At the start of each year, some things are pretty reliable in the Los Angeles area. The holiday traffic decrease ends as everyone comes back to town. You tell yourself you’re going to wake up early to go to the Tournament of Roses parade but you end up sleeping in. And fitness resolutions. January is the time of year that gyms of all types swell with folks looking to make the most of that new year’s motivation to start a fitness routine … but why spend money at a gym when you can spend time on a solid trail instead? Here are some of the best fitness hikes in Los Angeles for your new year’s resolutions:
Best Fitness Hikes in Los Angeles for New Year’s:
Usually when people ask me about the toughest hikes in the Los Angeles area, they’re surprised when I mention modest Wildwood Park in Burbank. Located at the base of the Verdugo Mountains, this easily accessible park and its low-elevation peaks are often overlooked by hikers who are focused on superlatives — but this is a true leg-buster. With a relentless elevation gain and tons of switchbacks, this is a terrific Los Angeles fitness hike that won’t require you to drive too far to get going — and although it’s lack of shade can be brutal in the warmer months, in the winter and spring it’s perfect!
The town of Sierra Madre has a rich history with recreation in the San Gabriel Mountains (the mountains even used to be known as the Sierra Madre!). Today, those traditions continue in Sierra Madre with one of the best fitness hikes in the Los Angeles region – Jones Peak. This 6.4 mile round-trip takes you more than 2200 feet up into the front range of the San Gabriel Mountains on a trail that’s flush with sages and sagebrush. After a good winter rain, you’ll have stunning views and a chance at catching a view of an ephemeral waterfall, too — just don’t hike in that canyon when it’s actually raining because there’s a very real danger of flash flooding.
Fitness-minded hikers have always turned to the Hogback Trail in Griffith Park when they’re looking for a good challenge. There’s a good reason for that — the Hogback Trail is pretty tough! Although not the most steep in Griffith Park, the Hogback Trail does have some surprisingly challenging inclines. It’s also broad enough for trail runners, connects with many other popular routes in the park, and has some stunning views of the Los Angeles region, too.
The trail to Nicholas Flat from Leo Carrillo State Beach is a doozy. You’ll climb almost 1700 feet up from the Pacific coast and into the Santa Monica Mountains in full view of the ocean. Once you get into the mountains, the views don’t stop, either. You’ll see wide open meadows, the rugged spine of Boney Mountain and Sandstone Peak, and stumble onto a beautiful picnic area next to an ephemeral pond. I remember this hike being one of the toughest I had to do for my first book, Day Hiking Los Angeles — but I also remember it being one of the most beautiful.
The trail network at Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park is an unsung gem of the West Valley. Located at the edge of Chatsworth, this beautiful park features fun, rocky terrain with beautiful views of the Los Angeles basin and San Fernando Valley on tough, steep trails. Rail buffs will enjoy watching trains travel through the longest railroad tunnel in Southern California here, while murder-mystery and film buffs can — is enjoy the right word? — enjoy being near the site of the famed Spahn Ranch movie ranch (later home to the Manson Family, which you can see dramatized in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood). And if you’re into California history, keen-eyed hikers will be able to spot wagon ruts in the rocks at the site of the primary overland route between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Whether or not your new year’s resolution is to get outside, these great fitness hikes in Los Angeles are terrific trails to enjoy this time of year.