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Diminutive Arroyo Sequit Park, a 155-acre former ranch that is now a unit of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, is a bit hidden in one of the more remote parts of the mountains between Malibu and Thousand Oaks. Like much of the Santa Monica Mountains territory, this patch of land appears drab and dry at least half the year -- but winter rains can transform it instantly into an emerald paradise. Bring the kids here for a little hiking, picnicking, wildflower hunting, or bird watching.

From the Ventura 101 Freeway (probably the best approach from San Diego or Los Angeles), take the Westlake Boulevard (Highway 23) exit in Thousand Oaks. Turn south on Highway 23, and drive five miles south to Mulholland Highway, where you turn right. Watch the roadside mileage markers and drive to mile 5.6 to reach the Arroyo Sequit Park on the left, which has the posted address of 34138 Mulholland Highway. Turn left and park in the small lot, which is open daily 8 a.m. to sunset.

Pass through a gate and walk up the access road into the park. Veer left toward a restored barn (used for meetings) and pass a small picnic area shaded by oaks. On the right, you'll see a marked hiking trail slanting up and across a meadow. On that trail, you'll circle to the rim of a little canyon (an upper tributary of the stream called Arroyo Sequit), where you can catch an outstanding view of Boney Mountain, the highest promontory in the Santa Monica range. You then curve back down through more grassland -- dotted with spring wildflowers and blooming plants such as wild peony and ceanothus -- and loop back to the ranger station.

It is entirely possible to visit the site on a weekend and see no one else on the trail. At most, this is an hour-long hike, but one that will serve you well as a way to stretch your legs while touring the Santa Monica Mountains by car during the agreeably scenic early-spring season.

This article contains information about a publicly owned recreation or wilderness area. Trails and pathways are not necessarily marked. Conditions can change rapidly. Hikers should be properly equipped and have safety and navigational skills. The Reader and Jerry Schad assume no responsibility for any adverse experience.

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