Strolling is great. From Palisades Park to Rodeo Drive and Melrose, strolling is good for visiting with a friend, browsing, and people watching.
Hiking is another story. It’s good for you. It’s fun and hard work and a great way to appreciate the natural character of our region. Plus, there are the views.
Here are a few of my favorite L.A. hikes:
Managed by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, 605-acre Franklin Canyon Park has two entrances—one at the north end, just below Mulholland, and the other on the west side of the park, at the end of Franklin Canyon Drive. In addition to the reservoir, a duck pond loaded with bird life, a three-acre lake, a nature center, an amphitheater, and an auditorium, the park has more than five miles of hiking trails. These range from very easy to fairly strenuous and take you through chaparral, woodlands, and, at the top of the Hastain Trail, an overlook with views all the way to the ocean.
From the trailhead at the top of Kenter Avenue in Brentwood, Lower Canyonback Trail is all about the views. A moderate hike on pavement and packed gravel, the trail has some elevation gain and some ups and downs. You’ll pass power lines and water tanks, smell sage, and probably see plenty of dogs and mountain bikes, but the views! In one direction you can see the broad expanse of Santa Monica Bay. Further up the trail, you can look east to see the Getty Center, Century City, and even Downtown L.A. This is a fairly exposed hike, so bring your sun protection.
Right in the middle of Hollywood, Runyon Canyon is hugely popular with hikers and dogs (many in leash-free areas). For a workout, it offers a variety of hiking loops, from less than one mile to more than three, with healthy elevation change, primarily on fire roads, but also on some narrower trails. The big deal here, again, is the views. You can take in the Hollywood Sign, a huge panorama of the city, the rolling dark green of the Santa Monica Mountains, and on an exceptionally fine day, Catalina Island. The main entrance is at the top of Fuller Avenue, and there’s also a north entrance at Mulholland Drive. There’s a parking area at the north entrance, but it’s strictly street parking near the Fuller Avenue trailhead, so read the signs carefully and be prepared to walk a ways before you get to the trail. (Click the link for detailed trail information.)
Escondido Canyon and Solstice Canyon
While hiking in the canyons of Malibu might not offer the panoramic vistas of other Southern California trails, you’ll find the next-best thing (or maybe, for some, the very best thing): waterfalls. The Solstice Canyon Loop Trail (3.2 miles with nearly 800 feet of elevation gain) is accessed by way of Corral Canyon Road. It’s scenic, open year-round, and not technically difficult. The canyon is home to the oldest stone building in Malibu, ruins of some structures, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy buildings, and Tropical Terrace, where you can find the remains of a burned-out house, a waterfall that flows if there’s been any recent rain, a stream, and some lovely shaded pools. The Escondido Falls Trail (3.7-mile loop with 400 feet of elevation gain) is accessed via Winding Way, where there’s a fee parking lot. (Note: the park and trail closed after the Woolsey fire, but has since reopened.) Starting on a paved road, the trail leads into Escondido Canyon Park and then upstream past a variety of wildflowers, creek crossings, and eventually, Lower Escondido Falls. The 50-foot drop is ferny and scenic. Hardy climbers may want to take on the upper falls, but it can be a slippery scramble to (and from) the 150-foot waterfall, so please be careful.
Wear sturdy shoes, always carry water, and have fun! I’d love to hear about your favorite local hikes.