One of the advantages of living in Los Angeles is the ability to get away from it all without too much of a drive (assuming traffic cooperates, which is a big assumption). When you need a serious change of scenery but can’t hop on a plane, head to Topanga Canyon. A tightknit mountain community with serious hippie vibes, Topanga is a world away from the downtown skyscrapers and the frenetic energy of the Grove. The best part? If you’re looking to escape, it’s less than an hour from DTLA — traffic willing.
Noon: After winding your way up Topanga Canyon Boulevard, keep an eye out for your first stop: Cafe Mimosa, a French-inspired coffeehouse with a crunchy Topanga twist, at 395 S. Topanga Canyon Blvd. It’s the kind of place where you might hear strangers ask each other, “What is your greatest purpose in life?” without a hint of city-slicker irony. As you might guess, it’s also the kind of place with a tasty, filling vegan chili, just hearty enough to sustain you for a few hours of exploring what the canyon has to offer. Pair the chili with a slice of house-made spinach-and-feta quiche and try one of the cafe’s creamy spiced chais while you’re at it.
1 p.m.: After lunch, hop back in your car for a half-mile drive up the road to the Pine Tree Circle plaza. Make your way over to Hidden Treasures at 154 S. Topanga Canyon Blvd., a vintage clothing store next to the plaza. Just look for the glittery fairy-tale cottage with pirates, dinosaurs and mermaids emerging from the facade. Inside, you’ll find a zany wonderland of hand-selected, iridescent platform boots, piano shawls, irreverent iron-on patches and so much more. The store specializes in styles from the Victorian era to the 1970s, and most pieces range from $19 to $65. Dream of channeling your inner flower child? Your inner space cowboy? You’ll find all the inspiration you need at Hidden Treasures. The inventory changes season to season, and now it’s centered on festival wear — as the “Burning Man Costume Sale” sign suggests. Pro tip: Explore the back room, where dozens of fluorescent faux-fur coats line the walls. Go ahead and get a photo for your Instagram feed of you sitting in the throne-like baby blue chair surrounded by the coats. At Hidden Treasures, it’s unlikely anyone will judge.
1:30 p.m.: Wander back over to Pine Tree Circle and pay Topanga Canyon Gallery a visit. The gallery at 120 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Suite 109, opened in 1989. It’s an artists cooperative focused on fostering Topanga’s art scene, with roots going back to the 1950s. Take your time perusing the small gallery, filled with paintings and sculptures created by Los Angeles-area artists. The exhibits change roughly once per month, so there will likely be something new to discover each time you’re in Topanga. After leaving the gallery, make a quick stop at Canyon Gourmet, a posh but friendly market just down the plaza, to fuel up before the last leg of your Topanga excursion.
2 p.m. Back in your car, you’ll want to turn northwest onto Old Topanga Canyon Road for about four miles, and in about 10 minutes you’ll arrive at the Los Angeles Horseback Riding ranch at 2623 Old Topanga Canyon Road, nestled near a sweeping vista overlooking the Santa Monica Mountains. (If it looks vaguely familiar, thats because it made an appearance on “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”) Whether you are 100% at home on top of a horse or find the whole cowboy thing a bit out of your comfort zone, the staff will find the steed for you. (Your best bet is to call before you arrive and arrange for a time for you and your party to drop by.) If you’re feeling a little confident, you might even get the chance to ride Diego, a 14-year-old strawberry roan mustang with a penchant for mischief. The vibe of your ride is up to you — choose between a rollicking group ride or a romantic private ride, and a daytime ride or a sunset ride. The ranch even offers moonlight rides and proposal rides (just in case your day in Topanga inspires you to put a ring on it).
After you mount your horse, a guide will lead you and your new four-legged friend on a trail into the Santa Monica Mountains, where you’ll be treated to stunning views of the ocean to the west and San Fernando Valley to the east. Spot the wildflowers that crop up along the sides of the trail and keep an eye out for hawks soaring above. As you admire the flora and fauna of the Santa Monica Mountains, you’ll likely forget you’re next to one of the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. — and that, after all, is the magic of Topanga.