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L.A. Walks

King Gillette Ranch in Malibu

By Charles Fleming, Los Angeles Times

September 22, 2012

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UPDATE: There have been developments at the King Gillette Ranch since our last visit. The park now offers a new interagency visitor center and two hours of free parking, in addition to its $7 paid parking lot.

Among the newest Southern California parks, this Santa Monica Mountains facility in Malibu is a step back in time to the Southland's golden age.

1. Park near the intersection of Las Virgenes Road and Mulholland Highway, and walk toward the park gate, or pay $7 for parking inside the ranch property.

2. The long elegant driveway is lined with fine old oak and eucalyptus trees, which provide nesting or roosting for some of the area's hawks, owls and falcons — and even golden eagles.

3. The razor-blade magnate King Gillette bought the acreage for his ranch in 1926. The property was later owned by film director Clarence Brown (who did "Anna Karenina" with Greta Garbo), who built a landing strip to fly in his Hollywood friends.

4. Gillette hired architect du jour Wallace Neff, who had designed the Mary Pickford-Douglas Fairbanks home known as Pickfair, to build his Spanish-style mountain home. Other buildings were added in later years when the ranch became a church seminary and private university campus.

5. Detour here to take a trail to a vantage point offering broad views and perhaps a peek at some wildlife. Mule deer, coyotes and bobcats are among the animals that live in the area.

6. Big oaks and sycamores and a shaded pond make for good picnicking. But don't overindulge. The TV show "The Biggest Loser" is shot on the ranch property.

Fleming is the author of "Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles."

charles.fleming@latimes.com