We all enjoy great wilderness treks. They’re a chance to leave our civilized lives behind, complete with email inboxes, status notifications, and location check-ins. But every once in a while, we may want to stay a bit closer to the city. Maybe you’ve got a brunch to hit up or friends to visit, or maybe you’re just itching for an incredible shot of downtown to add to your travelogue.
I teamed up with Expedia.com to share some trails you can hike that’ll not only provide some great outdoor time, but also solid opportunities for L.A. cityscape photos along the way.
The Kenneth Hahn Community Loop Trail
Sitting atop an abandoned, ill-fated reservoir (and alongside some historic and still active oil fields), Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area is probably best known as that thing people drive through on the way to LAX. But although most people pass by this area without ever even knowing it’s a park, those who know its 401 acres truly treasure it.
Situated above the Baldwin Hills, this park offers some incredible views of downtown Los Angeles as well as the Santa Monica and San Gabriel Mountains, especially on clear winter and spring days. If you’ve ever seen a photo of the L.A. skyline hemmed in by snow-covered peaks, odds are it was taken right here. The 2.6 mile Community Loop Trail hits all the park’s highlights, is dog-friendly, and you can even reach the trailhead via a 25 cent shuttle from a nearby Expo Line rail station.
Vista Hermosa Natural Park
Although L.A. has a well-deserved reputation as a park-poor city, it is getting better slowly but surely – and Vista Hermosa Natural Park is a prime example. Once slated for development as an educational complex, the land’s former use as an oil field and some newly discovered fault lines quickly put the kibosh on those plans. Instead, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority stepped in to purchase the land and held extensive community meetings to ensure the local neighborhood got a park that it wanted and would use.
The result is an incredible slice of SoCal nature in the midst of one of its most dense neighborhoods. Although you won’t put a ton of mileage on your boots in this 10.5 acre park, the landscaping is beautiful and full of California native plants, giving you the experience of hiking through the Santa Monica or San Gabriel Mountains without requiring a car or a long drive to get there. The park is full of green and family-friendly features, and it also has a park bench with what may be the best skyline view in the entire city of Los Angeles.
Angel’s Point in Elysian Park
For some people, Los Angeles is Dodger Stadium and vice versa. But few Dodgers fans realize their stadium was wedged into the city’s oldest park, and it’s still surrounded by a series of hiking trails that is rarely used except by locals.
A 2.8 mile loop route connects several trails, offering up some exemplary views of Glendale and Burbank to the north (not to mention the Verdugo and San Gabriel Mountains) before turning south and showing off picture-perfect vistas of downtown Los Angeles – and the best views of Dodger Stadium you can get without paying for a ticket.
Ernest E Debs Regional Park
Right next to the Arroyo Seco (and the historic Arroyo Seco Parkway AND a Metro Gold Line stop) is Ernest E. Debs Regional Park, 300 acres of rolling former ranch land that is now a haven for hikers, trail runners, and bird-watchers of all ages. A beautiful Audubon Center inside the park offers free bird-watching kits and tons of programs in English and Spanish, and is the very first carbon-neutral building constructed in the United States.
A network of fire roads and single track trails provide options of all difficulty levels, and near the high point in the park you’ll have the unique experience of gazing at the L.A. skyline through dense tree cover while standing next to a small pond stocked with fish.
If you’re spending any time at all in Los Angeles, eventually you’re going to want to see the Hollywood Sign. It’s OK – don’t fight it – but don’t hop on one of those overpriced van tours or fight crowds at the Griffith Observatory, either. Instead, lace up your boots and head to the western edge of Griffith Park, where the relatively new Eileen Getty Ridge Trail climbs up the rugged terrain to one of the city’s most famous arboreal residents – the Wisdom Tree.
Follow the tradition and leave a little thought or prayer at the tree, then hike along an epic ridgeline with stunning views of the L.A. basin and San Gabriel Valley. The trail ends right behind the famous Hollywood Sign but avoids most of the crowds who use the gentler approach from Griffith Park’s fire roads.