Peter Strauss Ranch in Malibu Hills

Update Nov 2018: Unfortunately, this property was lost in the Woolsey Fire.

After arriving for breakfast at the Old Place Restaurant, I was greeted with a 45-minute wait. I walked outside to sit down then noticed there was a historic park right across the street. One that even housed the largest swimming pool east of the Mississippi at one point in time. I headed over to check Peter Strauss Ranch out, and here is all the information.

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  • Free to enter


In the early 20th century, the automobile manufacturer Harry Miller, famous for his patented master carburetor featured at the Indianapolis 500, purchased the ranch as a weekend retreat from his factory and residence in Los Angeles. In 1926, Miller built the current stone ranch house, the look-out tower, and the aviary. He held grand parties there during Prohibition, having someone watch for the cops from the tower. The man would then run to the house to warn them to put the booze away.

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Harry also had other large animals there as part of his private zoo. During the Great Depression, Miller suffered financial ruin after attempting to build aircraft engines, forcing him to sell the property. In the mid-1930s, the property was purchased by Warren Shobert and Arthur Edeson, who renamed the property “Shoson” and transformed it into a recreational fairyland resort for children and adults. The Lake Encanto Dam, creating Lake Encanto, was constructed on Triunfo Creek. The resort was later renamed “Lake Enchanto.”

Competition from other, larger amusement parks and resorts led to the decline of Lake Enchanto, which fell into disrepair and closed around 1960. In 1976, Peter Strauss purchased the property after being moved by the area’s natural beauty while filming the mini-series Rich Man, Poor Man, at nearby Malibu Lake. Strauss restored the property to a more natural look and lived there until 1983 when he sold it to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. The National Park Service purchased the ranch in 1987.

The Park

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When you enter the parking area, you will see signs and the start of many trailheads. However, if you are looking for the historic part of the park, you will need to go out to the main road and walk the 100 feet to the entrance to the old ranch. The first historic site you will see is the old tower.

Old Tower

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This tower guards the entrance to the ranch and has been here for over 70 years. It is beautifully crafted with intricate rock and was the lookout point for the parties, as mentioned above.

Cactus Garden

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As you walk to the ranch, there is also a decent size collection of many different types of cactus all from different areas of Southern California, and it makes for a good place for photos.

The Ranch

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The ranch, which was closed when I was there, is now an office building, but it has a lot of history as both a private residence and even a small amusement park. It was a pretty building located in a collection of oak trees, but it did not have that old architecture vibe.

The Bird Area

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Behind that is the old bird area that housed the birds that one of the former owners kept on hand. It still has a couple of birds in it, but due to the state it was in, I think that is because they trapped themselves and were flying around till they found a way out again.

The Pool

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We continued to walk along the path until we saw the aforementioned biggest pool east of the Mississippi. It was bigger than I thought from far away and would still be considered good size even for today’s standards. It was pretty impressive for a pool over 60 years old. Unfortunately, it does not have any water in it, and it is completely gated up.

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After walking around some more, it was time to get back to the Old Place for breakfast (which I recommend as well). I loved walking around Peter Strauss Park, and I plan to come back here again to explore more of their trails. I would recommend the time here as it is beautiful.

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