The pleasure of hiking in Los Angeles is magnified by the fact that in one hour you can go from a sandy beach or fancy Hollywood bar to a rugged canyon, a waterfall, or a 7,000-foot-high mountain. The whole area is a hikers’ paradise with the vast Griffith Park on the slopes of Mount Hollywood in the heart of the city as well as a range of trails that greatly differ in difficulty. Just off posh Malibu are steep bluffs overlooking the ocean, which hide grottos and lush valleys and present a great opportunity to see some typical California landscape of coastal scrub, sage brush, and live oaks. Photo: janifest/Fotolia
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25 Best Los Angeles Hikes
- Amir's Garden, Photo: Courtesy of SamiUllah - Fotolia.com
- Mount Hollywood, Photo: Courtesy of diegograndi - Fotolia.com
- Mount Akawie, Photo: Courtesy of Sam - Fotolia.com
- Kratka Ridge, Photo: Courtesy of Ezume Images - Fotolia.com
- Santa Ynez Falls, Photo: Courtesy of Helios4Eos - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of janifest - Fotolia.com
Berlin Forest is not much of a forest, more of a small pine grove in Griffith Park just above the Griffith Observatory. The short 0.3-mile-long wide, open path is pleasantly shaded all year round. It starts at the observatory’s main parking lot and is almost flat but it gets fairly crowded on weekends. To avoid the crowds, start at the Charlie Turner trailhead, which leads to the Mount Hollywood Trail.
Corralitas Rail Path
The Corralitas Rail Path is a short 1.6-mile hike in Echo Park / Silver Lake through historic Red Line ruins and properties. The trail starts at the street corner where Allesandro Way turns left at the intersection with Lake View Avenue. The trail is in fact a small sidewalk that continues along the canyon and runs parallel to the Glendale Freeway.
The Firebreak Trail is a pleasant alternative to the popular West Observatory Trail, one of many ways of getting to the iconic Griffith Observatory. It starts at the Fern Dell part of Griffith Park, north of the Trails Cafe. It is not an official maintained trail. It starts through the trees next to the fire road before it meets a steep eroded hill with steps cut in. The trail levels out at the top of the ridge. The views from the top are amazing, with the Hollywood Sign, downtown Los Angeles, and the Griffith Observatory spread in front of you.
The Hermit Falls Trail is a 2.6-mile-long very popular hiking destination, and a lovely hike through the lower parts of the Santa Anita Canyon and a lush California landscape of black sage, oaks, and sagebrush until the trail reaches the top of the majestic 30-foot-tall Hermit Falls. Expect crowds of swimmers, cliff-jumpers, picnickers, and hikers on a weekend. You can combine this hike with the nearby and even more popular Santa Anita Canyon Loop and extend your adventure to the Sturtevant Falls.
Corral Canyon near Malibu, just off the Pacific Coast Highway, is a small park comprising 1,000 acres of wild, solitary terrain with spectacular views of the Pacific Coast and cool ocean breezes. The only trail through Corral Canyon is the 2.5-mile loop Sara Wan Trail, with a fairly steep climb and an elevation gain of 537 feet. The views are beautiful all along the way. The trail jumps over Corral Canyon Creek and then keeps climbing through coastal scrub and fragrant California bay laurel.
The 2.1-mile trail at Western Canyon, also called the Hollywood Trail, is a longer, more fun and less crowded trail through Griffith Park as well as a way to get to the Griffith Observatory. It starts as a broad and open fire road before it goes up gently through the laurel, sumac, and dry sycamore trees typical of Griffith Park. From the small perch on top, you will be greeted with beautiful views of the city and the Pacific Ocean as well as unique views of the Hollywood Sign.
Runyon Canyon is a small, popular park in the heart of Hollywood and one of the more accessible parts of the Los Angeles mountains. It has trails of all kinds, from easy paved paths to a fairly rugged 3-mile loop trail along the outer border of the park that gains 675 feet in elevation and offers a few stretches of serious workout. The park is very popular and the dogs are allowed off leash, so do not expect any solitary nature appreciation, although you might spot a few celebrities.
San Gabriel Peak
San Gabriel Peak Trail is a 3.8-mile-long steep trail that gains 1,185 feet in elevation through a series of switchbacks up the north face of Mount Disappointment. The pleasant shaded trail passes the abandoned Nike Missile Station and ends on a small summit with beautiful 360-degree views. It is considered an easy hike in spite of the elevation gain and the trail is clear and well maintained.
Glendale Peak is a 3.1-mile trail up Mount Hollywood that is fairly unknown and neglected by hikers, which means that you can enjoy not only fantastic views of the San Gabriel Mountains and the ocean beyond, but also solitude, that rare pleasure for hikers in Hollywood. The trail starts at the fire road on Vermont Canyon Road north of the Greek Theatre. The dirt road starts climbing right away, gaining 723 feet in elevation but levels off soon, leaving you to enjoy the views of downtown L.A.
