HIKING IN LOS ANGELES: THE TOP 5 OUTDOOR ADVENTURE TRAILS
It’s often said that Los Angeles is one of the greatest cities in the world (maybe a little biased on my end), but when you add everything up from the laid-back culture, to the artisanal (yet packed with global influence) fashion, art, culinary, and creative boutiques, and the outdoor wonderland that lies right in front of us, it all starts to come together and make sense. In addition to all this, Los Angeles is also home to some of the most incredible hiking trails in the world! Being that LA boasts one of the largest municipal parks in the country, and the largest municipal wild lands in the world - it only makes sense to grab your backpack, slip on your runners, and head to the hills!
TAKE A HIKE, LITERALLY FOR ONCE
While LA is know for it’s laid-back culture, every one of us can become over-consumed with the pressures of the day-to-day. When the every day stress begins to creep up on us and be a bit to much, hiking is a great way to let go of some of that steam and prevent burnout. Escaping LA’s noise, traffic, and smog for winding trails overlooking the skylines and the sprawling ocean views is an amazing way decompress over the weekend. Best of all, it doesn’t require much in terms of planning, and it’s completely free!
THE TOP FIVE HIKING TRAILS IN LOS ANGELES
This list is broken down by difficulty, average hiking time, length, elevation gain, and dog friendliness.
1 | RUNYON CANYON
Location: 2001 N. Fuller Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90046
Average Hiking Time: 1.5 Hours
Length (Round Trip): 3 Miles
Elevation Gain: 675 ft
Runyon Canyon is arguably the most popular hiking trail in Los Angeles, as it’s a great place to spot celebrities, play with dogs, and see some outstanding views of the city. The trail winds through Runyon Canyon, which itself is a small 130-acre preserve located in the beating heart of Hollywood. Runyon was purchased by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the City of LA in the mid 1980's and remains one of LA’s most popular dog parks! The trail head is located at the intersection of Franklin Avenue and Highland Avenue, from there it follows a 2 mile loop. One interesting feature is that the trail passes the ruins of the Frank Lloyd Wright designed pool house that was owned and occupied by Errol Flynn ‘50s.
2 | PARKER MESA VIA LOS LIONES TRAIL
Location: 566 Los Liones Dr., Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
Average Hiking Time: 4 Hours
Length (Round Trip): 7.3 Miles
Elevation Gain: 1292 ft
Looking for incredible uninterrupted views of the LA coastline? Parker Mesa is the hike you’ve been looking for. Made up of two parts - The Los Liones Trail, and Parker Mesa, the first leg of this hike is comprised of one of the lushest riparian canyons. The trail is lightly graded, generously shaded, and definitely worth the track even despite the crowds. Towards the end of Los Liones, the trail meets up with a maze of fire roads in Topanga State Park, and takes a sharp ascent to Parker Mesa (1525ft). On a clear spring day, you’ll get unrivaled views of the Santa Monica coastline, with views often inland as far as the San Bernardino Mountains! The Los Liones trail head is located on Los Liones Drive in the Pacific Palisades, past a clearly marked gate.
3 | GRIFFITH PARK OBSERVATORY
Location: 2800 E Observatory Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Average Hiking Time: 1 Hour
Length (Round Trip): 2 Miles
Elevation Gain: 580 ft
The famed Griffith Park is the largest municipal park in the United States, donated to the City of Los Angeles by Welsh immigrant Colonel Griffith J. Griffith in 1896. The park was considered a Christmas gift to the LA residents, as “a place of rest and relaxation for the masses.” The park in it’s entirety spans 56 miles and has an intricate network of hiking and equestrian trails throughout. Its dynamic landscape is defined by ridges, peaks, creeks, concealed canyons, caves, gardens, and springs. Some of the most notable tourist attractions such as the Griffith Observatory (this hike), The Greek Theatre, The Wisdom Tree, The Old Zoo, and the historic merry-go-round, are all located within the boundaries of the park.
4 | WISDOM TREE & CAHUENGA PEAK
PRO TIP: THIS IS HOW TO GET TO BEHIND THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN
Location: 3052 Lake Hollywood Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90068
Average Hiking Time: 2 Hours
Length (Round Trip): 3 Miles
Elevation Gain: 872 ft
For years the Hollywood locals have been trying to shut down access to the Hollywood sign, and they have been reasonably successful in their attempts. While some of the previous routes to the sign have been blocked off permanently, there are a few trails that still remain - and Wisdom Tree & Cahuenga Peak is one of them that will take you DIRECTLY BEHIND THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN! This is as close as you can legally get to touching the sign (don’t attempt to do so - I recently witnessed a tourist hop the fence to be surrounded by police helicopters in less than 30 seconds!) Wow all of your friends with pics and videos of this iconic spot and they’ll all be asking you how you got so close! The easiest way to get to the trail head and avoid the crazy maze of Hollywood Hills roads is to take Lake Hollywood Drive from Barham Blvd.
5 | MALIBU CREEK STATE PARK
Location: 1925 Las Virgenes Rd., Calabasas, CA 91302
Average Hiking Time: 3.5 Hours
Length (Round Trip): 8 Miles
Elevation Gain: 224 ft
Dogs: Not Allowed
Littered with Old Hollywood Lure and historical relics to bode, Malibu Creek State Park is one of the most iconic hiking destinations in Southern California. Featured in a laundry list of films such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Daniel Boone, Tarzan, Planet of the Apes, and the TV series M*A*S*H*, the landscape is very familiar. If you decide to make the journey you’d find treasures such as rusted out Army Jeeps, volcanic rock formations, expansive meadows, and sycamore woodlands. Even more, a 13 mile long river runs through the park’s creek, making the destination that much more Instagram worthy! The trail head is located just towards the top of Malibu Canyon Road.
TAKE A BREAK - AND GET OUT THERE!
Before setting out on your weekend adventure, we highly recommend researching the trail(s) you plan to explore. Amazing online resources such as Modern Hiker, provide a wealth of information about literally every single trail in Los Angeles and beyond, with tips and words of advice from the experts. As for just about any outdoor adventure, always remembering to bring plenty of water, sunscreen, a healthy snack, and sunglasses - each of these are vital to staying safe, and comfortable while you’re out exploring the great wonders that Los Angeles has to offer.
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