To understand the relationship L.A. locals have with hiking, look no further than this meme. While most people hear “hiking” and think a trip to REI is in order, Angelenos simply swing by their favorite coffee shop before hitting the trail.
There is truth behind this generalization: hiking in Los Angeles is oftentimes a low-impact activity used as an excuse to catch up with friends, not to test your mettle, and requires little more than athleisure and sneakers with decent tread. While there may be other cities across the country with more challenging trails, it’s incredible that in America’s second-largest city, surrounded by millions of people, that opportunities to hike even exist at all. On top of that, these publicly-accessible natural spaces can be enjoyed year-round (with winter months actually being the most pleasant).
With such a passionate hiking culture, it should come as no surprise that most locals have strong opinions on which hikes are the city’s best. So allow us to offer this asterisk: The list below is not definitive or conclusive, but we believe this set of city-spanning hikes, which includes both classics and more under-the-radar offerings, is sure to set you down the right path.
Ideally situated for those living on or visiting L.A.’s far-west side (and worth the drive for everyone else), the Paseo Miramar Trail is a moderately challenging, 5.5-mile out-and-back hike, and the closest to the beach on this list. Located in the Santa Monica Mountains, on the border of Pacific Palisades and Topanga Canyon, the proximity to the Pacific means three things: incredible ocean views, generally cooler temperatures compared to inland hikes and a serene quality that make a trip here feel like a mini getaway. Ideally, you’d start your journey at Paseo Miramar Trailhead, however parking in this residential neighborhood can be tricky (though waiting for a spot is worth it). Alternatively, begin at the Los Leones Canyon Trailhead, which extends the hike but offers more parking. Either way, you’ll end up at the Parker Mesa Overlook, which offers showstopping, 180-degree views of the California coastline.
Located just over the hill from West Hollywood, through Laurel Canyon and close to Studio City, Fryman Canyon is a favorite hike for nearby locals. The primary trail here is the Betty B. Dearling Trail, which runs over five miles and spans several different parks along Mulholland Drive. However, instead of a long out-and-back hike, follow these instructions to turn this trail into a convenient loop like the locals do: Park here and walk up Fryman Road to Iredell Street to the top of Iredell Lane. At the end of the cul-de-sac you’ll find a sanctioned but unmarked on a map entry point to the trail and Fryman Canyon. From here, stay on the Betty B. Dearling Trail and you’ll wind up right back at the parking lot. Along the way, you’ll get in a light workout with impressive views of the San Fernando Valley and the mountains of the Angeles National Forest beyond.
Everyone Will Love These LA Vegan RestaurantsFeast on plant-based hoagies, pastas and more
Clocking in at 4,218 acres, Griffith Park is five times the size of New York’s Central Park and home to over 50 miles of hiking trails. It’s also home to L.A.’s most photo-worthy hikes, thanks in part to two of the city’s most iconic attractions, the Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood Sign, being within its bounds. While most visitors will want to hike to the back of the Hollywood Sign, instead consider a trail to the summit of Mount Hollywood (a nearby peak with views of the sign, plus 360-degree views of the entire Los Angeles basin, from the San Bernardino Mountains to the downtown skyline to the Pacific Ocean). The most direct and introductory way to get there is to start here and follow the wide Mt. Hollywood Trail to the top. For a longer and more challenging hike, start here, near the Greek Theater, and follow the Riverside Trail to the Hogback Trail.
While local hiking purists may turn up their noses at the very popular (read: busy) Runyon Canyon, it nonetheless deserves a spot on the list for its ease of access and fantastic views. Located just minutes from the heart of Hollywood, it serves many as a convenient meeting place to hike with friends or get in an outdoor workout. The majority of visitors simply do an out-and-back walk on the paved access road which winds up the canyon, but rocky, dirt trails like West Ridge and Inspiration Point will offer a greater challenge and more connection to nature. As for the crowds, they can be avoided completely if you’re willing to get there early (start at 6:30 to 7 a.m. and Runyon is a tranquil oasis) or explore the trails at the top of the park, closer to Mulholland Drive, which fewer people frequent.
The Verdugo Mountains are one of the most beautiful wilderness areas in close proximity to Los Angeles that few people know about. When compared to Fryman, Griffith, Runyon and other hikes located directly in the city, the Verdugo Mountains offer a foray into more rugged and wild terrain, along with far fewer people to share it with. There are a handful of ways in, but the best is via Stough Canyon Mountain Way, which begins at the Stough Canyon Nature Center. From here, you’ll have access to an extensive trail system set on mostly dirt fire roads that go on for miles — with some leading into La Tuna Canyon Park. Throughout, you’ll be in for sweeping views of the San Fernando Valley, the downtown skyline and the Pacific Ocean way in the distance, all of which is best enjoyed from one of the two permanently installed wooden lounge chairs you may happen upon throughout your trek.