The 9 best hikes in L.A.

December 11, 2014                 4m read time
Chelsey Grasso


It may be true that no one walks in L.A., but they sure do hike. The area has warm weather year round and spectacular trails in just about every direction. Whether you’re looking for a scenic stroll, a sweat-breaking workout, or something in between, there’s a route to meet your desires.

1. Hollyridge Trail

View from behind the Hollywood sign on the Hollyridge trail James Gubera

View from behind the Hollywood sign on the Hollyridge trail

James Gubera

 

This 3.5 mile trail takes you into the Hollywood Hills, high above the valley of Burbank and behind the Hollywood sign. All uphill, and a little steep at times, this half-dirt, half-paved trail is a moderate trek. Once you’re at the top, you’ll have a nice view of downtown Los Angeles and the Hollywood Reservoir. And, of course, you can snap a coveted close-up of the iconic sign.

2. Parker Mesa Overlook Trail (from the Los Liones Trailhead)

Parker Mesa Overlook Andy Sternberg

Parker Mesa Overlook

Andy Sternberg

 

If you hike to the top of this bluff, you’ll be rewarded with an expansive view of the California coastline. Round-trip, the hike is about seven miles long with a high rise in elevation, so make sure you’re well energized before you set out. As an added bonus, if you’re on the trail during the spring, you’ll likely find yourself amidst fields of bright yellow flowers.

3. East Fork Trail (Bridge to Nowhere)

Bridge to Nowhere, East Fork Trail Chetan Kolluri

Bridge to Nowhere, East Fork Trail

Chetan Kolluri

 

In 1938, floods washed away the road to an arch bridge that spans the east fork of the San Gabriel River just north of Azusa. Nicknamed the Bridge to Nowhere, the abandoned structure is now a popular destination for hikers. The 10-mile out-and-back trip takes you by wooded river banks, up the side of a canyon covered in chamise and sage, and along pink granite walls. Come prepared to scramble over boulders and wade through the river a few times.annotation If that isn’t enough adventure for you, sign up to bungee jump off the side of the bridge. Looking for a mellower break before turning back? Stop for a soak in the swimming hole beyond the bridge or in one of several other pools on the way down.

4. Runyon Canyon Trail

View of downtown LA from Runyon Canyon Trail Chris Goldberg

View of downtown LA from Runyon Canyon Trail

Chris Goldberg

 

Filled with challenging steps and steep inclines, this 3.5 mile loop is perfect for getting your workout on. And it’s usually filled with people doing just that, including the occasional sweaty celebrity. If you time your hike right, you can stretch out with a free yoga class on the main lawn before heading home. There are three classes a day during the week and two a day on the weekend. Check the Runyon Canyon Yoga website for current class times.

5. Eaton Canyon Waterfall Trail

Waterfall flowing Michael Huey

Waterfall flowing

Michael Huey

 

Take a two-mile hike out to a 40-foot waterfall. The first half of the hike meanders along Eaton Wash, a typically dry creek bed. After you enter the San Gabriel Mountains, things get interesting. The trail’s last half mile crisscrosses a creek as it winds up the canyon. Expect some easy boulder hopping along the way. When you reach the end, cool off with a dip in the wide wading pool at the bottom of the fall. In spring, the fields bloom with violet-blue fernleaf phacelia and spiky chia flowers.

6. Griffith Observatory West Trail

Griffith Observatory Mark Weston

Griffith Observatory

Mark Weston

 

Griffith Park is full of trails that vary from beginners to advanced, but one of the most popular hikes is the Observatory West Trail. For most of the way, the fire road offers a view of your final destination, the Griffith Observatory, in all its Art Deco splendor. Hit the 2.5-mile trail in the evening for a sparkling view of the city below and the stars above. To get a little perspective on your place in the universe, finish your hike with a walk along a map of the solar system. Our sun and the surrounding planets are etched in the concrete around the observatory. Then peer through the telescopes to take a closer look at the real thing.annotation

7. Stone Canyon Trail

View from Stone Canyon Trail Doc Searls

View from Stone Canyon Trail

Doc Searls

 

The nearly 9-mile Stone Canyon Trail will take you up the north slope of 5,074-foot-high Mount Lukens, the tallest peak in Los Angeles.annotation The sharp ascent from Big Tujunga Canyon makes for a rigorous, but beautiful, climb through chaparral. Pause to catch your breath and inhale the sweet honey scent of California lilacs. On a clear day, your senses will also be rewarded with extraordinary views of the city.

8. Murphy Ranch Trail

Graffitied structure on Murphy Ranch Trail mcflygoes88mph

Graffitied structure on Murphy Ranch Trail

mcflygoes88mph

 

On the Murphy Ranch Trail, explore Rustic Canyon and the ruins of a supposed Nazi compound. Purportedly built by a man known as Herr Schmidtannotation and his group of Nazi sympathizers in 1933, the ranchannotation was once self-sustaining, with its own dam, power station, and terraced groves of 3,000 nut and fruit trees. In the years since, the land has been an artists' colony and Boy Scout camp. Today, it’s owned by the city of Los Angeles and open to hikers. Follow one of eight concrete staircase that descend for several hundred feet (or more than 500 steps) down to the property. On the canyon floor, wander through the abandoned buildings, including a bomb shelter, stables, and the rusted ruins of a machine shed. Graffiti artists regularly practice their skills on the crumbling structures, making the 4-mile hike an urban photographer's dream.

9. Mount Baldy Trail

View of valley and trees from Mount Baldy trail Luis Ramirez

View of valley and trees from Mount Baldy trail

Luis Ramirez

 

Mount San Antonio, commonly known as Mount Baldy, sits on the outskirts of the Los Angeles area, but it’s well worth the drive. At 10,064 feet, it’s the highest peak in Angeles National Forest. The Mount Baldy Trail—a right of passage for Southern California hikers—is an 11 mile loop with a vertical elevation gain of 4,000 feet. On the way, check out the panoramic views, traverse the “Devil’s Backbone,” a narrow ridge with steep drops on either side, and maybe even play in some snow. If you’re feeling tired and hungry near the top, cut 3.6 miles from your hike and ride the chairlift to Top of the Notch restaurant for some comfort food.


annotations


During the wet season, the water can be waist high. Bring waterproof hiking boots or water shoes and a quick-drying towel. A walking stick will help get you over the slippery rocks without falling in.


Visitors can look through telescopes on the lawn until 9:45 p.m. each evening the observatory is open and skies are clear.


The mountain is named after Theodore P. Lukens, Southern California’s “Father of Forestry.” According to the Los Angeles Times, the self-taught botanist planted approximately “65,000 seeds in the mountains above Pasadena” in 1899 alone.


According to the Los Angeles Times, "A man known through oral histories only as 'Herr Schmidt' supposedly ruled the place and claimed to possess metaphysical powers."


The Los Angeles Times reported that "in 1934, architect Welton Becket—who would later design the Capitol Records building and the Music Center—was hired to design a small stone house and several outer buildings on the ranch."


Chelsey Grasso

Chelsey is a twenty-something writer and photographer who lives for a good book, a hot cup of coffee, and her next trip. Her writing has been published on Bustle, Thought Catalog, Paste Magazine, and The Huffington Post.

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