During medical school, it can be fun and restorative to take a break outside. While the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA has nearby beach access, stunning state parks near Los Angeles are also great options. Here are four state parks where you can take a well-deserved break and relax.
Los Encinos State Historic Park
Not far off the 101 freeway in Encino, California, Los Encinos State Historic Park in the San Fernando Valley tells part of California's rich story. This ranch was originally located on an important travel route between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. And the property has changed hands many times, moving from Native American to Spanish to French Basque ownership over the years.
While here, you can take a self-guided tour of the two-story limestone Garnier building. If you make reservations in advance, you can also tour the De la Ossa Adobe, which has eight rooms, including a blacksmith shop. You'll learn about the ranch's agricultural history as well as the Native Americans who lived here before they were enslaved by the Spaniards.
After touring the buildings, you can enjoy a picnic while watching the ducks swimming in the pond. The park is only open Wednesday through Sunday.
Topanga State Park
One of the best state parks near Los Angeles is Topanga State Park. The park is located within the Los Angeles city limits and is considered the world's largest wild land within the borders of a major city. To get there, take the Pacific Coast Highway to Topanga Canyon Boulevard.
The park sits amid the Santa Monica Mountains, and the canyon and cliffs make the park truly spectacular. Also notable are the geological formations throughout the park. Keep an eye out for marine fossils, earthquake faults and volcanic evidence.
It's a great place to hike or mountain bike. And the park is especially stunning in the spring when the wildflowers are in bloom.
Antelope Valley Indian Museum State Historic Park
In Northeast Los Angeles County, you'll find this treasure of a state park, dedicated to the history of the Great Basin Native Americans. Four thousand years ago, the area now known as Antelope Valley Indian Museum State Historic Park was part of an important trade route, and the museum features more than 3,000 artifacts along with historical and cultural accounts of the area, those who lived there and those who traveled through.
The museum is housed in a chalet-style structure, a strikingly unusual facade against the backdrop of towering rocky buttes. And the history of the land is as unique and unusual as the museum building, which was constructed by a homesteader in 1928. Over the years, the land has also been used as a Hollywood set, a movie theater and a dude ranch.
In addition to the museum, there's a short nature trail and a picnic area. The site also hosts several events each year, including a Native American ground-blessing ceremony in early October, as the museum sits on sacred land.
Malibu Creek State Park
Looking for some shade and water during the hot months? Head to Malibu Creek State Park, which has 15 miles of streamside trails. You can take a leisurely walk through woodlands of oak and sycamore trees. And, if you have time to camp, it's a great spot for an overnight trip. Or take advantage of the ranger-led campfires, with presentations on the night sky, reptiles and the early settlers of the Santa Monica Mountains. If you like horseback riding, you can take a trail ride through the park with Malibu Riders.
At UCLA, you have access to about two dozen state parks, without ever having to leave the county. Whether you're in the mood for a hike or a trail ride, or you want to learn more about California's rich history, the state parks near Los Angeles offer a wealth of relaxing options.
By Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Photo credit: Neeson Hsu/Flickr