There’s nothing better than being in L.A. and not feeling like you’re in L.A. That’s the feeling I get when I escape to one of L.A.’s local hiking trails. Some of these trails are so lovely and lush, rugged and rustic, you could easily believe you’re in Northern California, Colorado, or somewhere else a million miles away. In the middle of L.A.’s traffic and tumult, it transports you. And that’s what I love about trails—they really do make you happy!
I use these parks and trails for exercise, for social time with friends, for activities with out-of-towners, for romantic outings (when I was single, hiking always made a good first date), for meditative time, and for the spiritual benefits I get from communing with nature.
Even as a native, I use hiking trails as a way to discover new things about my city. It’s not all a vast wasteland of cars and cement (although parts of the San Fernando Valley are). But thankfully, there are even trails in the Valley! Just check out TreePeople if you don’t believe me. It’s a hidden little gem with panoramic views of the San Fernando Valley and Coldwater Canyon Park, with trails for hiking, biking, power walking, and pushing strollers even.
Just make sure you go on a relatively clear day or else the Valley smog will completely depress you.
L.A.’s trails come in all shapes, sizes and levels of difficulty. Some are moderate enough for an easy stroll, steep enough for an intense mountain trek, long enough for a great scenic run, quiet enough for some peaceful contemplation, and popular enough to make friends and quite possibly even spot a celebrity. Hi Patti Davis!
My most favorite thing to do is make my way up to “Inspiration Point” (the highest peak or turnaround point on a trail) plop myself down under a tree, close my eyes and get centered. Sometimes I’ll go off-roading a bit to find a less traveled path to explore.
You can find all kinds of hiking/picnic/recreation spots at Discovery LA. They span all of Southern California—from San Gabriel to Santa Monica—so finding one that’s just your speed is easy. Just make sure you wear comfortable shoes and a hat, bring sunscreen and water, and if you hike with your dog, please make sure you keep it on a leash. I can tell you from personal experience that there’s nothing worse than turning a corner on a trail and coming face-to-face with a ferocious miniature dachshund: it might lick you to death before it bites you, but still, it can be really frightening, especially if you’re a solo hiker/runner.
I’m reluctant to reveal my favorite spots because I like to keep them a secret, but I’m a sharing person, so here goes:
Resting on 605 acres just north of Beverly Hills, Franklin Canyon has something for everyone: a nature preserve, a recreation center, fire roads, picnic areas, a three-acre lake, a duck pond, educational programs, and five miles of hiking and running trails that range from strolling to strenuous.
There’s some cool history to Franklin Canyon Park, so check out LA Mountains for the story and directions.
PASEO MIRAMAR, PACIFIC PALISADES
This is one of the best—and most challenging—hiking trails in West L.A. Ridgelines along the Pacific give you incredible views (and an incredible workout) from downtown L.A. to Malibu, and a nice shot at Catalina on a clear day. This is where Patti Davis hikes, by the way.
A five-mile round trip that winds uphill most of the way, Paseo Miramar is not for the faint of heart. It’s 1,200 ft. elevation ascent eventually leads you to the viewing stand of Parker Mesa Overlook, where you can catch your breath, marvel at the beauty, and thank God you’re alive.
TEMESCAL CANYON LOOP
Temescal Canyon loop offers a good workout along with ocean and canyon views. Situated just off Sunset Boulevard in Pacific Palisades, this 2.6-mile, 1,000 ft.-elevation hike is perfect for all types: you can run, pack a picnic, or sit under a tree and chant your mantras.
And speaking of trees, if you like a shady hike, then Temescal is for you. You’re practically under a canopy of trees the entire time. There’s also a creek and a waterfall, but we’re in a drought, so you’ll have to use your imagination when you get there.
For more information, park guides, and directions to Temescal Canyon, go here.
Until next time L.A. Progressives, happy trails to you!
Treva Brandon Scharf