Los Angeles — By Abbie Mood on February 28, 2011 at 6:00 pm
Filed under: hiking, outdoors, top-feature

5 Great Los Angeles Hikes

Los Angeles, California is one of the few places in the United States that outdoor enthusiasts can participate in their favorite outdoor activity nearly year round, thanks to moderate temperatures and over 300 days of sunshine each year.  With everything from surfing and kayaking to biking and hiking, there is something for everyone.  As an occasional trail runner myself, I enjoy looking for new routes to explore, and there sure are plenty of them in the LA area.

The five hikes listed below are some of the best and most popular in LA, which means generally well-marked trails and breathtaking views of either the city or the ocean.  If you happen to be traveling to or through nearby Orange County, be sure to check out Take a Hike in the OC.

Ferndell Park to Griffith Park Observatory

Distance: 2.5 miles round trip

Duration: 1.5 hours

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Directions to trailhead: From Los Feliz Boulevard, turn onto Fern Dell Drive and park anywhere along the curb.  You will find a path near the picnic area.

This trail starts the Ferndell picnic area and ascends to the Griffith Park Observatory.  When you come to a fork in the path, the path to the left is long and gradual, while the hike to the right is more steep.  Both will take you up to the observatory, where hikers will be rewarded with a sweeping view of the city of LA as well as the opportunity to snap the perfect photo of the landmark Hollywood sign.

Malibu Creek

Malibu Creek trail

Rock Pool Trail in Malibu Creek

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Distance: 3.5 miles round trip

Duration: 2 hours

Difficulty: Easy

Directions to trailhead: From Highway 101, take Las Virgines Road in Agora towards the beach. Just after crossing Mulhulland Road, you will see the Malibu Creek State Park entrance on your right. Park in the second parking lot for the trail head.

If you are looking for something a little quieter but still with some Hollywood fame, this is the hike for you!  Get out of the city and take the dirt path through fields that may look familiar to you if you have ever seen the TV series M.A.S.H. Continuing farther will take you to a beautiful lake lined with impressive rock structures that you might remember from the 1968 film Planet of the Apes.  If you are feeling extra adventurous, scramble around the rock pool and you might see a rock climber or two scaling one of the walls.

Inspiration Point Trail at Will Rogers State Park

Distance: 2 miles round trip

Duration: 1 hour

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Directions to trailhead: The park is located off Sunset Boulevard in Pacific Palisades at 1501 Will Rogers State Park Road.

Named after the famous actor and cowboy, Will Rogers, the park located on the top of the Santa Monica mountains offers stunning views of both the oceans and the mountains.  The trail starts and ends at Will Rogers’ house, on the path near the tennis courts west of park headquarters and begins heading up and north into the mountains.  Stay on the main wide path and continue up to Inspiration Point.

View of Los Angeles from Runyon Canyon trail

Runyon Canyon

Distance: 3.5 miles round trip

Duration: 2 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

Directions to trailhead: from Hollywood Boulevard, head north on Fuller Avenue. Park at the end of Fuller and you should easily find the well-marked park.

Runyon Canyon is a popular place for dog owners because it is one of few places that allows your four-legged friend to run off-leash.  It also offers gorgeous views of the city (it is only a few blocks from the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theater), and there’s definite celebrity spotting potential.  Because of it’s popularity, it is not the place to go for solitude, but the benches along the trail offer a break and a great spot to people watch.

Santa Ynez Falls Trail in Topanga State Park

Distance: 6 miles round trip

Duration: 3 hours

Difficulty: Strenuous

Directions to trailhead: From Topanga Canyon Boulevard, turn east on Entrada Road, and follow it by turning left at every opportunity until you reach Topanga State Park. The trailhead is at the end of the parking lot.

For those of you looking for something more strenuous, this is it.  The Santa Ynez Falls trail is longer and more difficult than the other trails listed, but will take you into the dense canyon.  Keep on the lookout for deer feeding in the fields and also the tiny cliff gardens that form in the sandstone pockets along the cliffs.  The last couple hundred yards to the waterfall requires hikers to scramble over potentially slippery boulders, so be sure you have a grasp on your scrambling skills before attempting to go all the way.


Before heading out for a hike on any of these trails, there are some safety tips to keep in mind that are somewhat specific to the Los Angeles area.  If you do find yourself in a sticky situation, your cell phone is likely to have service, even in the parks, so it is possible to call for help.

Climate – The climate in Los Angeles is dry, and more often than not, sunny and warm.  If you are from a northern climate, the sun is likely to be more intense then you are used to, so be sure to put on your sunscreen or long sleeved shirt and bring plenty of water.

Footwear – Sneakers are generally sufficient for these hikes, but downhills can be steep and pebbly so you may feel more comfortable in hiking boots.

Wildlife – Even just outside the city of Los Angeles, you might come across a rattlesnake, tarantula, or (though unlikely) encounter a mountain lion.  Stay on the main trail and keep up the conversation with your companion so that animals can hear you coming.  If a rattlesnake does cross your path, give him the right of way or a wide berth – do not try to move the snake!

Photo Credit: Malibu Creek – tracie7779 on Flickr; Runyon – sirsnapsalot on Flickr

Tags: hiking, outdoors, top-feature

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