Best Hikes in Los Angeles

When you think about Los Angeles, what comes to mind first?

Celebrities?

The Walk of Fame?

Taco trucks and In-N-Out?

Uncontrollable sprawl and thick, gross smog in the air?

 

 

Los Angeles is not a city known for its hiking — but it should be.

With a variety of distinct climate zones, fascinating geology, nearby wilderness areas and nearly-perfect weather year-round, L.A. really does have something for everyone who’s looking to get outside.  And in some case, you might not even have to leave your neighborhood!

Here is a list of some of the distinct hiking areas of the Greater Los Angeles area, with my picks for the trails that will give you the best feel for the region. As the site expands, so will these lists. Be sure to investigate Best Hike drop-down menu for lists like the 5 Best L.A. Hikes for Beginners, and check out the Trail Map for a lot more hikes in the L.A. area — currently 180+ and counting …

SANTA MONICA MOUNTAINS

Rounded, rolling hills and low mountains nestled near the Pacific Coast and stretching into Hollywood. Trails here generally have lower elevation gains than the San Gabriels, and are less shaded. Here, you’ll find large swaths of native California Grassland and incredible wildflower blooms in the spring.

Best Hikes:

 

SANDSTONE PEAK

Sandstone Peak 033
The Mishe Mokwa Trail to Sandstone Peak and Tri Peaks might just be my favorite hike in all of Southern California. This trail will take you to the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains, past jagged peaks, riparian canyons, and popular rock climbing routes.  With killer views of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Monica Bay, this is an absolute must-hike.

 

LOS LIONES TRAIL to PARKER MESA

Los Liones Trail
The Los Liones Trail to Parker Mesa is a lush, moderate trail that climbs from the Pacific Palisades into Topanga State Park to the top of Parker Mesa and one of the most incredible coastal views in Los Angeles.

 

TEMESCAL CANYON

Temescal Canyon to Skull Rock 27 (1 of 1)
Temescal Canyon‘s loop trail offers a steep, shaded canyon or a more gradual sunny ascent. It also features a seasonal waterfall, strange rock formations, and stunning coastal views – all right at the Westside’s doorstep.

 

MALIBU CREEK STATE PARK

Malibu Creek
Rock climbing, lakes and rivers, twisted California geology, ranching and film history – oh, and gorgeous scenery. Malibu Creek State Park has it all – and whether you’re taking a flat stroll along the Canyon floor or climbing the ridge of the Castro Crest, this park is definitely worth your time.

 

SOLSTICE CANYON

Solstice Canyon
The popular Solstice Canyon Trail will take you through a shaded canyon past the oldest standing stone structure and oldest living tree in Malibu to the ruins of a 1950s mansion nestled beside a small, tiered waterfall.

ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST

655,000 acres of rugged mountain terrain, right in L.A.’s backyard. From the ruins of turn-of-the-century resort hotels to the highest peak in Los Angeles County, this region runs the gamut from easy walks to intense backcountry adventures.

MOUNT BALDY


No SoCal hiker’s journey is complete until they’ve summited Mount San Antonio, better known to locals as Mount Baldy. At 10,064 feet, this is the highest point in Los Angeles County, the highest peak in the San Gabriel range, and the third highest peak in Southern California. This leg-busting and exhilarating loop route features jaw-dropping views and hair-raising ridgeline trails that will make you question whether or not you’re really only an hour from L.A.

SANTA ANITA CANYON

Santa Anita Canyon
Santa Anita Canyon is probably the most beautiful river canyon in Southern California. This stellar loop winds through a canyon dotted with historic cabins and two waterfalls, including 50-foot Sturtevant Falls. While the falls can be crowded, the trail above the falls is idyllic and serene, the canyon floors covered in ivy. There are several campsites here and junctions with longer trails – and you won’t be able to believe you’re in Southern California.

