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Best Day Ever: Topanga Canyon

by Mariana Timony

Mariana Timony works behind the scenes at Boutique-Homes.com, a curated collection of private rentals and small hotels, and Been Seen, the companion blog for design-minded travelers and one of Fathom's Top 24 Travel Blogs. Office headquarters are in Topanga Canyon, but her play-by-play of the best day ever makes it hard to imagine the natural splendor as a backdrop for work. 

TOPANGA, California – Tucked away in the Santa Monica Mountains about fifteen miles from Venice Beach on the Pacific Coast Highway is Topanga Canyon. Sacred to the Native Americans (Topanga means "a place above" in Tongva), it's a a hidden enclave where the '60s never really died and anyone with a love for the off-beat can find surprises around every curving road.

1. Wake up at Topanga House, a mid-century modern rental high in the mountains on Old Topanga Canyon Road, and start your day with a cup of coffee while lounging in the home's park-like yard. Rabbits, lizards, and California quail cubbies will join you in enjoying the sunshine.

2. Load up your iPod with Topanga tunes to set the scene for a leisurely drive through the mountains. Classic records by Neil Young (with and without Crazy Horse), The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, The Doors, Devendra Banhart, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and Joni Mitchell will set the scene as you make your way along the winding roads, past homes that seem to be hanging off the mountainside and even more incredible mountain vistas. While it may be tempting to have your nose pressed to the window the whole time, keep your eyes on the road.

Trippet Ranch

3. Time for a hike in Topanga State Park, the largest within city limits, with 36 miles of trails. Start at Trippet Ranch, where there's always a few deer running around the meadow.

4. While on your hike check out Eagle Rock, a massive boulder outcropping that's been called the most interesting geological formation in the Santa Monica Mountains. For a new perspective on LA, look to the northwest to see the giant grid of the San Fernando Valley spreading out before you.

5. Lunch time! Head to town for sandwiches and salads at Water Lily Cafe. It's also a great spot for breakfast when you don't feel like cooking.

6. After eating, head next door to shop at Hidden Treasures, an expertly curated and reasonably priced vintage store that's been dealing classy clothing since the 1980s. Kate Moss shops here. The selection is top-notch.

7. Classic rock fan? Pay your respects to Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson, the Canned Heat singer who died in 1970 at the age of 27 at his bandmate's house on Topanga Canyon Boulevard. You could also poke your head into the Inn of the Seventh Ray, supposedly the titular roadhouse in the classic Doors tune "Roadhouse Blues."

8. If you feel like some theater, Theatricum Botanicum is not to be missed. Started in the 1950s by a blacklisted actor, the theater puts on performances of Shakespeare and other classics in an incredible outdoor setting.

9. Topanga is not only a canyon, it's a beach as well. Drive down the winding canyon road to the Pacific Coast Highway to Topanga State Beach. It's been drawing surfers since the 1950s, but if you're not into hanging ten, try kayaking, swimming, or fishing instead.

10. Froggy's Topanga Fish Market, a self-serve family-style restaurant, is the perfect place to end your day. You can eat tacos with the kids on the outdoor patio or, for the adults in your party, hang out at the friendly bar with your new Topanga friends. 

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Mariana Timony is a third generation Los Angeles native who writes about travel, design, architecture, and underground punk music. Sometimes all at once. She travels for the beat.

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