The Weekend Warrior’s Guide to L.A.’s Best Hiking Trails

The Weekend Warrior’s Guide to L.A.’s Best Hiking Trails

Get a new perspective on Tinseltown with a healthy hike in the hills

Take advantage of the balmy California weather, and take a break from the fun madness of Tinseltown by enjoying the sights and stunning landscapes along one of L.A.’s very popular (and numerous) hiking trails. Here are some professional tips to help you get started, and some of the best trails to check out.

The most important thing to consider when preparing to go on a hike is safety. Trevor Morrow, founder, and guide at The Los Angeles Hiking Company, gave us his basic tips for anyone hiking in L.A.

Know Before You Go

Sunscreen is a must: “Many of the hills and mountains surrounding Los Angeles are covered in low-lying chaparral, which means hikers will find few or no shade-providing trees. Be prepared to hike in direct sunlight so always have sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses handy. For those especially sensitive to the sun, I recommend hiking in clothing with built-in SPF protection. I also recommend hiking in the morning or late afternoon to avoid harsh sunlight and enjoy the best temperatures.”

Water is too: “This one is especially obvious, but don’t hike without enough water. As mentioned above, shade is sparse and you’ll get thirsty.”

The sun can get very hot on L.A.’s hiking trails, so come prepared

Get shoes with good grip: “It’s important to wear shoes you feel comfortable and stable in. Whether you choose an athletic sneaker or a hiking shoe or boot, be sure the sole has good traction. Due to sun exposure and lack of rain, trails in Los Angeles can be covered in a thin, light layer of dry dirt, which can sometimes be slippery when heading downhill.” 

Heed trail signs: “On some trails, you may see signs warning of rattlesnakes. Many trails in Los Angeles double as fire roads (dirt roads wide enough for pickup trucks to reach the top of the mountain) and therefore provide little cover for critters like snakes to hide. Many trails also see a lot of foot traffic which wildlife tends to stay away from. However, you should always watch where you’re stepping.”

Don’t hike alone: “While you may want to enjoy nature solo, it’s always a good idea to hike with a partner or group, especially if hiking one of Los Angeles’ lesser visited trails. If you’re visiting the city solo, consider joining a hiking tour.”

Top Trails to Try

Fryman Canyon Park: If you’re looking for a breezy hike that is as close to civilization as you can get, then this is for you. With convenient parking in the Wilacre Park lot, simply start the climb on the tree-lined 2.5 mile Betty B. Dearing Mountain Trail that winds its way around the hillside as the pavement gives way to a dirt road. With a gradual climb up, there are rest spots with benches where you can take in the view of the valley and watch as people walk by you with their dogs or whiz by on their mountain bikes. Once you’ve reached the top of the hillside, the trail descends around the bowl above the canyon where you’ll come to a gate that leads to a residential cul-de-sac. From there, it’s just a matter of making your way down Iredell Lane to Iredell Street and hang a left on Fryman Road which will lead right back to the Wilacre lot.

Get a glimpse of Hollywood mansions on the Getty View Trail

Getty View Trail: This 3-mile hike goes through the ritzy neighborhood of Bel Air and is great for those who want a glimpse of the stunning homes owned by its residents. To get here you have to park at the dead end at Casiano Road and then make your way up the dirt and gravel fire road. Although on one side you overlook a freeway for a bit, the famous Getty Centre lies to the other side and gradually the highway sounds disappear as you climb a ridge to reveal a deep canyon, giving you a rare peep (from a distance) of the mansions behind all those high Bel Air Gates. You know you’ve reached the halfway point once you hit a gated community and can see the MountainGate Country club golf course in all its lush green glory on the other side of the 405 highway.

Lower Canyonback Trail: If mid-century architecture is something you’re interested in, this 4.2-mile hike is ideal. Starting in Crestwood, an architecturally controlled area of Brentwood famous for mid-century style homes, you climb up and down on a paved path that winds its way to a dirt fire road that has canyons on both sides. The road will split at one point; if you want a higher intensity workout, take the higher road, otherwise stick with the low one (either way, you’ll end up at the same destination: Mountain Gate Estates). From here you make your way through a very well to do neighborhood to continue on Upper Canyonback trail for a longer hike or turn around to head back to where you started. On the third hilltop, there’s even a swing under a shaded tree to take a minute (or ten) to enjoy the view before heading back to where you parked.

Griffith Observatory is one of L.A’s most recognizable landmarks

Griffith Park

One of Morrow’s favorites and the one that his L.A. hiking company specializes in is hiking in beautiful Griffith Park. “Home to over 4,200 acres, 53 miles of hiking trails, and just 10 minutes from Hollywood, Griffith Park is a natural oasis in the middle of the second largest city in the country”, says Morrow. “It’s full of fascinating history and incredible photo and Instagram opportunities featuring the downtown skyline, the Hollywood sign, and the Griffith Observatory. It’s the ultimate way to see L.A. from above (without getting in a helicopter)”. 

Rustic Canyon to Murphy’s RanchIf you’re the kind of person who gets bored with simply looking at landscapes, this 3.3-mile trail has enough other things to see to keep you busy. Starting in Pacific Palisades on Casale Road, look for the yellow gate and make your way through, heading along a road lined with graffiti. They’ll be green rolling hills in the distance to the left and rock face to the right. You’ll come to a hole in the fence leading to a staircase where 500 or so stairs (down!) end in a beautiful dirt path lined with pine trees. From here, check out the graffiti-covered, fenced-off remains of Murphy Ranch, an encampment that Nazi sympathizers constructed during World War II. To get back, climb some stairs to a paved road, go through a stone-framed gate and you’ll end up on the main road where you started off.

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Image: c/o Trevor Morrow/The Los Angeles Hiking Company; iStock/jeremyiswild