I agree with what most people have already mentioned. Tracking is a lot of fun, but again, check your ego at the door and go at your own pace. I believe taking your car to the limit on the track is a lot safer than canyon driving. Unless you're an adrenaline junkie and enjoy the fear of possible death on the canyon, I'd recommend heading to the tracks. Streets of Willow at Willow Springs International Raceway is a great beginner course close to the LA area.
In my experience, the cars that end up in the walls or off the track are generally the drivers in the more advanced groups who are trying to push their cars to the limit and break their own personal track records. Beginners tend to drive much slower and safer, so just make sure you sign up with the group that matches your skill level, and gradually work your way up to higher skill levels when you're more comfortable.