Tule elk, kit fox and horned owls, oh my! Three places to spot animals in California

 These herbivores are the fastest land mammal in the Western Hemisphere.
Pronghorn antelope, shown here at the Carrizo Plain National Monument in California, can run faster than 50 mph.
(Chuck Graham; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

By Rachel Schnalzer
Design and illustrations by Jade Cuevas

Good morning, fellow adventurers. Earlier this week, L.A. County declared a new coronavirus surge, which means we must remain mindful as we plan our travel for the coming weeks and months. Mask wearing is important, and travelers should be vigilant about avoiding crowded destinations.

Fortunately, some of California’s most awe-inspiring places are isolated — and home to an impressive array of wildlife. Here are three open spaces where you can spot animals while remaining socially distanced from others.


🦌 Point Reyes National Seashore

Where could you spot tule elk, elephant seals and a rare blue-eyed coyote in the same trip? Point Reyes National Seashore, that’s where.

Though you might get lucky if you visit on your own, touring the area with Point Reyes Safaris optimizes your chances of seeing animals. Times contributor Diane Haithman recently joined professional wildlife photographer and naturalist Daniel Dietrich and ended up spying great horned owls, foxes and even the elusive bobcat native to Point Reyes. At $495 (for a group) for a half-day safari, the tour is a bit pricey but worth it if your heart is set on seeing animals.

If you’re on a budget and want to enjoy the natural beauty of this Northern California coastline, you’re in luck: Admission to the national seashore is free, with 150 miles of hiking trails visitors can explore.

Tule elk at Point Reyes peninsula.
Tule elk were reintroduced to Point Reyes in 1978 after being all but eliminated in the late 1800s.
(Diane Haithman; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

🦊 Carrizo Plain National Monument

Sometimes called “California’s Serengeti,” Carrizo Plain National Monument is an ideal place to see some species that call the Golden State home. The protected area is the habitat of pronghorn antelope, San Joaquin kit fox, jack rabbits and, of course, rattlesnakes — so be sure to watch your step.

One of the best ways to spot wildlife? Lace up your hiking boots and hit the monument’s Caliente Ridge Trailhead. The ultra-ambitious can follow the trail for 16.9 miles, according to the California Wilderness Coalition, though there are shorter options.

San Joaquin kit fox at The Carrizo Plain National Monument, Calif.
The San Joaquin kit fox is considered an endangered species.
(Chuck Graham; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

🦎 Griffith Park

Traveling long distances in search of wildlife can be a great adventure. But there are plenty of animals to see in L.A. too.

Take, for instance, Griffith Park, one of Los Angeles’ crown jewels. The 4,300-acre greenspace is home to lizards, red-tailed hawks, great blue herons and many other species, which Times contributor James Bartlett and assistant travel editor Mary Forgione detail in their limited-run zine, the Beginner’s Guide to Griffith Park. P-22, “the king of the L.A. cats, our own celebrity bachelor mountain lion,” gets a special shout-out, of course. Purchase the zine to learn more about the wildlife that call Griffith Park home.

Many crawly creatures, such as the Blainville's horned lizard, call Griffith Park home.
Many crawly creatures, such as the Blainville’s horned lizard, call Griffith Park home.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times; Gerry Hans / Friends of Griffith Park; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

🚴 A unique way to explore Los Angeles

L.A.'s Park to Playa Trail was recently completed, Forgione wrote in a recent edition of The Wild. Now Angelenos can explore the 13-mile flat route from the Stocker Corridor trailhead all the way to Playa del Rey. I’m particularly eager to try biking the route: The Ballona Creek path is already one of my favorite places to ride in Los Angeles, and I look forward to seeing Kenneth Hahn State Park by bike.

Before I go, I may spring for the Mokuyobi Dreamscape checker bike barrel bag on The Times’ list of 22 best gifts for people who love to be outside.

L.A.'s recently completed Park to Playa Trail stretches 13 miles, giving you a new way to explore the city.
(Screenshot from; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

📰 What I’m reading

The Maybourne Beverly Hills just opened its Terrace restaurant.
(Danielle Hamilton / Maybourne Beverly Hills; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

    💻 Can’t adventure IRL? Here’s one way to expand your horizons

    Calling all architecture buffs: This year, Pasadena Heritage’s 28th Craftsman Weekend has moved online. Times design writer Lisa Boone explains that the event will include tours, lectures and panel discussions via Zoom. One highlight? A martini-making class with a professional bartender from the historic Raymond 1886 bar on Saturday night. Brush up on your old Raymond Hotel knowledge — there will be trivia questions throughout the event.

    Tickets cost $15 per program for nonmembers; if you are unable to attend events during the scheduled times, most recordings will be available for a week after each event for those who have purchased tickets.

    📸 Our favorite photo

    Send us your travel photos for a chance to be featured in a future edition of Escapes!

    🎸 Road song

    “I don’t know where I’m headed ... And I don’t know where it ends.”

    So sings country queen Margo Price on “Prisoner of the Highway,” an ode to wanderers everywhere on her latest album, “That’s How Rumors Get Started.” If you’re not sure where you’re going in life — or just this weekend — this one’s for you.

    If you love road trips, Margo Price's “Prisoner of the Highway” will speak to your soul.
    If you love road trips, Margo Price’s “Prisoner of the Highway” will speak to your soul.
    (Tim Mossholder / Unsplash; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)