Hiking in Los Angeles: LA's Best Trails

Hiking in Griffith Park | Photo courtesy of Renee Silverman, Flickr
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Hiking in Griffith Park   |  Photo courtesy of Renee Silverman, Flickr

Getting acquainted with the variety of hiking in Los Angeles is the perfect way to discover why L.A. is the ideal place to get outside. Most of the hikes listed here are easy to moderate, so it’s not necessary to be an experienced hiker to enjoy them. However, it’s always wise to keep a few things in mind when you’re planning an excursion. Wear sturdy hiking shoes, carry plenty of drinking water, use sunscreen and wear sunglasses. Take along a camera, make sure you stay on the trails and have fun.

Runyon Canyon

Runyon Canyon at sunset
Runyon Canyon at sunset | Photo courtesy of artem.aleksenko, Flickr
  • Trail: Runyon Canyon Loop
  • Distance: About 3 miles round-trip
  • Special Feature: The views at Cloud’s Rest, the off-leash policy for dogs and the occasional celebrity sighting
  • Getting There: From Hollywood Blvd., head north on Fuller Ave. Park at the end of Fuller (free parking) and enter the well-marked park. Take the trail to the right and complete the loop counterclockwise. (VIEW MAP)

By no means is this hike a wilderness experience, so if you’re looking for solitude, you might want to try other trails. On the other hand, this is a great hike for people-watching, and it gives beginning hikers a chance to check out the Hollywood Hills and the amazing views at the trail summit, known as Cloud’s Rest. Whether you’re wearing the latest hiking gear or just sneakers and sun hats, this is a fun hike highlighted by million dollar mansions and priceless views of the Hollywood Sign, the Sunset Strip and the L.A. Basin.

Topanga State Park

photo courtesy of Rashomon, Flickr
  • Trail: Los Liones Trail to Parker Mesa Overlook
  • Distance: About 7 miles round-trip
  • Special Feature: The magnificent views at Parker Mesa Overlook
  • Getting There: The hike begins in Pacific Palisades at the end of Los Liones Drive, just north of Sunset BLvd. Leave the car in the parking lot at the end of the street (fee:$10). From there, follow the trail up to East Topanga Fire Rd. and follow that to the turnoff for the Parker Mesa Overlook. (VIEW MAP)

Switchbacks and steep hill climbs characterize the first two miles of this hike. With an elevation gain of about 1,300 feet, it's definitely a tougher climb. But you can find your reward as you gaze out from a vantage point atop the bluff. Enjoy a picnic lunch or relax on a bench while taking in the overlook.

Griffith Park Trails

Bronson Cave | Photo courtesy of Shawn Park, Flickr
  • Trail: Bronson Canyon
  • Distance: Less than a mile roundtrip
  • Special Feature: “To the Batcave!”
  • Getting There: From Franklin Ave. in Hollywood, go north on Canyon Dr. until the road ends, at the "Camp Hollywoodland" parking lot. Cross the small, red concrete bridge on the right (east) side of the road. Walk around the vehicle barrier, keep left and follow the unpaved road for the short walk into Bronson Canyon. (VIEW MAP)

Located in the southwest section of Griffith Park and easily accessible from Hollywood, Bronson Canyon has been a popular location for generations of filmmakers who make use of its remote-looking, somewhat alien setting. Bronson Canyon has been featured in classics like The Searchers and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, as well as more recent films like Star Trek VI and Army of Darkness. “Bronson Cave” is actually a 50-foot long tunnel, the remnants of a quarry that was founded in 1903 and originally called Brush Canyon. The tunnel entrance is best known as the mouth of the Batcave from the 1960s Batman TV series.

 

  • Trail: Griffith Observatory West Trail Loop
  • Distance: About 2.5 miles
  • Special Feature: Views of Griffith Observatory, the Hollywood sign and the L.A. Basin
  • Getting There: The hike starts at the Fern Dell picnic area near Los Feliz Blvd. You can pick up the trail near the creek past the restrooms. Stay to the right and head uphill toward the Griffith Observatory. You’ll be able to stop and enjoy views of the city along the way. As the path flattens out, you’ll see a trail to the right leading up to the observatory. On the way back, stay right all the way down the hill. The trail will curve around a bit and then take you back to the Fern Dell picnic area. (VIEW MAP)

 

  • Trail: Brush Canyon Trail
  • Distance: About 2 miles
  • Special Feature: Peace and quiet, as well as spectacular views near Mount Hollywood Dr.
  • Getting There: You can park in the lot on Canyon Dr., located just past Bronson Park. From there, head uphill past the gate and pick up the trail on the fire road heading toward the Pacific Electric quarry. You’ll pass a park and a picnic area and then climb out of the canyon. After about 3/4 of a mile, the trail intersects with the Mulholland Trail. Follow the trail to the right and continue another 1/4 mile to Mount Hollywood Dr. To get back, follow the same route, taking a left at the Mulholland Trail junction. (VIEW MAP)

Will Rogers State Park

photo courtesy of Petunia21, Flickr
  • Trail: Rustic Canyon Loop/Inspiration Point Trail
  • Distance: About 6 miles round-trip
  • Special Feature: Exploring what was once the private ranch of a Hollywood star
  • Getting There: Head to Will Rogers State Park in Santa Monica. The main road to the park is just off Sunset Blvd. about a half mile east of Chataqua Blvd. You can park the car near the visitor’s center (fee: $12, seniors $11). The hike begins just behind the main ranch house at the park, next to the sign for Inspiration Point Trail. (VIEW MAP)

After about a mile, you’ll see the turnoff for Inspiration Point. It’s a quick detour and worth the effort to head up this side route for some spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, the L.A. Basin and the Santa Monica Mountains. Follow Backbone Trail to the junction with Rustic Canyon. Follow that trail back to Will Rogers Park. After the hike, stroll around the park and enjoy a picnic on the massive lawn in front of the house.

Escondido Canyon

Photo courtesy of kagee219, Flickr
  • Trail: Escondido Canyon and Falls
  • Distance: 4.2 miles round-trip
  • Special Feature: The waterfall at the end of the trail
  • Getting There: Head northwest on PCH from Santa Monica for about 17 miles. Not far from Solstice Canyon and just past Latigo Canyon Rd., you’ll see the turnoff for East Winding Way, where you can park in the well-marked lot. Follow the paved road toward the mountains. It’s a little less than a mile to the end of East Winding Way. You’ll see the entrance of Escondido Canyon Park clearly marked at the end of the pavement. (VIEW MAP)

From the trailhead, it’s about a mile-long trek to the falls. The trail crosses Escondido Canyon Creek several times, so prepare to get your feet wet if you’re hiking in the rainy season. This is a gradual climb that drifts in and out of tree covering, alongside canyon walls. Soon, you’ll be standing at the base of the 50-foot-high Escondido Falls, admiring the multi-tiered cataract flowing over moss-covered rocks.

In the springtime, the waterfall is usually quite active, but the amount of water varies depending on the time of year. Scramble up the rocks to see the upper level and even more of the falls — the upper tier is about 100 feet high. Wading in the pool beneath the falls is a great way to cool off before heading back along the same route.