Los Angeles, also known as home to America’s booming film industry, is also a great place to go hiking when you’re ready to get out of downtown LA. While hiking may not be the first thing that comes to a person’s mind when they think of Los Angeles, this city in Southern California is filled with excellent places to hike – from beginner to advanced. We’ve got your list of the best hikes in Los Angeles. So, lace up your hiking boots, and let’s get started.
Santa Monica Mountains
The Santa Monica Mountains are a beautiful 153,000 acres of national recreational area in California. The Santa Monica Mountains are one of only five places in the world with a Mediterranean climate (mild, rainy winters and warm, dry summers). This weather makes it an ideal hike any time of the year because it’ll never be too cold or too hot and humid.
In the Santa Monica Mountains, there are a few state parks, each with their own set of hiking trails.
Malibu Creek State Park
If you are driving from downtown Los Angeles, Malibu Creek State Park is only a 30 minute drive away and takes you to a breathtakingly beautiful park that spans over 8,000 acres. There are 15 miles of hikeable terrain that are all next to a stream and filled with sycamore trees for your viewing pleasure.
There are 11 different hiking trails within Malibu State Park, but we wanted to mention a few that are definitely notable.
Like the name would imply, this hike takes you through the area of Malibu State Park that the exteriors for the TV show M*A*S*H were filmed. This hike is roughly 4 miles long. There is also an extension to this hike called Lost Cabin Trail. This trail adds on 1.5 miles to the M*A*S*H hike, making it a total of nearly 6 miles.
This hike is a great one to do if you’re looking for a shorter, easier, yet equally as scenic hike. The grassland trail is roughly 3 miles long and forms a loop around Crags Rock and Rock Pool. Though this hike is a little shorter than the others in Malibu State Park, you won’t miss out on any of the incredible sights or landmarks.
Topanga State Park
Topanga State Park features 36 unique hiking trails that offer a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean. This park is actually considered the largest wildland within the boundaries of any major city in the country. Our top picks for hiking trips in Topanga State Park? The Musch Trail, Eagle Spring Loop Trail, and Los Liones Trail.
The Musch Trail
The Musch Trail leads hikers to Eagle Rock. This trail is almost 4.5 miles long and includes views of beautiful wild flowers. Fun fact: horses are allowed on this trail, so if you’d like to channel your inner cowboy or cowgirl, this is a great trail for that!
Eagle Spring Loop Trail
Eagle Springs Fire Road Loop Trail is another awesome hiking trail in Topanga State Park. If you hike this 5.5 miles loop, you’re likely to see some California wildlife. Others who have hiked this trail in the past say that it is best to hike between September and May.
Los Liones Trail
Los Liones Trail is another great hike in Topanga State Park and is very close to the Pacific Ocean. This hike gives hikers an excellent view of the Santa Monica Bay and is only 1.3 miles with 550 feet of elevation. This hike is great for all levels of hikers. At the end of Los Liones Trail is a bench where hikers can rest their feet for a bit and enjoy views of the Pacific Palisades and all of Santa Monica as well the Pacific Ocean.
Solstice Canyon offers a lovely 2.6 mile hike that features a small waterfall and a few historical ruins like the Keller House and the Roberts Family House. The Solstice Canyon trail is very level and also is wide enough to accommodate many tourists and hikers, so this is a great family-friendly and relatively easy hike through the Santa Monica Mountains.
Backbone Trail to Sandstone Peak and Mishe Mokwa Trail Loop
The Backbone Trail and Mishe Mokwa Trail Loop is a trail that lasts nearly 6 miles. The trail is accessible year-round and allows dogs as long as they are kept on the leash. This trail takes hikers to the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains and provides beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Monica Bay.
Likely the most notable landmark in all of California is the Hollywood Sign. You can hike to the Hollywood sign by way of a couple of different trails in Griffith Park.
Brush Canyon Trail
The Brush Canyon Trail is a little over 6 miles long, so is not for the faint of heart. However, dogs are allowed to hike with you, which is an added bonus. This trail takes you all the way to the Hollywood Sign, which is an excellent photo opportunity and a birds eye view of the entire city.
Cahuenga Peak is the hiking trail with the highest elevation in Griffith Park. From the parking lot, there are actually two hiking trails that bring you to the top and provide beautiful scenic views. The Burbank Peak Trail goes up the west side of the peak and takes you to see the Wisdom Tree at Burbank Peak before climbing all the way up to see the Hollywood Sign.
Aileen Getty Ride Trail goes from Burbank Peak up over Cahuenga Peak and ends at the top of Mount Lee. If you hike both of these trails back to back, the elevation will be the most challenging part, with 875 feet of elevation change. The length of the hikes themselves, however, would be only 3 miles round trip, which is relatively moderate in length.
Innsdale Trail features the longest stretch of dirt trail in all of Griffith Park. The trail also allows hikers to see the Hollywood Sign from afar on a clear day, which means that you’re able to snap an excellent photo of the entire view (as opposed to just the back of the sign). The trail does bring you closer to the sign as well, in order to get that beautiful panoramic view from the top.
