1. Eaton Canyon Nature Center
Though your stroller riders might not yet grasp the splendor of the Fire Ecology Nature Trail, you and your older children will likely take interest. Observe the remains and re-growth of the trees, plants, and habitats that were affected by the massive 1993 Altadena Fire (the fire also destroyed the Nature Center building). The trail begins between the pond and the public parking area. The Junior Nature Trail is shorter (about a quarter of a mile) and well suited for little ones in and out of a stroller. Keep your eyes and ears open for lizards, birds, rabbits, and native plants. The climb to Henninger Flats is also doable, though much more strenuous. You’ll pass a waterfall, cross over the Mt. Wilson Toll Bridge, and might even see Catalina Island (yes it’s true!) on a clear day when you reach the top. See nature and hiking trail maps, or ask in the nature center for more details.
Location: 1750 N. Altadena Dr. Pasadena, CA 91107
2. Will Rogers State Historic Park
Follow a fire road all the way along the Inspiration Point Loop Trail with rewarding city and ocean views at the top. This trail even offers access to the nearly 65 mile Backbone Trail (another trail to try when you’re not at the helm of a stroller). Have a romp and a picnic in the great green grassy expanse when you finish the loop (bring a ball to kick or some bubbles to blow; there really is a whole lot of space!). Have a peek at the horse stables, and even catch a polo match if the season is right. (Spectators can sit on the surrounding grassy hillsides, so you can come and go with your little ones as you please.)
Location: 1501 Will Rogers Park Road Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
3. Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden
Metered parking is available on area streets. Garage parking is $11 at the Medical Center parking facility, at Le Conte and Tiverton Aves.
Right in the heart of UCLA, this well-tended oasis offers flowers and fauna, trees and birds, frogs and friendly squirrels (they may even ask for a bite of your sandwich). Meandering paths, foot bridges, and a refreshing mid-city quiet make the botanical garden a manageable and relaxing place to explore. The entire space is kid and stroller-friendly.
Location: 100 Stein Plaza Driveway, Los Angeles, CA 90095
4. Whittier Narrows Nature Center
Here’s another destination with a welcoming nature center (which means, among other things, indoor bathrooms and a warm place to change a diaper). The Woodsy Trail Loop is a roughly 15-minute (depending on your speed), round-trip loop that passes two ponds and is often host to squirrels, lizards, birds, and an abundance of native plants. Another trail option takes you along a foot path through a coastal sage plant environment. This trail leads to the San Gabriel River Trail (a trail option when you’re stroller-free) and features glimpses of rabbits, squirrels, egrets, and herons. Ask for maps and directions in the nature center (all trails are close by).
Location: 1000 N. Durfee Dr., South El Monte, CA 91733
5. Franklin Canyon Park
We featured Franklin Canyon in an earlier piece, and it’s such a rewarding destination with kids that it’s worth mentioning again. The best area for strollers (and the kids in them) is Heavenly Pond. The foot path around the pond is easy to navigate and offers endless delights: turtles, ducks, tadpoles, and bullfrogs, as well as trees and flowers. Stop in at the Sooky Goldman Visitors Center either before or after your visit to pick up maps, ask questions, or have some fun with their many interactive exhibits.
Location: 2600 Franklin Canyon Dr. Beverly Hills, CA 90210
6. Ernest E. Debs Regional Park – Audubon Center
More than 140 species of birds have been spotted here, and that might be reason enough to check out this 200-acre park in northeast Los Angeles. The Audubon Center, located inside the park, seeks to “inspire people to experience, understand, and care for the local natural world.” The Butterfly Loop takes off near the Audubon building and meanders for a quarter mile (full circle). The Scrub Jay Trail was once a fire road that has been converted to a walking path. Beautiful old oak trees and plenty of rich smelling coastal sage border the route. The City View Trail is a wide and slightly steeper trail (though not much) that offers a peek at downtown on a clear day. (Allow approximately 30 minutes to reach the top.) Also, look for the old abandoned car (circa 1940-something) along the way. Stories abound about how it got there. Your little ones can make up their own tale (and throw a rock or two its way, another favorite activity). Heads-up for poison oak; it’s prevalent, though regular trail maintenance keeps it at bay.
Location: 4235 Monterey Road, Los Angeles, CA 90032
7. Hopkins Wilderness Park
My kids have outgrown our stroller, but back in the day we spent many an afternoon here. Ponds (fish and ducks included), paths, hills, streams, and fallen trees (that older kids love to navigate) provide so much to explore. Get into the wilderness without having to get out of town.
Location: 1102 Camino Real, Redondo Beach, CA 90277
8. Griffith Park – Los Angeles
Dogs on leashes allowed on trails
Another favorite destination (and another park we mention a lot) is Griffith Park. Not only can you cover a lot of ground with a stroller (it is one of the largest urban parks in North America: a magnificent 4,300 acres), you can also supplement your visit with a whirl on the merry-go-round or a miniature train ride or run, jump, and swing at Shane’s Inspiration. As for stroller-friendly jaunts, hike by the old zoo, see some long abandoned animal cages, plus marvel at birds overhead and possibly gophers in your path. The trail is called Fern Canyon, and you can access it by parking at the the first Merry-Go-Round parking lot, then head beyond the T-bar gate. The trail goes uphill and passes the old zoo. Trail length varies depending on which way you choose to walk. Enjoy views of Glendale and Pasadena at the top of the full 400-foot elevation trail.
Location: 4730 Crystal Springs Parkway, Los Angeles, CA 90027
9. Laguna Coast Wilderness Park – James and Rosemary Nix Nature Center
Believe it or not, there are only two natural (not man-made) lakes in Orange County. Barbara Lake is one of them, and it’s accessible by stroller. The 1.5-mile round-trip trail to the lake starts at the Nix Nature Center parking lot and takes you through a sycamore woodland, under the a toll road, and on to the lake with wildlife a-plenty.
Location: 18751 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
10. Lake Hollywood Park
Walking around the reservoir is a mix of urban planning with surprising natural encounters, whether that be a spray of wildflowers or a curious deer. While the journey up to the reservoir can be steep if you park near the bottom (though thankfully, there’s a stroller-friendly sidewalk), the rest of the journey is flat and peaceful — expect little ones to fall asleep on the 3.4 mile loop.
Finally, if you’re looking for a walk in another park and wondering whether or not you could push a stroller there, check this list of paved trails to avoid awkward surprises.
Location: Wonder View Dr. and Tahoe Dr. Los Angeles, CA 90068