Tired of hearing the word “Runyon” after your friends invite you on a hike? Can’t handle the crowds of actors posting vaguely inspirational (mis)quotes as an excuse to sneak in another almost-naked photo of themselves hiking the go-to trail? Well, breathe a giant sigh of relief because we’re here to tell you that you never have to step foot on that over-run Tinder trail again. Plus, it’ll be closed April through July for repairs—so what better time to expand your horizons? For genuine hiking enthusiasts, LA offers endless gorgeous trails throughout all of our many mountain ranges. If you’re looking for something truly unique, then hightail it out to Paramount Ranch.
Located just off Kanan on the way to Malibu, Paramount Ranch is part of the Santa Monica Mountains and is overseen by the National Park Service. Most importantly, it’s also an Old West ghost town. Or, more specifically, an Old West Tinsel Town ghost town. Built by Paramount Studios back in the 1920’s to shoot their Western “talkies”, the Wild West facade set has gone through many incarnations hundreds of films and many decades later.
When you enter the park, the Western town is the first place you come across before the trailheads. There is a huge easy-access parking lot and both parking and park entrance are free. Cross the little bridge over the creek and voila—you’ve just stepped back about 150 years. Every cowboy fantasy you’ve ever had comes to vivid life as your kicks scuff the dirt between the wooden Main Street buildings—saloon and all. You can just imagine Dirty Harry standing before you, ready to draw at high noon.
Continue past the town to find the trailhead, where several lovely easy-to-moderate hikes branch off in different directions. Buried deep in the lush green mountains, the trails are beautiful and quite peaceful with not much foot traffic around you. Though people do ride horses through here, so watch your step. And furry family members are welcome, so bring your dogs, as long as they stick to the trails and stay on leash. The park is always open from sunrise to sunset, so there’s no excuse not to go explore some new territory.
For those with a taste for unique experiences, the Ranch buildings can be rented out for special events. We came to take a wander through Paramount Ranch III—the third annual art fair put on by local artists and big with the indie art and Cal Arts crowd. It’s quite a rare occasion to get to go BEHIND the facades, which are closed to visitors most days. So getting to step inside the buildings to view the art on display definitely felt like being part of some wild secret hipster club, by way of 1887. The working saloon was obviously a hot spot as people swung open the doors and ordered a cold one, Billy the Kid style. Food trucks supplied the vittles, including lots of organic and grass-fed options. Or, as they would have called it back in the Wild West, normal food. The art fair only happens once a year, so if you’re interested in an invite for the next one, follow their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/paramountranch.
If you don’t want to wait another year to get the insider’s experience, never you fret—the National Park Service holds educational events throughout the year that allow you to peek behind-the-scenes. And they have one coming up in April. NPS will host a free curated walk & talk tour on April 24th from 10am-11:30am, letting you in on all the secrets and history of Paramount Ranch through the ages. You can find all the info: HERE.
So the next time someone tries to get you to hike the dreaded “R-word”, be quick on the draw and blow their minds by taking them to Paramount Ranch instead. Chaps and spurs not required. But, hey, that’s up to you.
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For Paramount Ranch location & hours, visit: https://www.nps.gov/samo/planyourvisit/paramountranch.htm
Words by Christina Huntington // Photography by Sarah Prikryl
© 2016 Sirens and Scoundrels