Nowadays, what remains of the Peter Strauss Ranch is mainly a hiker’s haven. Do a bit of exploring, and you’ll come across curious finds like a ranch house, vacant aviary, empty swimming pool, radio house, dam, and lookout tower. The strange mishmash of abandoned structures are a glimpse into the park’s many past lives.
Walking in from the pedestrian entrance, you’ll first lay eyes on the lookout tower. This landmark is a testament to the ranch’s former owner, Harry Miller, who bought the land in 1923 and used it as a weekend retreat from his automobile factory in Los Angeles.
Local legend has it that Miller used the tower to watch for police during the days of Prohibition, while throwing parties in his ranch house, which stands farther into the park (though there’s no proof behind these rumors). He also built a grand aviary, which he used to house his exotic birds. Now, the enormous cage houses art exhibits instead of feathery residents.
Unfortunately, Miller experienced financial ruin during the Great Depression and had to sell the place. It was eventually purchased and developed into an amusement park. It featured what was at the time the largest pool on the West Coast (now empty), which could fit 3,000 people. The Terrazzo dance floor, also left over from the property’s first stint as a theme park, still stands today next to the ranch house. Musicians such Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and the Mandrell Sisters once played on its stage.
As the years went on, the place changed hands and names quite a few times. Amusement parks of various themes sprouted up one after the other, each leaving its own footprint on the land. If you look closely enough, you’ll see ruins left over from the “Fairytale Land” sign at the front of the park. The faint outline of a baseball diamond lies in front of the ranch house, which people can still use today. There’s also a ruined structure that once formed the dam creating “Lake Enchanto,” which people used for swimming, fishing, and rowing.
Lake Enchanto eventually closed around 1960. The park is known as Peter Strauss Ranch today because the actor bought the place in 1976. He kept it for a few years, restoring the park to a more “natural” look, and then sold the ranch to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy in 1987.
Update: The ranch house was destroyed by the Woolsey Fire in November 2018. Much of the property was burnt as well, and it remains closed for repairs.
Know Before You Go
People can also reserve the ranch for private events like weddings, birthdays, and retirement parties. Parking and admission are both free.