Bee Rock in Griffith Park is the location of the old original Los Angeles Zoo, which moved to its current location in 1966. The high promontory of Bee Rock still has some small buildings and paths and the 3.8-mile trail through the old zoo is certainly a unique adventure, allowing you to walk among old lion dens and finish your hike at the abandoned historical carousel, while enjoying the distant views of Glendale and the San Gabriel Mountains.
Mentryville was the site of the first commercial oil well in Southern California. Today, it is a ghost town and a park near Valencia popular for hiking and picnicking. A few houses are still standing, including the house of Charles Alexander Mentry, who struck oil at that location. The trail through the park runs by his house, continuing along a paved road to the canyon, past oak, aspen, pepper, and sycamore trees. The trail ends at Johnson Park, where you will find picnic tables and other facilities.
Vasquez Rocks is a 902-acre park off the Antelope Valley Freeway. A 3.4-mile hike through the Vasquez Rocks Natural Area will allow you to see some fascinating local earthquake geology, and the area is still recovering from a 2007 wildfire. The trail meanders its way through rocks that are twisted and folded by the San Andreas Fault into strange sharp angles. Wind and water erosion continued to mold them into even stranger shapes. This fascinating hike is easy and suitable for anyone and especially for the adventurous, as there are plenty of off-trail canyons to explore.
Trail Canyon Falls
Trail Canyon Falls is a majestic 30-foot waterfall in a rugged canyon with sheer walls on both sides, with the spectacular background of distant Condor Peak and Fox Mountain. The 4.3-mile dirt trail Canyon Road climbs gradually until the view opens up ahead of you with the spectacular Big Tujunga Canyon in all directions. The trail is steep and you will gain 743 feet but the view makes it worthwhile.
Escondido Falls, a 150-foot-tall multi-tiered fall, is the tallest waterfall in the Santa Monica Mountains. You can reach the falls by hiking the 4-mile Winding Way Trail in Malibu. It is a pleasant shaded hike to the base of the falls with some exciting hands-on scrambles and sheer drop-offs to the upper falls’ tiers. The trail starts at a private drive in Malibu, at the intersection of the Pacific Coast Highway and the Winding Way.
Mount Lawlor is one of the less-known summits of the San Gabriel Mountains, reached by a 4.4-mile-long and accessible yet fairly steep and challenging trail, with an elevation gain of 1,201 feet. Expect some rock scrambling. The rangers warn that the trail has been damaged in a recent fire. It was repaired and reopened but it is advisable to check with the rangers about its current state before hiking.
Smith Mountain is one of the less hiked destinations in the Angeles National Forest in the San Gabriel Mountains. If you take the Upper Bear Creek Trail near Coldbrook Camp, this loop trail is 6.6 miles long and considered difficult, with an elevation gain of 1,843 feet. You will gain 1,000 feet in the first 3 miles, so the beginning is steep, but once you reach a saddle it gets easier until the last half mile. To get to the top, you have to do some serious scrambling. This mountain is windy, with no shade, and most of the time the top is in clouds, obstructing the views.
Mount Markham is a less hiked peak in the San Gabriels, mostly because it is surrounded by its higher cousins, but it is challenging and well worth it for the views it offers. The main trail is 6.3 miles long and will get you over two saddles, provide some serious scrambling over large boulders, and reward you with views of 20 surrounding peaks. It shares a trailhead on Mount Wilson Road with San Gabriel Peak, Mount Disappointment, and Mount Lowe. There are striking views of Mount Lukens and the Santa Monicas.
Pacifico Mountain is a fairly easy yet long 12.6-mile hike in the Angeles National Forest, at the north side of the San Gabriel Mountains. The Pacific Crest Trail starts at the Mill Creek Picnic Area. It is one of the highest, and the most prominent, mountains in the range. You will gain 2,180 feet in elevation and some bouldering is required, which makes it popular with rock climbers. Check with the rangers before going up: The area was burned pretty badly in the 2009 fire and the trail was closed for a while.
Charmlee Wilderness Park
Charmlee Wilderness Park is a 530-acre green area on the bluffs in Malibu with lush grassy meadows, California coastal scrub, and ancient live oaks. There are also some ruins of old ranches and a great small nature center focusing on the wildlife of coastal California. There are almost 3 miles of trails in the park, so head up the mild incline and enjoy a day in nature. You can also join one of many ranger-led hikes, such as the Full Moon Hike, Astronomy Hike, and others.
The Grotto Trail
The Grotto is a narrow canyon filled with large boulders with a number of small caves surrounding a creek in the Santa Monica Mountains. The Grotto Trail is a short 3-mile hike with elevation loss (you will start by going down into the canyon) of only 600 feet, but is a great opportunity to do some climbing and bouldering. One of the popular trailheads is located in the Circle X Ranch, a former Boy Scout camp and now a ranger station. From the trailhead, you can see down into the narrowing canyon walls, where your trail will take you. It is easy going down to the grotto, but do not forget that going back it is all the way up.