The Ten Best Hikes in Los Angeles

By | May 26th, 2013

Hiking is an essential and integral part of the lifestyle in Los Angeles.

A few years ago, I was desperate for a change of pace and a better quality of life, so I decided to take a big leap of faith by leaving New York City and moving from the east to the west coast.  Now, you should know two things about me: I love working out and I am a true nature lover.  Being able to hike in the dead of winter sounded freakin’ awesome, and that pretty much sealed the deal on the move for me.  Arriving in LA, I was the ultimate virgin hiker.  I needed a “Let’s Go! Los Angeles hiking” guidebook ASAP.  So what did I do?  I found myself some outdoorsy, California friends to show me the hidden gems of hiking.  Now, a few years later, I am excited to spread the love and share my recommendations for the “Ten Best Hikes” in town:

1.  Best Workout of Your Life:  MISHE MOKWA TRAIL-SANDSTONE PEAK

Known as one of the best hikes in L.A., this trail will take you to the highest peak of the Santa Monica mountain range. It’s a 6-mile roundtrip hike that will take approximately 3 ½ hours at a steady pace.  It is a very strenuous hike so be sure to bring lunch, your water bottles and a buddy. The highlights include views of the Echo Cliffs, where you can be sure to see some sexy, buff rock climbers, while also taking in wondrous sandstone formations.  Views include Santa Barbara and Santa Catalina Island.  Although a little off the beaten path, this hike is certainly worthwhile and your thighs will definitely be feeling it the next day!

Trailhead address:  Yerba Buena Road, Malibu, CA 90263
Parking:  FREE on street
Dog-Friendly: YES (on leash)

2.  Best View of the Hollywood Sign:  BEACHWOOD CANYON

For all you tourists who are dying to take pictures of the Hollywood sign, this trail will give up close and personal views as you ascend. It is a moderately difficult hike, up 1,680 feet via the Hollyridge Trail. You will end up at the top of Mt. Lee, where you can see the Hollywood sign below.  If the weather is clear, the views are great! You’ll also see the ocean, the Palos Verdes Peninsula, downtown Los Angeles, and the Santa Ana Mountains. The total distance on this hike is 3.5 miles round trip (4.2 miles if you decide to hike the Cahuenga Peak).

Trailhead address: 3400 N. Beachwood Drive, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, CA 90068
Parking:  FREE
Dog-Friendly:  YES (on leash)

3.  Best Views From the Top:  LOS LIONES TRAIL

This hike is my absolute fave!  It is a 7.2-mile hike that starts in the Pacific Palisades and takes you through to Topanga State Park.  Not only is the view spectacular, but the trail itself is full of beauty and lushness.  On a clear day, once you reach the summit at 1,525 ft., you will have a view that will take your breath away.  You will be able to see as far as the San Bernardino Mountains and the glistening Santa Monica Bay.  There are benches up at the top where you can just sit, meditate, or absorb the astounding beauty.

Trailhead address:  580 Los Liones Drive, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
Parking:  FREE on street
Dog-Friendly:  NO pets allowed

4.  Best Walk with Your Best Friend:  TEMESCAL CANYON

When I first moved to L.A, this was the first hike my friend took me to. Since then, I’ve had many hiking dates with girlfriends here. Let me tell you why: the trail has plenty of parking, clean restrooms, it’s easy to get to, and even has unique picnic spots to veg out and finish your conversation (if an hour-long catch up during the hike itself is not enough!).  The hike is roughly 4.4 miles long, or 5.4 miles if you choose to take a slightly longer route along the Skull Rock Trail.  As you ascend, you will spot a small waterfall and bridge, and when you arrive at the top, you’ll be overlooking the ocean and valley of beautiful Santa Monica- astounding!

Trailhead address:  15601 W Sunset Blvd, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
Parking:  FREE on street or pay for parking lot
Dog-Friendly: NO pets allowed

5.  Best Lazy-Day Hike: FRANKLIN CANYON PARK

This route is also known as the Discovery Trail.  It is only a mile round-trip – a short hike with unmistakable beauty.  Located in Franklin Canyon Park, there is so much to see!  You can stroll around the reservoir, where the birds and wildlife are plentiful. Or you can opt to walk along a beautiful pond, which is replete with ducks, fish, and turtles.  This route is ideal for a more relaxed fitness experience.

