SoCal was once a land of Spanish ranchos, whose rancheros brought along cows, horses, wheat, mustard seed, oats, and other nonnative species to the Santa Monica Mountains, forever reshaping the landscape that we see today. An example is Peter Strauss Ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Long before it became the home of the famous actor, it was part of 18,000-acre Rancho Las Virgenes. Today it’s a quiet oasis in Agoura Hills that features a lovely stone house, a concert area where the likes of Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash once played, and some curious remnants of days gone by.
Upon entering the Ranch, you’ll notice a fantastic tower, a seating area, and the old ranch house, built by automobile magnate Harry Miller in the 1930s. As you sweep right past the house you’ll encounter a huge empty swimming pool with a stage in the center that was once a part of an amusement park called Lake Enchanto. This pool held a whopping 3,000 people. Beside it stands a magnificent oak that marks the original land grant issued by the Mexican government. The land grant carvings are still visible in the bark. Sweeping back around the front of the house, you’ll notice the giant aviary where Harry Miller once kept his birds. It now hosts seasonal art exhibits.
Now it’s time to hike! The Peter Strauss Trail makes a 0.6-mile loop through stunning oak trees and golden chaparral. Easy to follow and incredibly scenic, this narrow dirt path begins past the aviary and makes a decent uphill climb, mediated by wooden steps. The trail meanders but remains fairly clear. You probably won’t have much company on the trail, but you’ll sense the spirit of the ranch’s amazing string of former occupants.
Comer y Beber: Finish by swinging by nearby Adobe Cantina. Situated on the same grounds that once operated as hunting land for Chumash Indians and near what was a stagecoach stop and café, this authentic Mexican restaurant is home to one of the best happy hours in town—Monday through Friday, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., featuring $5.50 house margaritas and their famous tacos!
Take US-101 to the Kanan Rd. exit in Agoura Hills. Go south on Kanan for 3 miles, then left on Troutdale Dr. Continue 0.5 mile and turn left on Mulholland Hwy. The parking lot is directly across from The Old Place, another popular local eatery. Dog-friendly!