Knapp's Castle is an abandoned mansion in the Santa Ynez Mountains above Santa Barbara. A trail just under one mile out and back takes you to the ruins and a stunning vista point overlooking Los Padres National Forest and the Santa Ynez Valley. George Owen Knapp, founded of Union Carbide, created the mansion for his residence in 1916. Famous Opera Singer Lotte Lehmann moved here in 1940, but the castle was destroyed by fire only 5 weeks later.
Mentryville Boomtown was named after Charles Alexander Mentry who drilled California's first successful oil well here in 1876. It was the world's longest continually operating well that lasted until 1990. Today, it is a park run by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy where Charles' historic home and barn still remain beneath the Santa Susana Mountains. Trails lead to historic ruins as well as canyons of chaparral and coast live oak.
Daley Ranch Preserve is a 3,000 acre park with more than 25 miles of trails in Escondido. Robert Daley settled here to build a ranch in 1869 while Kumeyaay Native Americans have lived here for thousands of years. A 1.2 mile hike along the ranch house trail takes you to the ruins of the ranch property while winding through beautiful canyons of oak woodland.
Peter Strauss Ranch is an enchanting park in the Santa Monica Mountains. Beautiful oak woodlands surround the ranch house as well as the cactus garden, original swimming pool and bird cage ruins. Trails wind through the National Park Service property which was once the ranch for actor Peter Strauss. It is also sacred land for the Chumash Native Americans who resided in these mountains for thousands of years.
Solstice Canyon is a beautiful spot in the Santa Monica Mountains. A 2 mile round trip hike takes you into the canyon to the ruins of the Roberts Ranch House which was designed by Paul R. Williams, famous African American Architect in 1952. The house blended in with its natural surroundings and can be discovered by its blueprint foundation today. A nearby waterfall is also a highlight that can be seen flowing all year long.
Located in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains, Wildwood Canyon State Park preserves 900 acres of wild land. Dedicated in 2003, it is fairly new to the California State Park System which was formed in 1927. The park contains oak woodland, grassland, ancient Native American crossroads as well as the ruins of Pioneer Hunt Ranch. The ranch can be reached from the parking lot by an easy 2 mile out and back hike.
Zzyzx is the former site of Zzyzx Mineral Springs & Health Spa in the Mojave National Preserve. Curtis Howe Springer founded the spa in 1944 naming it Zzyzx so that it would become the very last word in the dictionary. He claimed his hot springs could heal all health problems. The springs were actually just faked by warming the water with a boiler and adding herbs! The government caught up with Springer in the 60's and the Resort was shut down. California State University built a Desert Studies Center here in the 70's while all that remains of the resort are ghostly ruins. A car graveyard is the highlight of the ruins.
Griffith Park Zoo in Los Angeles was in existence between 1912 and 1966. When it opened, there were only 15 animals. The zoo grew as many movie star animals retired here. Today, it is a popular hiking and picnic spot among ruins. Many of the enclosures were built during the Great Depression by the Works Progress Administration. It greatly captures the progress and improvement in zoos today. The cages are tiny and claustrophobic and allow the visitor to feel what it would have felt like to be an animal here. Although grotesque, this is an essential and fascinating experience.