Calling All Backyard Adventurers / by LD

I've extolled the many virtues of the extended weekend trip in my Get Outta Dodge series. But as I was filtering through my most recent Instagram offerings for an update post on this ol' blog, I realized that there are a few closer-to-home options worth exploring in Southern California. Herewith, a compendium of obscure, lesser-known, or otherwise tucked-away gems located in and around the Southland. Got an afternoon to burn? Here are a few ways to spend it. 

This post features images from my Instagram feed. Follow me: @laureldailey

Griffith Park Hikes
I know there are a number of trails to take at Griffith Park, but I recently took one that lead to a forested hilltop overlooking the LA basin. Before the slow burn of the Summer months set in, get out and see LA's varied native flora and fauna in full array--from cacti to jacaranda trees.

Sturtevant Camp
Tucked away in the San Gabriels, Sturtevant's Camp has been in operation since the 1890's. Accessible only by foot, the russet cabins dotting the mountainside and are available for rental. Load up a backpack with clothing and sundries (or have a mule do it for you), and hike the 4 miles along Big Santa Anita Canyon till you arrive at Sturtevant's Camp. The trailhead's only about 30 minutes outside Los Angeles.  

Police Academy Rock Garden
Tucked into the hills of Elysian Park, the Police Revolver and Athletic Club seems an unlikely destination for a lush jungle garden, but that's LA for you. The garden was designed in 1937 by landscape artist Francois Scotti, who is also responsible for the fantastically weird rock waterfall at Clifton's Cafeteria (itself an off-the-beaten-path spectacle of yore). 

City Hall Observation Deck
Here's a fun fact: Downtown's City Hall features an open-to-the-public observation deck that offers 360-degree views of the city and its surroundings. I loved the bird's eye view of LA's latest public space addition: Grand Park

Oak Tree Gun Club
Just call me Calamity Jane with her .38 Special. Located in the Santa Clarita Valley, Oak Tree Gun Club is expansive, with beautiful views of surrounding hills and forests. Bring your own firepower or rent it at the club, pack a lunch or enjoy a beer in the lounge. It's worth the drive and worth the ear protection. 

The Encounter at LAX
Imagine finding yourself nearly alone in this 60's-era alien-themed eatery, rattling around the dining room like an unwitting character in a George Jetson fever dream. Now order a martini. Yeah, that's about right. 

Cold Spring Tavern
Nestled in the verdant hills outside of Santa Barbara, this magical little enclave offers Santa Maria-style tri-tip, venison burgers, and stone walls heavily decorated with taxidermy. In other words: It's heaven on earth.