Moving from the wild wilderness of the Colorado Rockies to the wilder city streets of Los Angeles was an adjustment. I traded mountains for sky scrappers and felt a distinct void at the lack of nature surrounding me. The outdoors were no longer just out the door; I had to hunt for them.

Southern California, while very different from the Rocky Mountain region, provides some of the best outdoor playgrounds in the west. Recent media attention regarding a large brush fire in Ventura County has shed light on an area privy to a web of hiking trails that first drew me to the new school of Los Angeles outdoors.

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Just off of the Pacific Coast Highway sits the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Run by the National Park Service, this already felt familiar having grown up in the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. And while the winding desert trails of the coastal canyons differ greatly from the wooded trails I know well, they surely do not disappoint those looking for an escape from city life.

I tried a new Solstice Canyon hike early last week before the fire had taken off. Less than a mile into the three-mile loop the crashing of waves drowned out the sounds of the PCH. With the highway blocked from view for the remainder of the hike, I reveled in the beauty of wonder of being in the mountains while still breathing salty sea air. It was truly a collision of two worlds that is not to be experienced in landlocked Colorado and something that I have grown extremely fond of in SoCal.

While there is certainly a wide array of hiking trails in and around the City of Angels, I have a personal affinity for these coastal trails that are so different from my favorite hikes back home. It was these coastal trails that taught me an important lesson about enjoying the great outdoors: go out the door. It’s the easiest and most obvious step, yet one I managed to ignore for the first several months I lived in this concrete jungle. I wasted a great deal of time disappointed in the fact that California wasn’t Colorado. It is now what I appreciate most; the unique way my new neighborhood is so easily escapable.

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While the trails are vastly different on the coast of California than they are high above sea level in the Colorado Rockies, the solitude and tranquility found just up the coast from my city dwelling is familiar. The outdoors can be enjoyed coast to coast if you are simply willing to go out your door. What is beautiful about nature and all of her glory is that she will not be contained or regulated or limited. I was the only one limiting the outdoors to Colorado, to what was familiar, to what I knew. But in being forced to trade the mountains for the sea, I was exposed to a broad view and a bigger picture of what it means to enjoy the outdoors and really, the unfamiliar.

To get there

From Los Angelas take I-10 West toward Santa Monica and continue on The Pacific Coast Highway or CA-1 until you come to the intersection of Corral Canyon Road and Solstice Canyon Road. If you reach Solstice Canyon Road, you’ve gone too far. Paid parking is available and the trail takes off from the lot.

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