New Year Outdoor Adventures Southern California


Light Savor

Happy New Year! Kick things off in the right light: Winter’s low-hovering sun brings fresh hues (and views!) to 2013. Go-go-glow.

Guadalupe Nipomo Dunes

Dune Trippin'

There’s a big reason the Guadalupe–Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge has been a filming site for major motion pictures like the original Ten Commandments and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. The place itself is epic! As the largest intact coastal dune ecosystem in the state it’s a bucket-list must for enjoying the solitude of an amazing winter sunset. Amongst the distant bellows of California sea lions, scampering western snowy plovers, and those curvaceous, fishhook-shaped dunes, an afternoon trek across these 500-foot-tall mountains of sand reveals a coastal California from 200 years ago. Continually sculpted by northwest winds, the artful dunes make prime perches for watching the sun sink as shadows chase shades of pinks and apricots to oranges and gold across this mystical landscape.

To reach the Guadalupe-Nipomo Sand Dunes NWR from Los Angeles: Head north on Highway 101, turn left at Main Street in Santa Maria, and follow the road for 9 miles straight and west to the dunes. Park at the beach at the end of the road. The tallest dunes are 2.5 miles south (allow about 3 to 4 hours for round-trip hiking, gawking, and photo-taking). More information on hiking the dunes, directions, and access: Dog-friendly! (Note: March through September no dogs are allowed due to nesting season restrictions for the endangered western snowy plover and California least tern.)

Ojai Topatopa Mountains Sunset

Pretty in Pink

Known for marching to the beat of its own charms, even the sunsets in Ojai come with a twist. Instead of looking westward, locals turn their eyes to the east to watch the sun’s last slanted rays paint the Topatopa Mountains salmon-pink. This ephemeral “pink moment” is at its best November through February (check the weather; optimal days are somewhat cloudy but not completely overcast). Meditation Mount, a hilltop retreat at the east end of town, is a peaceful place to experience those few rosy moments before dusk. Get there with plenty of time to explore the Mount’s well-manicured gardens overlooking the sprawling orange orchards of Ojai Valley. The meditation room and tea room are open during the Mount’s visiting hours, 10 a.m. to sunset, Wednesday through Sunday. When sunset approaches, get closer to the Topatopa Mountains by veering away from the main gardens and taking the East Vista Trail out of the back side of the parking lot. (Note: private dwellings are nearby, and the Mount asks visitors to be respectful.) The East Vista Trail climbs a small hill whose summit offers a great vantage point for seeing the mountains glow pink in the fading sunlight. Go ahead, see the world through rose-tinted glasses.

Meditation Mount, 10340 Reeves Rd., Ojai. (directions). Open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to sunset. Dog-friendly!

Rainforest Trail Fryman Canyon

Secret Rainforest

You don’t have to visit a studio set to stroll though a rainforest in LA. Little-known Rainforest Trail in Fryman Canyon Park is a narrow footpath leading .9 mile (one way) into a jungle-like gully (the trailhead is easy to miss, hence its secrecy). All in, it’s a 3.2-mile out-and-back escapade that includes a magnificent light show powered by nature. Come in the late afternoon to see stunning shafts of light beaming down through the lush greenery overhead. Leading out of a posh residential area, the trail first carves up through a chaparral hillside before gradually descending into a tiny rainforest canyon lit with rays of winter’s low-sitting sun. The golden beams color the vegetation bright green and give the earthy terrain a hazy warmth. Test your balance on one of the fallen logs that crisscross vibrant flora resembling the jungle in Avatar. At the junction with Dearing Mountain Trail, head back the way you came or continue on Dearing for another .9 mile to the Nancy Hoover Pohl Overlook on Mulholland Drive. It offers valley views worthy of a James Cameron set.

BONUS: The gourmet cheese platters and sandwiches at nearby Artisan Cheese Gallery (12023 Ventura Boulevard) make tasty après-hike fare. Try the grilled Italian vegetable or the muffaletta on olive bâtard. 

Including a .7-mile walk through a residential area to reach the trailhead, this is a 3.2-mile (roundtrip) out-and-back hike. (Continuing to the overlook on Mulholland Dr., the hike is 5 miles roundtrip.) Park at the Wilacre Park lot (3431 Fryman Rd.) off Laurel Canyon Blvd. Heading south on Fryman Rd. (right out of the lot), walk to Iredell St. and turn right, then turn left on Iredell Ln. The trailhead is on the left-hand side, just after 3238 Iredell Ln. and diagonal to 3235 Iredell Ln. (You’ve gone too far if you reach the hiking trail at the very end of Iredell Ln.) The fire road veers right after about a hundred feet; continue straight on the skinny trail next to the Santa Monica Conservancy sign. After .9 mile, at the junction with the Dearing Mountain Trail, head back the way you came, or continue for .9 mile on Dearing Mountain Trail to an overlook on Mulholland. Parking at the Wilacre lot is $3. Dog-friendly!

Your Year to Ride

It’s one of the most beautiful bike rides in the world: A seven-day journey from San Francisco to Los Angeles. AIDS/LifeCycle is an amazing tour through California, seeing the state's most beautiful landscapes, from forests to the sea, and country roads to rolling vineyards. Sign up now for AIDS/LifeCycle 2013 and you’ll get $20 off the registration fee using promo code SHERPA. Then get started with expert-led training sessions—from easy spins to intensive hill training, along with advice on fitness and proper nutrition—plus plenty of social gatherings. You’ll be supported from the time you sign up all the way through the main event: An amazing seven-day ride with hot meals, massages, gear transport, hot showers, pit stops and lots of cheering from the community. It'll be a blast for a good cause: Helping the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center and San Francisco AIDS Foundation provide vital HIV prevention, treatment and support services to our communities. Meet new people and bond with friends and loved ones on this classic California adventure. You belong here! Check out this video to see what it's all about. Even better, join a (complimentary) training ride to learn more. 2013 is your year to ride!

TIP: Space for the 2013 AIDS/LifeCycle will fill up soon—register online with promo code SHERPA and get $20 off your registration fee.

Join AIDS/LifeCycle for a Soiree at the Hollywood Forever Masonic Lodge on January 19, to celebrate seven days in one night! RSVP now to save your place for this night of fun, food and entertainment.

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