I got an email from a recent L.A. transplant the other day, who’d just moved here after living in Glacier National Park for six months. Lucky guy that he is, he managed to find himself a Gal Friday who isn’t the stereotypical SoCal airhead. But, there’s one problem — he can’t seem to get her to go hiking with him:
“It’s as if there is some deep-seeded fear of being away from the city.
I have gone hiking in the Santa Monica mountains, specifically the circle X ranch loop. I figured this hike would be perfect for a beginner, but even that won’t convince her. So I am wondering if you have run into this problem before, and if so, what to do about it?”
Some of the best things about being a hiker in L.A. are the sheer amount and broad range of hiking that’s available to you. Do you want to kill 30 minutes on a quick morning pick-me-up? Can do. Do you want to spend 3 days trekking through a mountain wilderness? We got that, too. First up, you’ve got to do a little pre-production. Here are some hints for picking out a good first trail:
– The number one, best way to get someone hooked on hiking is to give them a great “wow factor” on their first hike. No matter where you go, make sure it’s somewhere with an incredible vista, a secluded waterfall, or something else that they’ve probably never seen before.
– Gauge your partner’s fitness and make sure the trail you’re going on isn’t too tough. Nothing kills the mood or fuels car-ride-home fights faster than a difficult trail. For a first-timer, try to pick a gently sloping ascent instead of that switchback monster you’ve been dying to power up.
– Make sure you’re the one taking the weight. If your partner’s new to hiking, they’re probably not going to have all the proper gear. If you’ve picked an easy trail, they should be able to do it in a good pair of sneakers, but they still probably won’t have anything like your awesome CamelBak, year’s supply of Clif bars, or trekking poles. Offer to carry as much as you can — extra food, water, sunscreen, a bottle of wine, etc. so they can just enjoy hiking. If your date is spending all their time complaining about the 15 pounds you made them carry, chances are they’re not going to ask you to take them back on the trail anytime soon.
– Make a day of it. That can mean a tough trek followed by a rewarding dinner at a local restaurant or a leisurely stroll to a nice picnic spot, but with either route, it’s a nice way to extend the day and increase the mutual relaxation.
… and now that you’re in the right mindset, here’s a short list of recommended trails for greenhorn hiking / dating companions:
- If there’s anything even remotely crunchy about your companion, you’re going to want to check out some of the trails at Topanga Canyon State Park. The fire roads are broad and smooth, the trail system is complex enough to create your own loops and find your own secluded areas for gazing out at the Pacific, and there are actual picnic tables if your significant other is adverse to sitting down on the ground to eat. If the Eagle Rock / Temescal Peak route is too ambitious, just head to the Rock and back or try the slightly shorter Parker Mesa Overlook route, or just chill out in one of the meadows. Pack a picnic, or stop at Topanga Village for some homemade enchiladas at Abuelitas on the way out.
Although it’s closed until June 20th, Solstice Canyon has more shade than Topanga, and it also has a great babbling brook and the ruins of a burned down mansion. Skip the extended loop route I did and just stick to the fire road at the bottom of the canyon. It’ll eliminate almost all of the elevation gain and cut off a bit of the distance on the round trip. Explore the mansion’s ruins, take in a quiet moment at the statuary and dunk your feet in the water by a small falls.
People think I hate Runyon Canyon — and I kind of do — but it does have its benefits. For one, it’s close to the city, which means you won’t have to convince your date to ALSO agree to a long car ride to the trailhead. Second, it’s an easy introduction to the sport of hiking, with easy, well-maintained trails. As an added bonus, it’s got plenty of adorable dogs and some great views of the city. If you time it right, sunsets at the top of one of the peaks can be astoundingly romantic. And then you can cool down at the Pinkberry on Sunset on your way out, or have an organic dinner at Cheebo, one of my personal favorites.
If your partner is willing to drive a little bit farther out of the city, Bear Canyon / Switzer Falls is a slightly more rugged adventure, but still mild enough for beginners. There are lots of easy boulder-hopping stream crossings, but after a short, simple trek you get to see a bona-fide waterfall! Chances are your date probably didn’t even know L.A. had waterfalls. This is a great choice for the summer, too — bring a swimsuit and take the turn-off into Bear Canyon. For a few extra minutes of hiking, you can leave the crowds behind at Switzer and find yourself a semi-private swimming hole. Do some sunbathing, plunge into the icy water for refreshment, and chillax as long as you want.
… if these go well, soon you’ll be able to branch out a bit further. Then it won’t take much to convince your significant other to go with you for a long weekend in Joshua Tree (and I’ve got some suggestions there, if you’re interested).
But that’s all I’ve got for playing hiking-matchmaker today. If any other L.A. hikers want to help out and suggest some good date-trails, by all means, help a guy out and leave some comments below!
Image by LollyKnit