L.A.’s Hidden Caves

No treadmill will ever provide as much fun as these hole-in-the-wall alternatives

Vanalden Cave
Despite the easy access (a 15-minute hike) and ample modern-day cave hieroglyphics, the hole on the Valley side of the Santa Monica Mountains feels remote. Scramble to the roof and frame photos of your friends with the gaps in the ceiling. The trailhead is at the end of Vanalden Drive in Tarzana.

Terranea Beach Cave
The cavern gets its name from Rancho Palos Verdes’ Terranea Resort, not that you’ll care when you behold its craggy mouth at low tide. From the 6600 block of Palos Verdes Drive South, walk three fourths of a mile on Bluff Top Trail through the resort to the rocky beach.

Corral Canyon
Jim Morrison hung out here. You can, too. From the dirt parking lot at the end of  Malibu’s Corral Canyon Road, walk a quarter mile down the asphalt to the fire road. After a ten-minute walk, look for a giant wave-shaped boulder. A set of tracks leads to the cave’s narrow entry. Inside, groove on the psychedelic graffiti and the view of the Agoura hills.

Bronson Caves
An early 20th-century quarry site (the rock was used for Red Car rail beds) left behind caves in Griffith Park that have appeared in westerns, sci-fi flicks, and as the Bat Cave from the 1960s TV series Batman. Find them at the end of Canyon Drive.

PLUS: More Hidden Outdoors!

Leo Magnus Cricket Complex
Practitioners of the mysterious sport so beloved in Britain and its former colonies have been converging on Woodley Park’s four well-maintained fields for decades. After watching expats from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Australia, and the West Indies wield their bats under the auspices of the Southern California Cricket Association, you may feel the urge to head for the batting nets and try your hand at a googly. » 6350 Woodley Ave., Van Nuys, 818-756-8060.

Ernest E. Debs Regional Park 
Vast groves of California black walnut survive in this 282-acre oasis. Kids can climb boulders, sit in a cave, and chase butterflies in the Children’s Woodland at the park’s Audubon Center. Or for wide lawns flush with trees and picnic tables, enter off Monterey. Follow the trail as it meanders west to the Native American Garden and, in spring, a matilija poppy display. A ten-minute ascent on the road east passes the pond, where mosquito fish dart along the edges and dragonflies skim the surface. » Park: 4235 Monterey Rd., Montecito Heights, 213-847-3989. Audubon Center: 4700 N. Griffin Ave., 323-221-2255.

Fishing The L.A. River 
You might find religion after pulling a five-pound carp from the Los Angeles River: Life carries on, even in this disrespected waterway. Anglers like to ply the silt and vegetation of the Glendale Narrows and Elysian Valley segments, using dried tortillas as bait. (The carp are true Angelenos.) But you’ll have more catch-and-release fun honing your fly casting with David Wratchford of the Fishermen’s Spot in Van   Nuys. An in-shop primer and hours-long excursion cost $65. » Fishermen’s Spot: 14411 Burbank Blvd., Van Nuys, 818-785-7306.

Heroes Golf Course 
L.A.’s public links are among the most heavily trafficked golf courses in the country. So it’s bliss to have this rustic par 3, tucked into the northern corner of the Veterans Affairs campus, to yourself on most weekdays. For $10 you can work on your short game (the longest of the nine holes is 178 yards), with only the avian residents of the adjoining Japanese garden around to pass judgment on your shots. » 11301 Wilshire Blvd., West L.A., 310-405-7277.

Encino Velodrome
All wood and sparkly, Carson’s indoor bicycle track is world class. But this concrete one, built alfresco as an Olympic team practice venue in 1961, is miles less intimidating for newbies who want to burn calories on a banked racecourse. Before pedaling the 250-meter loop, you’ll need to sign up for the $40 intro class, held one Saturday a month. The required track bike can be rented for $5; you supply the helmet and the endorphins. » 17301 Oxnard St., Encino, 818-881-8571.