From Malibu Creek State Park to Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks to the Whispering Pines trail in the San Bernardino National Forest to Three Arch Bay in Dana Point, the natural landscape of Los Angeles has provided no shortage of inspiration to film-makers, TV producers and photographers. It’s easy to be inspired by the beauty and diversity of Southern California’s natural landscape. What may be hard, however, is figuring out where the BEST places are to shoot. The sites picked for this list were chosen for several reasons. Most of them are fairly accessible; they don’t require much off-road driving or strenuous hiking to reach. Each of them boasts a diverse range of scenery, which in some cases may include people. And while any hike is better if the air is clear, these ones don’t require it.
Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach is one of Orange County’s last remaining coastal wetlands. Sunsets are great here; the park also attracts wildlife photographers, who hope to catch on film one of the herons, egrets or many other bird species found here.
The Chumash Trail, near Simi Valley, gets hot during the summer, but you don’t have to venture too far on it to experience some of the L.A. area’s wildest scenery. Dramatic geological outcrops and wide-ranging city and mountain views are among the highlights here.
Griffith Park, of course, is one of L.A.’s most popular hiking destinations. Whether you’re looking to take pictures of L.A.’s skyline or people getting exercise, there’s a lot to see here. Beacon Hill offers great views of the San Fernando Valley, while Bee Rock, a huge sandstone outcrop, is a distinctive landmark that can be seen from almost anywhere in the park. You can also visit Bronson Cave, recognizable not only as the Batcave, but also as the location for Doors lead singer Jim Morrison’s famous photo shoot with his wife Pam.
The M*A*S*H site in Malibu Creek State Park is a popular hiking destination. Equally popular but far less visited is the scenic Lost Cabin Trail, which explores some of the park’s more remote areas. Nearby Century Lake is another worthwhile destination for photographers.
Point Vicente Interpretive Center, on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, offers phenomenal ocean views. The historic lighthouse is also worth a visit. The flat trail (and railing separating it from the bluffs) are photographer-friendly.
The Porter Ranch Loop, just north of the San Fernando Valley, features a diverse range of scenery, notably the Palisades Trail, which provides great views of some of the area’s sandstone geology.
San Antonio Falls, on the flank of Mt. Baldy, cascades down three tiers totaling 80 feet. While many of So-Cal’s waterfalls are seasonal, this one is usually active year-round, and it also boasts some nice views on the way up.
San Clemente Beach & Pier has a little something for everyone: panoramic ocean views, railroad tracks, geology, and, well, a beach and pier. You’re sure to find an interesting shot or two down here.
Solstice Canyon is perhaps best known for the ruins of the Tropical Terrace mansion. The rubble is a popular subject for photography – but there’s a lot more to see here, including ocean views, geology, gnarled oaks and the infamous TRW (“Darth Vader”) buildings.
Vasquez Rocks is recognizable from “Star Trek”, the live-action “Flintstones” movie and much more. It’s hard to take a bad picture of the distinctive slabs of rock, pushed up from the collision of two earthquake faults.
Of course, there are many other great places to enjoy nature and capture it on film, but if you want to get your Ansel Adams on, these are some ideas to get you started.