The 15 Best Places to Hike Near L.A.
Los Angeles has a lot going for it—world-class restaurants, great shopping, boutique hotels (some properties even let you purchase resort day passes to use the pool), happening nightlife, farmers markets galore, an ahead-of-the-curve wellness scene and, of course, access to nature. Accessibility to the mountains, beach and just green spaces, in general, are some of the things we love most about this sprawling celeb-spotting capital. The best way to get out and see what Mother Nature so brilliantly made? Hiking. It’s among our fave pastimes. And the trails in Greater Los Angeles, the second-largest urban region in the United States, which includes Santa Monica, Malibu and west through San Gabriel Mountains, are just next level.
Of course, everyone knows about Runyon Canyon. And the hike to the Hollywood Sign is basically a prerequisite of visiting. Have you heard of Los Liones Trail? The vistas are worth putting in the effort. This isn’t to say that all the hikes in LA are challenging. Quite the opposite. You’ll find a great mix of treks for all skill levels. Because there are so many epic hikes to choose from, we enlisted the help of Casey Schreiner, the author of Day Hiking Los Angeles and Discovering Griffith Park, and the creator of the must-read outdoors blog modernhiker.com, to come up with the ultimate list of the best places to hike near L.A. Scroll on before putting together an itinerary for your next trip to the City of Angels!
Is Los Angeles good for hiking?
When most people think of La La Land, all things Hollywood spring to mind. Beyond the glamour of movie premiers and the promise of seeing A-listers around town, lies a playground of diverse terrain with a variety of distinct climate zones (though, generally speaking, the weather across the board is pretty much picture-perfect all year round) and enough hiking trails to keep residents and visitors fit and having fun outdoors...basically forever.
How many hiking trails are in Los Angeles?
According to Schreiner, it’s impossible to nail down the exact number of trails (and believe us, we tried) since there are so many different managing agencies and no clear definition of what constitutes a trail or even which trails would be included in the Greater Los Angeles Area. But there are easily hundreds of different paths to explore.
Where do celebrities go hiking in Los Angeles?
It’s no secret that part of the allure of Los Angeles is the likelihood of spotting celebs IRL. If you want to hedge your bets of running into an A-lister like Natalie Portman, Orlando Bloom, Justin Bieber, Channing Tatum and Alexander Skarsgard IRL, lace up your sneakers (or hiking boots, totally up you) and hit Runyon Canyon. “The trails in the central and western Santa Monicas are also popular, mainly on account of their proximity to Beverly Hills, Bel Air and the Pacific Palisades,” notes Schreiner.
1. HOLLYWOOD SIGN VIA CANYON DRIVE
Only have one day in L.A.? Few things are more of a cultural icon or have been featured in such an incredible number of movies and television shows than the Hollywood Sign. So it should come as no surprise that the Hollywood Sign via Canyon Drive is a wildly popular hike among all who visit Los Angeles as well as silver-screen-loving locals. This 6-mile heavily trafficked out-and-back trail in the Hollywood Hills wows. Do yourself a favor and figure out the iPhone photo timer in advance. You don’t want to be that person fumbling around for 30 minutes to get the perfect picture. Oh, and because of such a beloved route, it’s best to go early to avoid crowds.
2. MOUNT HOLLYWOOD
For a hike in the middle of the city, turn your attention to Griffith Park, which is five times the size of Central Park. Schreiner—who literally wrote the book on Griffith Park—recommends tackling Mount Hollywood. Not to be confused with the Hollywood Sign via Canyon Drive, this prominent peak, which rises 1,625 feet, is easy and accessible. Plus, it boasts beautiful views of the legendary Hollywood Sign, Griffith Observatory, DTLA and San Gabriel Mountains.
3. ROCK POOL AND CENTURY LAKE TRAILS
The Rock Pool and Century Lake Trails in Malibu Creek State Park is the sort of hike that people do and time again. That’s because it’s beautiful, accessible and not too challenging. First-timers just need to follow the sounds of happy hikers and splashing. Continue on to Century Lake, a scenic spot that you might recognize from the 1968 Planet of the Apes movie. And just like that you’d completed 5.7 miles (aka crushed your daily recommended steps).
4. WISDOM TREE, CAHUENGA PEAK AND MOUNT LEE SUMMIT LOOP
Have two and a half hours in between yoga and brunch? (That sentence just sounds so L.A., doesn’t it?) Embark on the 3.9-mile Wisdom Tree, Cahuenga Peak and Mount Lee Summit Loop in the Hollywood Hills. The route goes to Wisdom Tree, reported to have been the lone survivor of a 2007 wildfire and the only tree we know that has its own Instagram account (@the_wisdom_tree_of_la) before continuing on to Cahuenga Peak and Mount Lee and ending behind the Hollywood Sign. (Is it just us or do all roads lead to the Hollywood Sign?) Be sure to stop and smell the wildflowers along the way.