BRIDGE TO NOWHERE

Bridge to Nowhere
If you like river crossings and forgotten L.A. history, put the Bridge to Nowhere on your list. This epic 10 mile out-and-back follows (and crosses) the East Fork of the San Gabriel River deep into the mountains, where engineers tried to cut a road in the 1930s. The great flood of ’38 washed most of the road away, except for a 120-foot concrete arch bridge that still stands. This flat hike is great in the summer and will wipe you out – and is definitely worth fighting the crowds at the trailhead.

ECHO MOUNTAIN

Echo Mountain
After the Civil War, the nation’s first military aeronaut retired to Southern California and built a sprawling resort and observatory complex in the San Gabriel Mountains. You could take the old Red Car train from downtown L.A. right to the hotels via a winding railway or an exciting funicular. Time and fire have claimed most of the buildings, but many ruins of the resort are still waiting for you just north of Altadena.

MOUNT BADEN-POWELL

Mount Baden-Powell
This prominent and popular peak is a bit of a drive down the long and winding Angeles Crest Highway, but the trip to Mount Baden-Powell is worth it. This beautifully designed trail switchbacks its way up to the 9,407-foot high summit named in honor of the founder of the Scouting movement. Along the way you’ll get incredible views of the Antelope Valley, hike past 1500 year-old limber pines (and probably some snow), and end up on a summit with nearly 360 degree views of the landscape. This trail is a short spur off the Pacific Crest Trail, too, so if you’re lucky you might even run into a Thru-Hiker!

CITY PARKS

These city, county, and state parks are good for getting your hiking fix when you don’t want to spend a full day out on the trail. Just because they’re close by doesn’t mean they’re not worth hiking!

 

RUNYON CANYON

 

Runyon Canyon
While a lot of hikers who enjoy the solitude of longer trails in the wilderness will turn their nose up at Runyon (and I used to, too), this is one of the most popular and most accessible hikes in L.A. – and for good reason. There’s a gently graded paved path for beginners, a rare off-leash dog area for our canine friends, free yoga near the Fuller Avenue entrance, and a surprisingly rugged outer loop that will definitely give you a good workout. Yes, there are celebrities hiking the trail – and people who are desperately trying to be celebrities – but don’t let that stop you from hiking this trail – it’s a great place to watch the sun set!

 

CAHUENGA PEAK AND THE WISDOM TREE

 

Cahuenga Peak
There are many ways to hike to the back of the Hollywood Sign in Griffith Park, but only one that feels like an actual wilderness adventure. The recently-added trail to Cahuenga Peak passes the beloved Wisdom Tree (the only tree in the area to survive an early 2007 fire), hops along a ridge on some gorgeous single-track, and then finally joins with the more tourist-friendly paved route on the back of Mount Lee. If you want to hike to the Hollywood Sign and still have a bit of solitude, this is the hike for you.

 

BEAUDRY FIRE ROAD to the VERDUGOS

 

Verdugo Mountains
North of Glendale and east of Burbank lie the Verdugo Mountains, a rugged little island of nature inside a sea of urban sprawl. These peaks are lined with old fire roads and ridge trails and are a popular yet uncrowded destination for hikers and mountain bikers alike. On clear days, you’ll have commanding views of the L.A. Basin and you won’t have to drive very far to get there.

 

ERNEST E. DEBS REGIONAL PARK

 

Ernest E Debs
This lovely park next to the Arroyo Seco is a great, dog-friendly gem with a variety of terrain and great views. The top-notch Audubon Center near the park’s western entrance hosts family friendly events, is staffed by friendly and knowledgeable volunteers, and will even let you take out a pair of binoculars for some of the park’s excellent bird-watching. And it’s just a short walk from a Gold Line stop!

 

KENNETH HAHN COMMUNITY LOOP TRAIL

 

Kenneth Hahn Recreation Area
Chances are you’ve driven through this park on the way to LAX, noticed the oil rigs and just kept driving. But if you stop to explore you’ll find a hidden gem – one of the largest open spaces in Los Angeles. Featuring strands of dense wood, huge open meadows, and some fascinating L.A. history, this park is also a destination for photographers on those gorgeous, clear L.A. days. With views stretching from the Pacific Ocean past Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles with the San Gabriel Mountains in the background, it’s not hard to see why.

