Los Encinos State Historic Park will captivate anyone seeking an authentic vestige of the San Fernando Valley’s ranching past. The five-acre park, just off Ventura and Balboa Boulevards in Encino, includes 19th-century ranch structures, beautifully landscaped grounds, and a spring-fed pond. This is all that’s left of Rancho Los Encinos, once a sprawling 4,460-acre ranch created after the Mexican government dissolved the California missions in 1834 and granted this acreage to three Mission Indians.
The grounds are lovely for a stroll, picnicking, and birdwatching. The pond, constructed in 1874, is shaped like a Spanish guitar and fed by a natural spring—a water source that attracted human settlers for millennia. Wading birds are perennial here, and feeding is encouraged. Coots, mallards, and notably aggressive geese all compete for flung pellets, available on-site. Pepper and olive trees surround the water and, true to the park’s name, a few oaks are scattered about as well.
You can tour a Californio-style adobe, built by ranch owner Vicente de la Ossa in 1849, and a two-story limestone house built later in a French provincial style. Inside you’ll find ranch artifacts—including a wedding dress and leather saddle—and displays detailing the lives of the various ranch families and vaqueros who lived here during the ranch’s cattle-grazing days. Many displays feature illustrations by famed Uruguayan-American artist Jo Mora. An outfitted blacksmith shed stands alone in a far corner of the property.
EAT LOCAL: Done feeding the birds? Now it’s your turn to get fed—and you don’t even need to leave the premises. Lakeside Restaurant and Lounge, at the far side of the pond, inhabits the sweet spot of a Venn diagram, combining Ventura Boulevard’s sophisticated culinary scene with the rancho’s Old California charm. The kitchen’s menu emphasizes California cuisine with locally sourced ingredients. Have a seat on the rustic patio and choose from favorites like Chilean sea bass, ribeye steak, and black linguine, or go vegetarian with a beet salad or veggie burger.
Take the 101 Freeway to Encino and exit onto Hayvenhurst Ave. Head south to Ventura Blvd. and turn right. Turn right at La Maida St., then left on Moorpark, where you’ll see the main entrance to Los Encinos on the left. You can park for free anywhere along this block. The park is free and open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dog-friendly!