5. MANDEVILLE CANYON TRAIL
Introducing Brentwood, an affluent neighborhood on the Westside that many celebs call home and apparently also has fantastic hikes. The Mandeville Canyon Trail in Sullivan Canyon Park, for example, it’s a 7.1-mile heavily trafficked path that meanders through and ultimately leads to stunning views of the coast and Greater Los Angeles. Don’t be surprised if you glimpse a few incognito A-listers (baseball caps and dark shades are a giveaway) along the way. BTW it’s a great hike to bring along your pups. Just maybe steer clear of mid-day when the sun really beats down on the trail as it can be a bit hot for some furry friends at that time.
6. BRONSON CAVE
Bronson Cave, a man-made rock tunnel in Griffith Park, is truly one of Hollywood’s go-to filming locations for TV and film. It’s most famous for having been used as the entrance of the Batcave in the 1960s “Batman” television series. The landmark itself is extremely dramatic, but the path to get there...well, it’s short, flat and, by any standards, easy. So feel free to bring kiddos or any cinephiles who typically prefer to watch the big screen rather than break a sweat.
7. SOLSTICE CANYON LOOP
Malibu is synonymous with multi-million-dollar homes and sun-splashed beaches. But we’d argue that hiking should be added to that list. Insert the Solstice Canyon Loop in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. A must-do when in Malibu (and, honestly, a path that's worth contending with LA traffic for the waterfall alone), this 3-mile trail flaunts interesting ruins, a cascade and great opportunities for birdwatching.
8. LOS LIONES TRAIL
At the south end of Topanga State Park, the 1.3-mile Los Liones Trail is an easy hike up a leafy canyon. The short distance, mild 550 feet of elevation gain and cool ocean breeze make it appealing for really anyone looking to get out into nature for a couple of hours. You won’t get too sweaty, so no need to rule out a post-trek brunch or lunch.
9. PARKER MESA OVERLOOK VIA LOS LIONES CANYON TRAIL
Keen to keep going? “One of my favorites hikes is Los Liones Trail up to Parker Mesa, which will take you from Pacific Palisades into Topanga State Park,” says Schreiner. It offers incredible vistas of Santa Monica Bay. And you can usually see Catalina Island. Don’t let the 7.1-mile distance dissuade you from striking out on Los Liones Trail up to Parker Mesa, it’s a doable afternoon activity for anyone who’s relatively active.
10. MOUNT BALDY
Calling serious trekkers only! Want to conquer the highest point in L.A. County and the highest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains? Towering over 10,000 feet, Mount Baldy—formally called Mount San Antonio—demands a full day to climb, is very tough (that’s straight from Schreiner) and requires technical know-how as well as extra gear. The payoff for all that planning and effort? The most unbeatable views of anywhere in the entire metro area.
11. COMMUNITY LOOP TRAIL IN KENNETH HAHN STATE RECREATION AREA
Schreiner’s fave aspects of the Community Loop Trail in Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area near Baldwin Hills? The manicured gardens, kid-friendly playground and some of the best views of downtown Los Angeles out towards the San Gabriel Mountains. “If you’ve ever seen a picture of DTLA with snow-capped mountains behind it, this is where that photo was taken.” Pro tip: go after a winter rainstorm when the mountains get some frosting and the air is clear.
12. RUNYON CANYON TRAIL
At this point, snapping a pic from the top of the Runyon Canyon Trail could easily be called a right of passage for visitors and L.A. transplants. It’s not hard to understand why this 2.7-mile route attracts so many locals and out-of-towners alike. A moderate trail, it doesn’t require a ton of energy expenditure or hiking gear (most folks do it in sneakers and spandex pants), but still provides the glute-torching workout and Instagram-worthy views that, if we’re really being honest, most people really want at the end of a hike.
13. ECHO MOUNTAIN VIA SAM MERRILL TRAIL
Schreiner is also a fan of Echo Mountain via Sam Merrill Trail, in the San Gabriel Mountains. “It’s a very popular neighborhood hike that’s approximately 6 miles roundtrip and takes you to the ruins of a turn-of-the-century resort complex.” Visually, it’s pretty unique to be able to see the foundations of a former hotel, an old railroad and the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.
14. GROTTO TRAIL
Before heading to the beach, carve out a couple of hours to do the Grotto Trail in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. It’s only 2.5 miles but packed with gorgeous scenery—from giant boulders, verdant vegetation and plenty of shaded areas. It’s not terribly difficult, but you will break a sweat between the scrambling (wear appropriate shoes and something that you can toss in the washing machine when you get home) and the most uphill slog on the way back.
15. FRYMAN CANYON TRAIL
Sometimes you just have to "make a cameo at the Val party" (who got the Clueless reference?) and other times it's all about soaking in the panoramic Valley views. The best place to do just that? Fryman Canyon Trail in Studio City's Wilacre Park. Hit the 2.6-mile heavily trafficked, well-maintained, particularly paved loop for wildflowers and epic panoramas. It’s also manageable for most people and pups. Plus, there are some shaded spots if you need a moment out of the sun and benches to take a break.