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The Ultimate LA Family Guide ™
Hiking in Franklin Canyon
The park rests on 605 acres between the San Fernando Valley and Beverly Hills. The address is 2600 Franklin Canyon Drive, Beverly Hills. From the 101 freeway, you exit at Coldwater Canyon. Take Coldwater south, into the Santa Monica Mountains until you hit Mulholland Drive. Make a 90 degree right turn onto Franklin Canyon Drive and take this street into the park entrance. The park is open from sunrise to sunset but the Nature Center, which is where we recommend you start, is open from 10 am - 4pm daily. The cost for entrance: free!
After we parked our car, we walked a short ways up from the lot to the Outdoor Classroom and then into the Nature Center. There was a friendly but not intrusive park ranger staffing the center and our kids quickly got acclimated to their surroundings. This center is perfect for little ones because there are so many hands on activities that are right at their height! There is even an activity that includes a tunnel to climb through. Most of the activities relate to water conservation and learning about the surrounding wildlife and plant life in the park. There are animal hides, various rocks and geodes, bugs incased in glass: all of which the children are encouraged to interact with and hold. A stuffed mountain lion was on display and Madison and Logan loved pushing the button to make the lion roar. There were a couple of educational games to play that they enjoyed too. As a parent, I really appreciated how large the space was and how they were really able to interact so much with their surroundings to get them to loosen up and start to learn about the importance of nature and conservation. There are programs and events throughout each month at the nature center both on the weekends and throughout the week. They also host school groups here. After spending about 20 minutes exploring the center, the ranger gave us a map and highlighted a trail that he though would be appropriate for 2 adults and 2 two year olds that were going to be walking and not carried in a hiking backpack. He also kindly asked my kids what their names were, gave them sticker badges and pronounced them junior rangers for the day. We set out and got our bearings.
The park encompasses chaparral, grasslands and oak woodlands, a three acre lake, a duck pond called Heavenly pond, picnic grounds and over five miles of hiking trails. In reading about the history of this park, it's important to note that in 1914, William Mulholland and the Los Angeles DWP began construction of a reservoir in upper Franklin Canyon to distribute water newly brought from the Owens Valley. It was then used as a summer retreat by the Doheny family but then purchased by the National Park Service in 1981 when it was masked for development. Conservationist Sooky Goldman and Congressman Howard Berman were instrumental in getting this area designated as a National Park. It was also back in 1981 when Franklin Canyon began the service of providing free educational programs to the public and local schools.
The hike we did was on Blinderman Trail and it was just perfect for our two year olds Madison and Logan. They were really excited about going on a nature hike and wanted to walk by themselves so while some of the parts were a little steep, they for the most part got around with any assistance from us. We other families doing the same hike which led around Franklin Canyon lake and then over to Heavenly Pond. The park ranger told us to please not feed the ducks as it can create serious problems for the ducks health. He even gave us a handout that explains the harmful effects of feeding the ducks, However, we saw many families doing just that. Our kids were a little disappointed that they couldn't feed them, but we distracted them and kept on moving. The hike was not too long but then we also modified it because we were getting hungry. We also saw families driving and parking at different points along the way which can get you closer to the duck pond or to other trails. It was beautiful there and our kids enjoyed being outside and interacting with the environment. There were also a clean bathroom next to the duck pond which can be a godsend when you have toddlers with you. The ducks themselves are just beautiful to watch. The park is fortunate to be the home to both Wood Ducks and to Mandarin Ducks which are among the most exotic of the world's birds. The number of colors on just one bird is dazzling: red, orange, blue and green with shades of brown together with stripes of black and white. So, so pretty.
There are other wildlife that we had fun looking for that day: mule deer, raccoons, red-shouldered hawks, brush rabbits, badgers, pocket mice and pocket gophers. We didn't have much success locating the animals and birds but then there were a lot of people at the park that day.
I want to also let you know about the different activities that they have going on at Franklin Canyon. There are fitness hikes, hikes that focus on studying all of the plants on the trails, botanical drawing workshops, photography hikes, family campfires with stories, singing and smores, and another event that I want to take my kids to as soon as possible called Hike and Craft where a volunteer takes the group on a gentle walk and then we all make crafts that we can take home. To learn more about the park and their upcoming special events, activities and hikes you can go to their website.
Looking back, I wish we would have packed a lunch so that we could have spent more time at the park, so I would recommend all of you doing this. We had a great time and look forward to returning.