UPDATED JUL 14, 2020
Have we hiked to the top of Runyon Canyon just for the Insta photo op? You betcha. But there’s more than this fitfluencer fave to explore. Here are the best hiking trails to hit up in LA.
Nestled in Topanga State Park, Eagle Rock provides hikers with soaring views from a seven-mile, out-and-back trail. From Trippet Ranch, you can easily follow signs and well-kept paths to a boulder outcrop that juts out over the nearby terrain, resembling an eagle’s head. On clear days, you can enjoy beautiful 360° views of the Pacific, the Santa Monica Mountains, and the San Fernando Valley. Pro tip: Save $10 by parking on Entrada Rd. before entering the park.
This hike through the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is probably the most interesting on this list. Park on Casale Rd., follow Sullivan Fire Rd., and connect to the Backbone Trail for a four-mile out-and-back loop. Along the way, you'll encounter ruins of the Hartford Artists’ Colony and remnants of several other bizarre structures where artists and writers (some Pulitzer Prize winners) lived in the 1950s and ’60s. The hike also includes a climb up one of the longest flights of stairs in LA and spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Monica Mountains.
Away from the city but close to the beach, Solstice Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area offers a bit of everything (expect crowds). You'll find the oldest stone building in Malibu, a burned-down mansion, and a waterfall. Coast down and back the Solstice Canyon Trail for an easy three-mile, out-and-back stroll, or connect with the Rising Sun Trail for a six-mile trek. Heads up: Most trails are still open, but check before you go as some are still closed due to damage from fires.
At Will Rogers State Historic Park, you'll find a wealth of hiking trails that come with a side of history. If you ask us, $12 for parking is a small price to pay to visit Will Rogers’s (a vaudeville and Hollywood star) 31-room ranch. Watch a game of polo on a massive, grassy field before ascending Inspiration Loop Trail, a two-mile, out-and-back path that features beautiful views of Los Angeles. And thanks to a handful of overgrown trees, you'll be treated with an occasional patch of shade on your way to the top.
The 11-mile Bridge to Nowhere hike in the San Gabriel Mountains is an unparalleled experience. Start at East Fork Rd. and follow the Bridge to Nowhere signs — expect to cross multiple rivers, hike over rough terrain, and jump between pockets of shade and direct sunlight. Eventually, you’ll end up at the epic, 120-foot cement bridge that leads to—you guessed it—nowhere! To avoid a fine, make sure to buy a Wilderness Permit upon entering.
A phenomenal yet overlooked hike in the Santa Monica Mountains of Malibu, Tuna Canyon Park offers spectacular views from high above the Pacific Ocean. Once you arrive, park on Hearst Tank Mountway to access the Tuna Canyon Park Trailhead. From there, head toward the Big Rock Lateral (roughly three miles round-trip) or Hearst Tank Motorway (1.5-mile round-trip) viewpoints — we’d recommend doing both. At Hearst Tank, you'll walk through a complicated rock maze and enjoy the ocean breeze as well as unmatched views of the Santa Monica Bay and DTLA. At Big Rock, you'll take in stunning vistas of the Malibu Coast along with deep canyons and tall peaks of the Santa Monica Mountains.
History buffs — this one's for you. Take Echo Mountain Trail for a six-mile out-and-back switchback that plants you at the ruins of The Echo Mountain House and Chalet, where plaques and photos depict the remnants of this 19th-century mountaintop resort. For those feeling inspired, take Castle Canyon Trail up from this spot to reach Inspiration Point (for an impressive 10.5-mile total round-trip hike). Once you reach the summit, use the stationary "finding tubes" to pinpoint different sites within the Greater LA area, from city sites to landmarks to Catalina Island on clear days.
Crossing off two famous LA landmarks from your bucket list with one hike? Yes, please! Park in the spillover lot near Canyon Dr. just north of Franklin, then backtrack until you hit a dirt road. On this brief section of the hike, you'll come face to face with the original Batcave (the Bronson Caves) from the 1960s Batman TV series. With one item checked off, turn back and head north from where you parked to get perhaps the best (legal) view of the Hollywood Sign once you summit Mount Lee. This dog-friendly route has minimal shade and gets hot (and crowded), so be sure to bring water and sunscreen.
Chances are you have a friend of a friend in LA that loves to bring up their story of spotting a celebrity while hiking at Runyon Canyon. And, it’s 100% plausible! Rubbing elbows with big names at this popular three-mile loop in Hollywood, as well as seeing a crazy amount of dogs, is practically guaranteed. We suggest heading on this hike during a weekday. Thanks to the awesome views of The Hollywood Sign, DTLA, and the ocean from a handful of vantage points, this relatively easy and hilly trek gets super busy on the weekends.
A well-known destination along the Temescal Canyon Trail, Skull Rock in Topanga State Park gets its name from an uncanny resemblance to a human skull. Head over for a four-and-a-half-mile, out-and-back trip with stellar views of the ocean and the inland on clear days. Parking is plentiful, but word to the wise: avoid pulling a California Stop when you enter or exit the park — there's a stop sign camera.
Pack up and hike Cahuenga Peak in Griffith Park to reach LA’s Wisdom Tree. A difficult three-mile roundtrip hike along the Aileen Getty Ridge Trail will lead you to the only tree on Cahuenga Peak that survived the 2007 Hollywood Hills fires. But once you tackle this short yet challenging hike you'll be treated to a literal “behind the scenes” look of The Hollywood Sign. Add your personal touch to the Wisdom Tree overlook by signing a book that’s in a nearby geocache, and soak in beautiful vistas of Griffith Park, DTLA, and the Griffith Observatory before heading back down the way you came.
To traverse this easy four-mile, out-and-back trail in the San Gabriel Mountains of the Angeles National Forest, begin at Eaton Canyon Creek and hop over to Eaton Canyon Trail, where you maneuver your way over multiple streams en route to your destination: a 40-foot waterfall! Along the way, you’ll come across wildflowers and a handful of shady spots. And once you get to the waterfall, treat yourself to a refreshing dip at the base.
Escondido Falls in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is the tallest waterfall around at 150 feet. To get there, park on PCH or at the small lot near the Winding Way Trailhead in Malibu, and wind your way down the dirt path that parallels the paved road. At the offset of this 3.8-mile, out-and-back trip, you'll pass million-dollar Malibu mansions before hitting mountainous trails with grand views and occasional pockets of shade. You’ll ultimately reach the multi-tiered Escondido Falls, where you can either chill at the Lower Falls or hike a bit farther to reach the Upper Falls.
Editor's note: COVID-19 may have affected the operations of these areas, check with the parks service before heading out.
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