69 Comments

  • Olivia says:

    Thanks so much for the great hiking trail ideas, Casey! Being from the Colorado Rocky Mountains, it’s hard to find hikes in Southern California that feel like home. I’m hoping you can give me advice about the best trails in SoCal, ideally near LA, that have abundant pine trees and beautiful mountain views. Mount Baldy and Mount Baden-Powell look promising!

    Thanks so much,
    Olivia

  • New to Los Angeles, recently just moved here. What hike should I try first to get my feet wet?

  • Ateeq Rehman says:

    Hi Man, I really miss your blog, well i was there in LA this summer. I worked there as an International Staff member of Boy Scouts at Lake Arrowhead Camp. I am passionate about Hiking. when i was there in San Fransisco I have done hawk hill Hike from Downtown SF. I have Best Hiker title from Pakistan Boy Scouts in 2013. I have already done around 21,000 foot above see level in Lower Himalayas Mountains, Pakistan. If I saw your blog before coming back to Pakistan i am sure i was there. I wish to come back, see you and done Mount Baden-Powell and other hikes in LA including Malibu.

    Greetings from Pakistan …Land of Beauty….

    Ateeq Rehman

  • Carl says:

    Hello Casey! I am a Los Angeles native and I love hiking and the outdoors. Great blog. I did Angel point today. Thanks for the tips. This was my first time doing it and it was a great, new hike. Looking forward to discovering more hikes in and around L.A. And yes, you are right, L.A. is a great place to hike.

  • Wil says:

    I am in the process of researching hikes in California – certainly JMT is on the list as well as a future trip through PCT, but had no idea about Devils Chair – thanks for the awesome list of best hike resources! Certainly have quite a bit more research to get through. Thanks again for serving up quality info!

  • Thomas Keefer says:

    I’ve lived in LA all my 50 years, and was clueless to the wonders within eyesight.
    Thank you for these hikes. Your site helped me train for the John muir trail I did with my son last year.
    -Tom Keefer

  • Joseph says:

    Whats up Casey? Im a Los Angeles native and the best hike so far has to be Joshua Tree! But what if you live near Downtown and want go on a secluded hike, any spots you know of that aren’t crowded?

  • I’ve never known LA to be a spot for hiking and I’ve been a few times. Where would you recommend for beginners?

    • If you click through to the hiking map, you’ll see all the hikes listed with a range of difficulty and geographic locations. That should help you find an easy trail close to wherever you’re staying.

  • TrailHaven says:

    “Los Angeles is not a city known for its hiking — but it should be.”
    Couldn’t agree more, that is an awesome Quote!!

  • Mike says:

    Casey, you should update this list. I feel like youve had the same “best of” for years. I say this because i’m a devoted reader and refer to your site often – keep up the great work!

  • Carolyn Homer says:

    Can anyone tell me if there is any desert hiking closer to LA than the Palm Springs area?

    • Modern Hiker says:

      Carolyn, depends on what you’re looking for. There are fun arid hikes in the Antelope Valley that aren’t QUITE as sandy as Joshua Tree but may whet your appetite. Devil’s Punchbowl comes to mind off the top of my head …

  • Andy says:

    Hey man, love this blog! I’ve used it as a guide a few times and keep coming back. Hiked Baldy a few weekends ago solo and loved it. I’d love to meet up and tackle a trail sometime!

  • Gerry Matthews says:

    My wife and I just hiked the Mishe Mokwa trail and had a lovely time. Great views, ample shade, wonderful bird watching. Will definitely add this into the rotation.
    Thanks for the recommendations and the great website!
    Gerry

  • Matt says:

    Here’s LosAngeles.com’s list of Top 5 hikes, some overlap but good info: http://www.losangeles.com/articles/five-awesome-hiking-trails-in-los-angeles.html

  • mjessica says:

    I wish you listed whether or not dogs are allowed on the trails listed on your site.

