Frequently Asked Questions
So you’ve decided you’re going to give this hiking in Los Angeles thing a try. Congratulations! But before you head off into the deep green wilderness, you probably have a few questions. If you’re coming into Southern California as part of a vacation or extended trip, I recommend UpTake Hotels for some good lodging information.
Here are some of the questions that I get asked fairly often. If you’ve got a question that’s not on here, please feel free to email me. I’ll do my best to help out!
What do I need to hike?
Thankfully, hiking is a relatively cheap activity to get involved with. While there are some trails you can do in sneakers and shorts, sensible hikers have a list of must-have gear we call The Ten Essentials. I also have a list of a few extra items that aren’t necessarily essential, but do make hikes a bit nicer. You can also take a look at my Shop, which is stocked full of gear I personally use and recommend.
Where can I get good hiking maps?
A good hiking map is one of the Ten Essentials. I personally use and prefer Tom Harrison Maps – they’re detailed and up to date, and can be bought on waterproof paper – but there are other options, like USGS maps and local areas covered under outdoor publishers like Wilderness Press. I wrote some more info and offered some links on this post.
How can I tell if a road is closed?
Nothing’s more frustrating than trying to drive to a trailhead, only to find yourself face-to-face with a roadblock or construction crew. If you’re hiking within Los Angeles County, the LA County Department of Public Works has an excellent, easy-to-read page that clearly shows which roads are closed and whether or not they’re schedule to reopen anytime soon.
*** The Station Fire Burn Area is currently closed to all outdoor recreation until further notice. It’s a large swath of land in the western Angeles Forest – generally everything west of the CA-39, although there are some trails that are still accessible. For a detailed map of the closure area, click here. I will keep this as updated as possible, since other Station Fire-related resources seem to be disappearing from the web.
If you’re headed to any of our local National Forest or Recreation Areas, you should try contacting them directly or checking their closure pages for updates:
- Angeles National Forest
- Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
- San Bernardino National Forest
- Los Padres National Forest
- Cleveland National Forest
Is there anywhere to download free topo maps?
Actually, there is! If you don’t mind spending a bit of time, you can download high resolution topographical maps in PDF format, free from the United States Geological Survey web site. Be sure you read this post beforehand, though, for some free browser plug-ins and apps that will make the process much, much easier.
What are the best trails for beginners?
I’ve also taken the liberty of picking out a few local trails for greenhorn hikers. They’ll be easy enough on your legs to not completely wipe you out, but most offer scenery that’ll get you hooked on hiking. Check out my post on the Best L.A. Hikes For Beginners.
Where are good hiking trails around L.A.?
Everyone’s got their favorite trails … and I am no exception. I’ve divided the L.A. hiking area into a few distinct geographic regions, and picked my favorite trails from each on a page located here. Some of these are simple strolls through meadows, others are nail-biting cliff-scrambles. There should be a little something for everyone.
What are the best times to hike?
Most of the trails I cover here aren’t that heavily populated, but even on the popular treks, you can find yourself some solitude. Generally, the earlier you hit the trailhead, the more of the forest you’ll have to yourself. Leaving early also has the added benefit of giving you cooler temperatures at the time you’re most likely to be going uphill.
Seasonally, I’ll be adding and updating pages regularly. So far:
Where can I meet other people to hike with?
Sometimes you want a trailbuddy to join you on your hike, especially if you’re just starting out. I posted a few sites and organizations that will help you find some like-minded hiking partners, and got some good additional responses from a few readers. In addition, you can try looking for people on the Modern Hiker Forums.
Can I take my dog on this trail?
I’m trying to take note of whether or not dogs are allowed on the trails I hike, but since I don’t have a four-legged companion of my own, it usually slips my mind. However, MOST of the time, dogs are not allowed in State Parks, but they are in National Forests (as long as their on leashes). There are always exceptions to these rules – and because the Santa Monica Mountains is a patchwork of Federal and State Land, it’s always best to call ahead to ask before you bring Fido along. No one wants to have their hike ruined when a ranger tickets them for having a dog.
The LA Times posted an online feature about some great local trails that DO allow dogs. Read Sit. Stay. Hike. here!