains of the South-western Coast. Here you will find the remains of the buildings and technology that were used to detect and intersect potential missiles directed at LA. After about 10 years, long-range technology came into play rendering the Nike missiles useless. Fortunately the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy has made a point to preserve some of these sites, sprinkling info panels throughout the grounds to keep this history alive.

You will begin your hike at end of the drivable section of Mulholland Drive. You will find plenty of parking along the streets and on up towards the yellow gates. If the yellow gates are open, you can even drive your car all the way up to the top of San Vicente mountain - but where is the fun in that!? 

Hike on past the yellow gate and continue along the unpaved Mulholland Drive. In the distance up head you should be able to spoit the radio towers on San Vicente Mountain. 

As you ascend you'll find Mandeville Canyon ,Westridge, and Canyonback Ridge to the south. As the road continues on the views will begin to open up in the opposite direction, offering gorgeous views out over the Encino Reservoir and the rest of the San Fernando Valley. 

Take a moment to enjoy the views over the Encino Reservoir. We were lucky enough to be hiking on a beautifully clear day. You might notice some side trails on your right - they'll take you out over the reservoir. We had fun exploring this area and got some really amazing photos. 

After you're done taking in the views continue another .4 miles and eventually you will reach and junction. Up ahead Mulholland continues across the Santa Monica Mountains all the way to Santa Maria near Topanga, where the pavement resumes. Instead of continuing on ahead, turn left instead and head up to the mountaintop where the military base lies - you won't be able to miss it.  

Take your time exploring the old grounds and take in the gorgeous panoramic views. There are plenty of benches and picnic tables - even a few telescopes that overlook the canyons below. When you're done, simply return the way you came.

How to get there:  On the 405 freeway take the Skirball Center Drive exit. Heading west follow the signs for Mulhollad Drive. After about 2 miles, Mulhollad Drive becomes and unpaved road and makes a sharp hairpin turn to the left. Continue .25 miles until you can no longer drive. Park behind the yellow gate where you will begin your hike.

Address: 17024 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90049

Eaton Canyon Falls - Pasadena, CA

Eaton Canyon is nestled in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, just hop, skip and a jump from Los Angeles, on the north-eastern side of Pasadena and Altadena. There are a number of hiking trails meandering there way through these hills, but the one I particularly want to feature in this post is the trail that leads to Eaton Canyon Falls. 

The magnificent forty-foot falls lie at the top of Eaton Canyon Trail, cascading into a beautiful, vast pool below. In the summertime, while it can be extremely busy, I can imagine this pool would be incredibly refreshing to wade or lie in - you could even pack a picnic and relax amongst the large boulders scattered throughout. The trail to Eaton Canyon Falls is fairly straight forward and can be easily be summed up through about 1 miles of wide flat dirt trail, followed by 0.65 miles of single track, rocky creek bed that makes it's way up the slender canyon that is a whole lot of fun to navigate. In total, this trail is about 3.5 - 4 miles (depending how much exploring you do) out and back with a slight elevation gain of about 580 feet (again this depends on your exploration). 

The hike begins at the Eaton Canyon Nature Center which is situated inside the gates amongst the parking lot. Between the picnic areas, nature center and flat terrain this specific location is a hot spot for dog walkers, baby strollers and families with young children. If you are in search of a serene, quiet experience in nature, I definitely recommend exploring this area on a weekday as opposed to a weekend. We went on a cooler, overcast day in February and still there was rarely a moment that we were alone on the trail or at the falls.

There is a large sign marking the start of the trail, you can't miss it! Follow the trail along a usually dry creek bed, Eaton Wash. You'll find yourself amongst a few shaded areas and some little tree hideouts as you make your way up the trail.

The trail crosses over Eaton Wash after about 0.2 miles into your hike. At this point you will make a left, heading northwest under a canopy of trees. Around 0.55 miles in from your start, you will find yourself at a junction with the Horse Trail (you will notice signs). Continue to the left to stay on the Eaton Canyon Trail. 

At just about the 1.1 mile mark in your hike, you will reach another junction which is just in sight of a concrete bridge up ahead in the distance. Here, head left again following an arrow for the waterfall, and pass below the bridge to enter the San Gabriel Mountains.

Passing under the bridge turns your hike into a whole different experience. Suddenly you will be traversing much more rugged terrain, boulder hopping, and creek crossing as you make your way through the dense canyon. While this section is quite fun, it can also be unassumingly dangerous - make sure you watch your footing and keep an eye out for falling rocks from above the steep walls of the canyon. Eaton Canyon is infamous for it's helicopter rescues due to careless hiking.

After just about 0.6 miles you will find yourself coming upon the falls. You might have to do a bit of scrambling to get up close, but the views are certainly worth it! If you're lucky you might get a moment to yourself at the falls. We were not so lucky, but still happy to be face to face with a flowing waterfall. It's a rare sight these days due to the common droughts, but thankfully, these last few weeks we've had some decent rainfall.

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While the heavy traffic can be daunting, it's a must see trail nonetheless. With it's close proximity to the city, large parking area, easy to navigate trails and a rewarding ending, you really have no reason NOT to check this trail out!

When you're done taking in the views, simply head back the way you came!

How to get there: Take the Altadena exit off the 210 Freeway in Pasadena. Head north on Altadena Drive. The Eaton Canyon Nature Area is a couple miles up the road on the right. Pull into the park past the gates, and leave your vehicle in the lot by the nature center. WARNING: The parking lot gate closes at 5pm (a little early if you ask me!) so if you plan on hiking past 5pm, make sure you park your car on the outside street and use the trails to get inside.

Address: 1750 North Altadena Drive, Pasadena, CA 91107