CHILDREN LOVE THE outdoors. An outing to a local nature center is fun for both adults and kids and can be suitable for all ages, from the baby carried in a backpack to the budding junior scientist.
The staff guides and naturalists of the Wilderness Institute in Woodland Hills and Agoura lead outings and classes for parents and children in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Topics of walks and study sessions include tidepools, survival skills, bugs, lizards and an expedition to a Chumash Indian cave.
At the William O. Douglas Outdoor Classroom (WODOC), volunteer docents lead non-strenuous walks through the Upper Franklin Canyon Reservoir. Babes in the Woods is designed for children 3 and under and is accessible to strollers. Tykes on Hikes is for kids 4 to 6 and their parents. WODOC also offers special programs such as Tales in the Woods, which features Native American legends, nature stories and other local lore.
TreePeople is an organization primarily interested in the reforestation of areas denuded by fire, disease and urbanization. At its headquarters in Coldwater Canyon Park, there is a nature trail through the Magic Forest, a seedling nursery and an educational center that features information on recycling as well as the restoration of the urban forest. Guided tours are offered Sunday morning, but families are welcome to take a self-guided tour at any time.
The Eaton Canyon Park and Nature Center in Pasadena offers Saturday-morning family walks and regularly scheduled talks on native Southern California animals. It also offers twilight and moonlight hikes to see and hear some of the area's nocturnal residents, including owls, coyotes and bats.
The Wilderness Institute maintains an outdoor center in Agoura Hills but utilizes a number of sites in the Santa Monica Mountains. Fees are charged for hikes and classes.
The William O. Douglas Outdoor Classroom is located on Franklin Canyon Drive and can be reached from either Beverly Drive or Coldwater Canyon Drive. Walks are free but reservations are required for Babes in the Woods and Tykes on Hikes walks.
The TreePeople location is at 12601 Mulholland Drive, at the intersection of Coldwater Canyon Drive. Free guided tours are offered Sunday from 11 a.m. to noon.
Eaton Canyon Park and Nature Center is located at 1750 N. Altadena Drive. Admission is free. Twilight and moonlight hikes are coordinated with the new and full moons.