Few landmarks in Los Angeles are not connected, one way or the other, to the entertainment industry and state parks are no exception. I remember exploring Will Rogers State Park many moons ago and then forgetting all about it – in one way, here we are so spoiled for large areas of green and hiking trails. Will Rogers has the advantage of being conveniently located just off Sunset Boulevard, in the Palisades and, recently, I was reminded how pretty it is, when a colleague organized a Sunday picnic in the park.
Will Rogers, the man, used to be a famous actor in the 1920’s and ’30’s. Just for fun, he bought himself 184 acres at the foot of the Santa Monica Mountains, when the Palisades and Santa Monica were still a wasteland. An avid rider, he had beautiful stables built and a ranch house to enjoy week-ends and vacations. Both still stand and the park is undergoing major renovations to restore it to the way it used to look when Mr. Rogers owned it.
All 184 acres became state park when Mrs. Rogers died in 1944 (he passed away about 10 years earlier, in an accident). The ranch house can still be visited today and, if you are an equestrian, you can either take your horse on the trails or avail yourself of riding lessons. A polo club also has a sprawling field on the premises. There are pretty, if not challenging, trails, perfect for a walk with the dogs, and a wealth of picnic tables overlooking the polo fields. For a small fee, you are even allowed to bring alcohol, one of the very few parks I am aware of that permits it.
Being a “ward” of the state, parking is not cheap – $12 for a day pass but, if you are in the mood for walking, you can leave your car on the road leading to the park and just walk in. If it wasn’t that I was transporting a massive cake, I probably would have done that (on the other hand, our struggling state parks need all the money they can get…).