If you’re new to hiking in L.A. it can seem like a daunting experience – but as Lao-tzu said, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” These 5 trails relatively close to the city will give you a taste of what it’s like to hike here in Southern California without overwhelming you – and can probably get you back to your car in time for weekend brunch.

FRANKLIN CANYON

Franklin Canyon Hastain Loop

Nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains just above Beverly Hills, Franklin Canyon is a beautiful and surprisingly uncrowded park with several hiking options. In the northern end of the park, a short, mostly flat walk around the Reservoir is a nice way to get outside and feel far away from the city, while the more adventurous ridge-climbing Hastain Loop in the southern part of the park will help you work up a sweat and get you some great views of the city on clear days.

FRYMAN CANYON

Fryman Canyon

On the other side of the Hollywood Hills lies Fryman Canyon and the Betty B. Dearing Trail, which winds its way behind the houses of Studio City and through some lovely green space. This popular trail is approachable for most beginner hikers and has paved paths and dirt single-tracks, while usually being less crowded and scene-y than nearby Runyon Canyon. The more adventurous types can access one of the many spur trails along the route, and the knowledge-seekers can spend some time at the TreePeople’s Coldwater Canyon headquarters.

 

EAGLE ROCK AND TEMESCAL PEAK

Temescal Peak

Once you’re ready to spend a little longer on the trail, Topanga State Park is a great place to explore. This 7.4 mile route to Eagle Rock and Temescal Peak on wide, level fire roads is a relatively easy trek that offers a nice introduction to the more rugged landscape in the Santa Monica Mountains. The park’s network of trails is robust and you can make this hike as long or as short as you’re feeling.

MOUNT HOLLYWOOD

Mount HollywoodNo, not to the Hollywood Sign (although we’ve got two ways you can get to that, too!), but to Mount Hollywood – a just-under 4 mile trip to a broad peak just above Griffith Observatory. This route is slightly less crowded trail than the more popular routes to the Sign and also serves as a wonderful introduction to all the great trails you can find in Griffith Park.

SWITZER FALLS

Bear Canyon and Switzer Falls

Once you’ve stabilized your boots on paved city park paths and Santa Monica Mountains fire roads, it’s time to head into the San Gabriel Mountains. Just the drive into the Angeles National Forest for the Switzer Falls trail will feel like an adventure … and once you start on the 3 mile roundtrip trek to the Falls itself, you’ll fall in love with hiking. This route passes through the historic ruins of a resort camp before climbing to the ridge of Bear Canyon – then dropping to its floor. The scenery is dramatic, the canyon is shaded, and the waterfall is a great place to cool off during the warm months.

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Modern Hiker, Author of "Day Hiking Los Angeles," Walking Meditator, Native Plant Enthusiast.

2 Comments

Calendula

Calendula Apr 16, 2017 21:04

Raymond Carroll: From Orange County to Malibu, from Downtown to Ventura, there are lots of wonderful hiking areas....cone back! Old indian trails, deserted gold mines, waterfalls, and spectacular views. Take your pick!

Yes, I saw a fella at a reunion/reception who had horrible scars and limited use of his right hand. His story was full of young man bravado and a "hold my beer" moment, showing his buddies how to hold a snake, (yeah, right) resulting in a direct strike in the skin between his thumb and pointer finger. His buddies got him down the mountain and to the nearest emergency room, and this was the best they could do.

But typically, if you don't mess with them, they won't mess with you.

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Raymond Carroll Jan 27, 2017 23:01

Nice post. I worked (in Egypt) with a Californian from Anaheim back in the early 90's. He was hiking in the San Gabriel Mountains and got bitten by a rattle-snake when he stumbled and fell into a bush where the snake was sheltering from the mid-morning sun. He managed to get off the mountain and flagged down a car that took him to hospital. His arm blew up really big and the doctors made 3 big cuts in his forearm to try and subdue the swelling. The scars he showed me from that incident were huge. I'm a keen hiker but I live in Scotland - no rattle-snakes here. I've trekked the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal, and I've spent a lot of time in Southern California but never did any hiking there. After reading your post, I wish I had!

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