Spelunking in Los Angeles
Normally associated with the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, warm winter weather and traffic-clogged freeways, the city of Los Angeles has a deeper side tucked away in caves around the city where you’ll find a dramatic change of scenery.
From secluded rock caverns to picturesque sea caves, there’s plenty of spelunking to do within a short distance of the city.
Found at the end of the 1/2-mile Vanalden Trail, Vanalden Cave has a roomy main room that has suffered graffiti and carving through the years. Natural holes in the roof of the cavern let light shine through, creating dramatic lighting for photo opportunities.
A trail to the side of the cave leads to the top of the rock formation, allowing you to look down into the cave. The trail begins at the southern end of Vanalden Avenue with parking on the street. The cave lies within the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Parkland, with no permits required.
A Walk in the Park
Head to the west hills area of LA to explore Cave of Munits in El Escorpion Park. The cave lies at the end of a 1-mile hike climbing 700 feet in elevation. The chimney cave was once the home of a Chumash medicine man and looks like a large crack in the side of a rock formation.
Enter the cave with some steep rock scrambling to find yourself in the middle of a large chamber with side tunnels to explore. You can exit the cave on the right side with a steep scramble that will put you on a trail to Castle Peak.
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Along the Pacific Coast
Hike at low tide to explore tide pools brimming with sea creatures and seaside caves at Leo Carillo State Park. Found just 28 miles northwest of Malibu off the Pacific Coast Highway, the caves and beach were featured in a number of movies including “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Grease” and “Princess Diaries 2,” to name but a few.
Just 3 miles south, El Matador State beach has more small sea caves. A dirt path and staircase take you from the bluffs down to the beach to explore the caves, with dramatic rocky scenery and sheer bluffs you may recognize from “The Tempest,” “Paparazzi” or “The Notebook.”
Smugglers and Batmobiles
Best remembered as the Batcave featured in the “Batman” television series, Bronson Cave in Griffith Park is a tunnel-like cave with a level floor and room to stand. The cave was formed during the park’s former use as a rock quarry, and lies about 1/4 mile from the gravel parking lot. In Rancho Palos Verdes to the south of Los Angeles, caves once used by smugglers hug the cliffs in Portuguese Bend just north of Abalone Cove Shoreline Park.
Dirt trails wind down the bluffs, accessing the caves on Inspiration Point and Portuguese Point. Explore more sea caves at Terranea Resort, with a trail descending from the resort to a sandy beach that houses the cave. The caves were carved out by the sea ruthlessly beating against the rock.
With a Group
If you want to delve deeper into spelunking caves around Los Angeles, consider joining the Southern California Grotto of the National Speleological Society.
Members hone their technical skills at practice sessions and gain access to the Grotto’s equipment, library materials and social networks in addition to participating in caving expeditions.
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