Blink-and-you-might-miss-it: this hidden haven is an impressive 605 acres that you might never find, nestled in the canyons between Beverly Hills and the Valley. What’s really cool about this place is how it seems grown up on the surface (with miles of hiking trails and generous bird-watching ops) but still has the heart of a kid which means your kiddo will love it too. In fact, the easy 1.4 mile Reservoir Loop begs for a scavenger hunt. Shelled and slithering reptiles? Check. A three-acre lake and a duck pond? Check and check. A Chumash teepee, towering Redwoods, a birdsong choir – and easy parking to boot? Hunt no further: Franklin Canyon has it all.
Nature’s Up, Dude!
From the parking lot, head straight to the Sooky Goldman Nature Center where your kiddo can get up close and personal with a mountain lion (much tamer in its stuffed state), or play who’s who with animal bones and (ew factor alert) mock animal scat. Mom and Dad can browse the impressive library stocked with books by Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, and other eco-enthusiasts, or just get comfy in a big chair and gaze out the window. There’s even a chart listing hourly animal sightings- think TMZ for birds n’ beasts. Forget you your water? You can purchase it here along with a few other snacks and sundries and get ready to hit the trail.
Escape to Mayberry, Sorta…
Behind the Nature Center, trip through the amphitheater to Franklin Canyon Drive. Walk a short distance and you’ll see a small stoller accessible staircase that connects to the wooded trail leading to Upper Franklin Canyon Reservoir. (You can also just stay on the paved road for a smoother stroll). With its tall evergreens and reedy grass dancing gently in the breeze, this serene spot might make you think you’ve teleported to a quiet little east coast lake; in fact the reservoir doubles as the Mayberry fishing hole in the opening credits of The Andy Griffith Show. Actual fishing is not allowed so leave the poles at home and bring your binoculars instead: you’re likely to spot any number of feathered friends: wrens, ravens, geese, hawks and California quail are just a few of the birds that live and vacation here.
Hangin’ with the Locals
Continue on halfway around the reservoir and cross the road to Heavenly Pond, or as we’ve fondly dubbed it, Turtle Island. In spring and early summer you’ll find dozens of these guys and gals sunbathing on rocks and branches, or paddling under the fountain spray with their Wood and Mandarin duck-buddies.
Take a tip from the turtles and kick-back for a while: Heavenly Pond’s shady banks make this a perfect spot for a lazy hob-nob with the wildlife.
Kiddos bored with bird-watching? Spread out the picnic while they try out their tree-hugging and tightrope practice.
As you make your way back around the other side of the reservoir, stick to the wooded trail and you’ll be rewarded with a visit through the Redwood Grove. Continue along the dry riverbed and you’ll arrive right back where you started.
Know Before You Go:
- Franklin Canyon Park facilities are open from Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Easiest parking is all the way at the bottom near the Nature Center.
- Drivers beware: there are motion sensor cameras at several intersections in Franklin Canyon. A “rolling stop” will reward you with an expensive ticket.
- The Reservoir Loop is dog and stroller friendly, with plenty of picnic tables, and and conveniently located restrooms (because they always have-to-go before you’re ready to leave.)
- Make a day of it by hitting Tree People and the very popular Fryman Canyon trail, right across Mulholland Highway.
Do you have a favorite hiking kid-friendly hiking spot? Tell us all about it here!
Images courtesy of Jennifer Wolfe and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy via facebook