    • Modern Hiker says:

      Mjessica, some of the write ups do have this info. The rules do change and vary from place to place, but in general dogs are allowed in Federal lands like the Angeles National Forest but are more restricted in the state and city parks.

  • amandamaebird says:

    I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to find this blog! Love all the tips, thank you! My husband and I have been writing about camping in Southern California: papasponcho.blogspot.com

  • Josh says:

    This really is a great post, I have been on a lot of these but want to go on the rest of them. Thank you for providing this list, I am especially excited about going on the Tri Peaks hike as it looks beautiful.

  • Sally says:

    Thanks! Your blog got me outside for the first time since moving to LA. It was a huge help!

  • Lauren says:

    Love your site! Moved from CO to LA recently, was missing the Rockies, and am THRILLED to have a reference guide as in depth as this site. Thanks so much for all the time and effort you put into this! Cheers!

  • Dani says:

    Wish you had posted these when I lived in L.A. I spent hours hiking Temescal Canyon, Runyon Canyon, trails up by the Hollywood sign and down by the ocean. L.A. is where I learned to love hiking and reconnect with nature.

  • Jodi Crater says:

    Can you post hiking around Castaic area? I know there are some routes around the lake area and above. I would feel better if I had something plotted out the way you already have on here… plus I would be hauling along a husband and two kids! Thanks!

  • Dustin Webber says:

    Here is a video of someone actually running up Chumash trail! I have been to chumash and I have never seen someone actually running the whole way up. He’s a nut!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmQUWRXHzQ4

  • sammy says:

    i really like this website, i just found out about it today. I just came back from hiking the bridge to nowhere and i loved it because of the river crossings. i want my next hike to be one where i can find a great place to swim and give my legs a challenge. any suggestions? (already hiked the santa anita canyons as well)

  • Kirstie Paul says:

    You’re blog was so helpful! I am trying to find a trail for my boyfriend and I to hike. It was hard to find one and see what the terrain was like, until I found your blog. It was extremely helpful!

  • Michael says:

    Hi,

    I am flying from Melbourne, Oz to Houston, TX via LA. Rather than flying straight on to Houston and staying there for the weekend, I thought why not stay in the LA area for a nice walk (I know Houston pretty well, but the area around LA not at all). Can anyone suggest a nice 2 day track, perhaps with a hotel. Having just rolled off a plane, I have no appetitie for a huge drive, so … somewhere near-ish to LA please.

    I appreciate your feedback!

    Thanks – Michael

  • Brad Mills says:

    I look at this website a lot. It really has the best overview anywhere of hikes in the LA area. I moved here about a year ago and this site has helped me explore and come to appreciate so much of the local natural areas. Thanks a million!

  • Someone says:

    This website is great. Thanks for all the wonderful hikes I had.

  • Hello:

    View Councilmember Tom LaBonge’s pitch for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s Hike for the Homeless on April 2 in Griffith Park. The video can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/user/svdpla?feature=mhum.

    Thank you,

  • John Lorenz says:

    What are the best hikes for seeing wildlife?

  • Raphael says:

    You’ve got to update this with Mt. Baden-Powell!

  • Scott says:

    Great site! I used to love hiking in Runyon and Malibu. Can imagine Pasadena would be nice. LA is a great hiking city!

    Scott

  • lauren says:

    As cheesy as it may sound, thanks to your blog, I no longer lead a sedentary lifestyle. I discovered this site months ago and you made hiking the hollywood sign trail so appealing I jumped on it the next weekend. It was a bit of a struggle as I am, well, beyond out-of-shape…but it was so invigorating that I eventually went back and did it again and again. I honestly wouldnt have thought about hiking up to the sign had it not been outlined on this site.
    That first hike jump started my body back from the murky depths of years of inactivity. I now walk at least 3-4 miles a day 4 times a week and am getting my body ready for a new year of more challenging hikes. Keep up the great work and know that you made a difference in somebody’s life.
    …again, more cheese but really, you are!