Trailhead address:  2600 Franklin Canyon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Parking: FREE parking lot (the rangers give tickets, so follow the rules!)
Dog-Friendly:  YES

6.  Best Waterfall Sighting:  ESCONDIDO CANYON AND FALLS

This hike is known as the “hidden gem” of the Santa Monica mountains. The landscape is one of the most unique and beautiful in the area.  The trail is approximately 4 miles roundtrip and includes one of the best natural sightings in the area – the famous Escondido Waterfall. As you approach the fall, you will be surrounded with gorgeous oak trees and coastal sage scrub.  A glistening, running creek intersects the trail and will help guide you down to the magnificent 150 -foot Escondido Falls.  Don’t forget to bring your i-phones or cameras – this scene has ‘Instagram‘ written all over it.

Trailhead address:  27200 Winding Way, Malibu, CA 90265
Parking:  FREE off PCH or pay in lot
Dog-Friendly:  YES (on leash)

7.  Best Hike to Watch the Sunrise:  BRONSON CANYON- GRIFFITH PARK

If you are an early bird like me, this is your hike.  My advice is to wake up extra early so that you can catch the sunrise in the east and see it rising above the Hollywood Hills.  This trail is part of Griffith Park,and also includes backside views of the famous Hollywood sign.  It is approximately 1.5 miles long, so it’s a quickie but goodie. Before finishing the hike, make sure to see Bronson Cave, which is famous for being in movies like Star Trek and the Batman series.

Trailhead Address:  3200 Hollywood Drive, Hollywood, CA 90068
Parking: FREE on street
Dog-Friendly:  YES (on leash)

8.  Best Place to Propose to your Girlfriend (or Boyfriend):  POINT DUME

I recently had a friend who was proposed to on this famous point in Malibu, CA.  So, I decided to check it out.  This hike is a 4-mile roundtrip journey that will make any lover swoon.  It takes a total of 2 hours and is very moderate.  It is also one of the nicest and most relaxing hikes in the area.  It begins on a beach and takes you all the way down to Paradise Cove.  You can walk right up to Point Dume from the beach.  When you get to the top, you will understand why this is one of the most romantic spots.  You are literally on top of the ocean, listening to the sound of crashing waves and birds cooing.  If it’s a clear day, you may even be able to spot the whales bobbing in the distance. The trail continues to Dume Cove, alongside the ocean, and ends at the famous Paradise Cove Pier (a great lunch spot or sunbathing haven).

Trailhead Address: Westward Beach Road, Malibu, CA 90265
Parking:  FREE in lot
Dog-Friendly:  NO pets allowed

9.  Best Hike to Celeb-Spot: RUNYON CANYON

Anyone and everyone in this city has heard the words, “Runyon Canyon.”  Runyon Canyon is LA’s hotspot for hiking.  This hiking spot is a scene in and of itself; chock-full of body builders with their canines, celebs keeping in shape, and other colorful characters getting their sweat on.  You can choose from one of two main trails.  When choosing, you should know that the trail on the left is has a steady incline all the way through.  The trail on the right is shorter, but the incline is more challenging – a definite calorie burner!  At the top you will get panoramic views of Los Angeles, including the Hollywood sign, Griffith Park, and all of the beautiful homes built into the hills.  The hike is 3 miles round trip and will take about an hour.  Be sure to keep your eyes peeled – you never know when you’ll bump into Ryan Gosling!

Trailhead Address:  2001 N. Fuller Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046
Parking: FREE on street (but can get crowded so go early)
Dog-Friendly: VERY (off-leash)

10.  Best Run with Your Dog: WESTRIDGE TRAIL

Of all the dog-friendly hikes, this one is by far the best one to bring your beloved puppy.  Dogs are permitted to be off their leash, and the trail is not nearly as crowded as Runyon Canyon.  There are two paths – one that is pretty flat and steady and another that is more challenging and uphill.  It is easy to switch off between both hikes, depending on the workout you desire.  This hike is great because you can access it either from the Westside or the San Fernando Valley, depending on where you live.  Roundtrip, it extends about 7.4 miles.  Once you reach the top you will feel serene but accomplished.  Stay awhile  – there are benches to rest on and take in the gorgeous views.

Trailhead Address:  Westridge Road & West Mandeville Fire Road, Los Angeles, CA 90049
Parking: FREE on street
Dog-Friendly:  VERY (off-leash)

Author Bio

Janice Berkowitz

WHO: Former Elementary Teacher. Feng Shui Consultant. Writer. Yoga and Spin Junkie. Health Advocate. Promoter of Love and Light.

MY FITNESS PERSONALITY: Yogi, Class Junkie, Do-gooder, Rough Rider, Trail Blazer.

MY BURNTHIS INSPIRATION: Participating in a 100-mile spin ride which raised $2,500 for inner city schools.

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