Topanga Docents Naturalist Training Begins September 14

Peter Rice, an educator and scholar in the ecology and prehistory of the Los Angeles area,
interprets Chumash culture for trainees. Photo by Roy Jensen

Every year, the Topanga Canyon Docents, an independent volunteer organization working within Topanga State Park, offers a Fall Naturalist Training to introduce new docents to the program.

This year the training begins on September 14 at the Trippet Ranch Visitor Center in Topanga State Park with six Saturday classes and five Sunday morning interpretive walks.

If you’ve ever enjoyed hiking the hills and canyons and have longed to enrich your knowledge about what you see, a Field Ecology Weekend is held every April.

The program is taught by highly respected educators and professional naturalists from local colleges, museums, and conservation-based institutions. The course prepares volunteers to help educate the public about the natural history and biodiversity of the Santa Monica Mountains.

Acorn Woodpecker. Photo by Topanga Docent Read Howarth

Study subjects include Chumash and Tongva Cultures; Native Plants and Plant Communities; Fire Ecology; Geology; Mammals, Insects, and Birds; Reptiles and Amphibians; Climate and Its Effect; and Naturalist Interpretation.

Trainees also study the indigenous groups who lived in the Santa Monica Mountains for thousands of years and share their knowledge while hosting the Trippet Ranch Visitor Center, conducting elementary school walks with children, participating in public walks, and in a Trail Ambassador program. Throughout the year docent members hike together, enjoy potluck gatherings, field trips, seminars, and educational workshops.  

Classes take place every other Saturday (September 14, 28; October 12, 26; November 9, 23) from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m,

Interpretive walks are held on alternate Sundays (September 22; October 6, 20; November 3, 17) from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The course fee is $100 and includes a one-year State Park membership. Come enjoy Topanga State Park and share your knowledge as a volunteer.


For information on docent training and to download registration forms:;

Trippet Ranch Visitor Center is located at 20828 Entrada Road, Topanga, CA 90290.


By Read Howarth


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