December is one of those months in Southern California when those who live here just pinch ourselves. The air is crisp but not frigid. The sky is a clear crystal blue. The sunsets are glorious and early. And, although it’s one of the rainiest months, the 2.3 inches expected are not enough to keep us indoors.
And with seven hours a day of pure sunshine, there’s nothing better for glowing skin than a healthy dose of natural, available vitamin D –-with a caveat. Even though the sun is further away, it still packs a UV punch that can damage exposed skin. But, take it from Harvard University’s findings that tell us to put on some sunscreen and get outdoors.
Why? Sunlight has been shown to reverse seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and it releases a chemical and metabolic chain reaction that produces natural vitamin D. They remind us that low vitamin D is a culprit for poor bone health and other illnesses.
Free Outdoor Fun In the California Sun
To enjoy the benefits of sunlight and fresh air as well as get some exercise, we’ve selected our favorite outdoor locations and activities. Hike, walk, bike, stroll, or ride a horse in some of the most beautiful areas of the country.
Places Where “Taking a Hike” is Not a Bad Thing
One of the best aspects of living in Los Angeles is the ready access to outdoor activities. It is often said that we can surf in the waves in the morning and ski in the mountains that same afternoon. That’s how diverse the weather, terrain, and the outdoor opportunities are.
Hiking is a year-round option, whether it’s the Santa Monica Mountains, Baldwin Hills, Hollywood Hills, down south in Ranchos Palos Verdes or up in the mighty San Gabriel Mountains. Here are two of our favorite hikes in L.A. County that will get your heart rate up and yield some terrific views.
1. Griffith Park and the Hollywood Trail - Los Angeles
For the ultimate hike in LA, there is nothing that can beat Griffith Park. Parking is by the famous Griffith Park Observatory. From there, hike along the Mt. Hollywood Hiking Trail (Charlie Turner Trailhead) under a canopy of pine trees that scent the air. Terracotta benches and picnic tables invite you to linger. Although deep in a forest-like setting you’ll see LA’s Century City towers in the distance. A gradual climb offers the reward of a spectacular view of the world famous “Hollywood” sign! Overlooks offer 360-degree views of Downtown LA and the San Fernando Valley. Hike or ride your horse and enjoy a little bit of the country right in the middle of the city.
Distance: 3.0-mile loop.
2. Portuguese Bend Reserve - Burma Rd, Rancho Palos Verdes
Sitting atop the cliffs of the Palos Verdes Peninsula is the Portuguese Bend Reserve. This 399-acre area of rolling hills, steep canyons and rock outcrops protects a variety of natural habitats. But it's spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Catalina Island that are the real show stoppers. The hike includes the Harman Overlook on Eagle's Nest Trail that boasts unparalleled views of the sea life offshore. Be prepared for a dusty trek that has incline switchbacks that are bordered by native Southern California scrub. Bird watchers need to keep a sharp look out for sightings of the rare coastal cactus wren and California gnatcatcher.
Distance: 3.0-mile loop.
6 Safety Tips for Your Next Hike
- Carry your cell phone with you in case of emergency
- The signal can be limited in some areas but it can be a life-saver if you run into trouble
- Bring along plenty of water
- Trails often offer little shade and even in winter it can get hot
- Put on sunscreen and wear a hat
- Even if the sky is overcast the sun often breaks through the clouds
- Stay to the center of the trail
- The edges may be home to wildlife such as rattlesnakes and plants such as poison ivy
- Stay on marked trails and obey signage
- Wear hiking boots or other solid footwear
For an Adventure With a View, Head to the Beaches and “Strand”
Of course when people think of Southern California, they automatically picture the beach, with palm trees swaying in the light coastal breeze. But, did you know that the beaches of LA run the entire length of the county? The Strand is the walking and biking path that runs the length of LA County beaches. It offers a happening cultural scene you don’t want to miss. You can start as far south as Redondo Beach, and spend the entire day heading north all the way to Marina Del Rey or Venice before turning back. Exploration can be on foot, or you can rent bikes or rollerblades at many locations. Make a day of it and grab a cocktail, linger over lunch, shop or just “people watch” along the busy beach front.
Cap off your day by riding the world's only solar-powered Ferris wheel. The Pacific Wheel at Pacific Park, on the historic Santa Monica Pier offers a panoramic view of the Southern California coastline.
Exercise the Mind and Soul With a Garden View
1. Descanso Gardens - La Cañada, Flintridge
Get in touch with nature during a leisurely stroll through picturesque Descanso Gardens. Visit for a gentle walk, a concert or a class — there are so many ways to explore the year-round natural beauty. These internationally renowned botanical collections have spectacular seasonal horticultural displays that make it a must-do day trip any time of year. Now is the time to view special holiday décor and lights throughout the gardens.
2. The Huntington Botanical Gardens - San Marino
Celebrating its 100-year birthday, these gardens span 120 acres with 16 unique areas to enjoy. Enter under an arbor of California pepper trees that open to a drought tolerant garden. Visitor favorites include the Japanese tea garden and the Chinese garden of flowing fragrance. Be swept away and inspired by gorgeous settings and peaceful water features. With over 42,000 works of art and a library, it’s easy to make this a day long (or two day) adventure.
There’s no end to the possibilities for enjoying the outdoors wherever you may live. This is just a small representation of the great outdoor activities here in our neck of the woods. Whether you call LA home or come for a visit, these treasures are worth your time to get to know.
Remember to take the time to add self-care to your long list of things to do this winter—it’ll be worth the effort to your overall health and the health of your skin. And, don’t forget to end your adventure on a luxurious note with our Reveal Exfoliating Foam Facial Wash. Gently clear off the dust from the road as well as sunscreen residue to reveal your clear luminous complexion. Your skin will thank-you.
If you have any questions or comments, we would be happy to answer you personally! Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.