  • ibex says:

    Started hiking in June and logged in over 160 miles along the San Gorgonio Wilderness trails, including on Nov 19th, a solo, 12 hour hike to the summit and back via South Fork. The next day, a storm blew in and dropped snow which could possibly make me the last one on the summit this year… In May, I’ll be volunteering my time to the SGWA. God! how I love to be in the woods!

  • For those of you who are looking to find other hikers, cyclists, etc. in your area, please consider posting your next activity at http://www.trailcalendar.com.

    This is a free community resource I’m building but it’s difficult to establish critical mass, where enough people use that everyone else will want to use it.

  • Angela says:

    This is the BEST BLOG! A MILLION KUDOS TO YOU. Thanks so much for sharing! Sometime next spring, I’ll check out Mt. Baldy’s waterfall. And soon…a friend and I will hike to Bridge to Nowhere and BUNGEE JUMP! :)

  • Brian says:

    I loved your blog. Keep up the good work.

  • Phuoc says:

    Great blog dude! I’m from Australia and my cousins showed me this link because I wanted to do some bushwalking around LA. Appreciate the effort and work that goes into this blog (I know how hard it can be). Keep it up! :)

  • jami says:

    Your blog is fantastic! I just stumbled across it when looking at another site. Your reviews are excellent and the layout of the pages makes it easy to navigate. Thank you!

  • titansoldier2007 says:

    you need to add rubio canyon in altadena. a pretty easy hike, u just need to go over and under water pipes, that prevent the canyon from sliding anymore

  • Albina - Abruzzo Walking says:

    Great blog, I wish I had something similar going on in my country.

    Keep up the good work…. and come visit,
    Albina

  • Modern Hiker says:

    McD, depending on where you are and how much time there is between rain, Sandstone might be perfect! I’d also suggest the Sam Merrill Trail to Echo Mountain, or even Runyon Canyon if the cloud level is low enough.

  • McD says:

    Any advice on a hike that takes advantage of the clear views after the rain? 3-5 miles since I’m with a toddler.

    We’ve completed a bunch of hikes from your “best of list” and they’ve been great so far. We haven’t made it to Sandstone Peak yet but that’s on our list.

  • silkworm says:

    holy crap! your blog is fantastic! thank you so much for sharing a wealth of knowledge on local trails!

  • Steve says:

    Hi,

    Great blog, My wife and I are coming over on vacation from Ireland and we were hoping someone could recommend a nice hiking/national park location near LA/SanDiego to spend a few days at… ?

    Thank you for any help!!
    Steve.

  • Ed Morgan says:

    Iam trying to find out information about the Silver Mocassin trail and if the Silver Mocassin hike still exists for Boy Scouts. I took this trip some 50 years ago. As I remember it lasted 7 days, starting in Barton Flats up over Mt. Baden Powell and down to ( I think , Jackson Lake). It was a great adventure but nobody seems to know if it still exists.

    Any comments are welcome

    Thanks,

    Ed Morgan

    • Modern Hiker says:

      Ed, the Silver Moccasin Trail is, indeed, still there – and still heavily traveled by Scouts and non-Scouts alike.

      Sadly, many portions of the Trail were most likely damaged in the Station Fire. It remains to be see what condition the trails are in, but at least the sections near Baden-Powell should be alright.

  • mattatouille says:

    great blog! i just found it via LAist. I just came back from a grueling 14 hour hike up to Half-Dome in Yosemite and since then I’m hooked on hiking! I hope to use your site often :)

  • eileen culligan says:

    Where can you leave a car on Yerba Buena, to do a shuttle hike from Etz Malloy Trail, coming up from Back Bone off Mulholland? Anybody? Anybody? Thanks, Eileen

  • Dan W says:

    Awesome blog!

  • Mel says:

    I love your blog! A friend sent it to me, I can’t wait to try out the Solstice Canyon trail, so magical.

  • Michelle says:

    Hello,

    I just wanted to say what an amazing blog you have – I enjoy reading and learning about all there is to do in our backyard! Thank you so much for your time and effort.

    Sincerely,
    Michelle

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