Bronson Cave Trail
Another notable trail to hike in Griffith Park is the Bronson Cave Trail, also known as home to the original 1960’s Batcave in the Batman TV series. The cave is carved into a 100 foot tall rock wall and is easy to walk or drive through. Though the goal of this hike is not to see the Hollywood Sign in the Hollywood Hills, you will get a nice view of the sign on your return hike.
Runyon Canyon Park
Runyon Canyon Park is definitely one of the most popular parks for hiking in all of Los Angeles and is frequently listed among the top hikes in the area. Runyon Canyon Park is actually a 130-acre dog park and gives hikers a few excellent views of the city – including the Santa Monica Mountains.
There are quite a few trails within Runyon Canyon, and each of them hike up to approximately 500 feet elevation. None of the hiking trails are terribly long – averaging between 2 and 4 miles, which also makes them great for your favorite canine companion.
Los Angeles Hiking Pro-Tip:
Unlike Runyon Canyon, not all hikes in California are dog friendly. Make sure to check the park or hike trails website before you bring your furry friend. For a list of all pooch-friendly parks and hikes, check out this link!
San Gabriel Mountains
While people generally associate Southern California as a place where people do more surfing than skiing and wear more shorts than parkas, the San Gabriel Mountains offer Californian’s the perfect getaway. These mountains feature excellent slopes for many winter sports as well as waterfalls, valleys, and iconic formations. Because the San Gabriel Mountains feature such a wide variety of things to see, we’ll touch on some of the best hikes to see it all.
Bridge to Nowhere
Typically, when we hike, there’s an end goal in sight. However, when you hike to the Bridge to Nowhere, your end goal is literally “nowhere.” This hike is approximately 10 miles long and climbs up to 900 feet elevation, so definitely bring some sturdy boots and water to stay hydrated. You will be hiking through a few rivers, so be mindful of that as well. At the bridge, there’s also a great swimming hole. Not to mention, the bridge itself is an incredible photo-worthy sight.
Los Angeles Hiking Pro-Tip:
Make sure that your hiking boots are waterproof – which is something you can accomplish with just a little bit of determination and 20 minutes!
Bighorn Mine Trail
While the Bighorn Mine Trail is relatively short at just 4 miles long, the elevation is intense. Within the 4 miles of hiking, you will climb up 1,100 feet in elevation. This hike is incredibly scenic, featuring views of the Vincent Gap, Sheep Mountain, and the San Gabriel River Basin. The objective of the hike is to make it to the Bighorn Mine, which is an abandoned mine that was discovered in the late 19th century.
The Bighorn Mine Trail also features a Mountain High Ski Resort, which is great for winter sports and activities.
Devil’s Punchbowl and Devil’s Chair
If you’d like to hike and see some really neat iconic formations, then look no further than the Devil’s Punchbowl and his accompanying Chair. In order to see these iconic formations, you’ll need to hike about 8 miles and cover nearly 1,000 feet in elevation. These formations were caused by seismic activity and resulted in incredibly unique rock structures.
The trail is dog friendly and relatively moderate in difficulty. This is definitely a must-see for tourists!
Lewis Falls is the perfect hike if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to see some beautiful scenery. Lewis Falls is only 1 mile long with about 250 feet gain, so it’s definitely a much more mild hike than some of its neighboring trails. The Lewis Falls waterfall is located within the Los Angeles National Forest and is a fifty-foot waterfall. The water at the base of the waterfall is pretty shallow, so this is not the best place to take a dip, but the water is pretty cold and can be refreshing if you are hiking on a hot day.
San Gabriel Peak
Obviously, if you’re hiking around San Gabriel, it’s worth mentioning that you can and should hike up to its peak. The hike is around 3 miles and 1,061 feet in elevation. The trail will bring you to the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument and provide you with some excellent views of the Los Angeles basin.
Summit Mt. Baldy
If you enjoy long hikes for great views, then definitely consider hiking up the Summit to Mt. Baldy. Be warned, though, this hike is nearly 13 miles long and has an elevation gain of around 6,000 feet. This hike is definitely geared more towards the adventurous and experienced hiker. If you do complete this hike, however, the scenery is breathtaking as you will see some amazing views of the San Gabriel Mountains high country.
For those who love historical sights, hiking the Sam Merrill Trail up to Echo Mountain is an incredibly rewarding hike. Echo Mountain is home to the ruins of the Echo Mountain House, which was a hotel built by Thaddeus Lowe in the 1800’s. Back when it was running, there were no roads that led to this hotel, guests could only reach it by an incline railway that covered 1,000 feet in elevation. This hotel was burned to the ground by a fire, but the ruins still remain to this day.
The hike itself on Sam Merrill Trail was paved out specifically in order to see the ruins of the hotel in the 1940s and is about 5.5 miles long with 1,730 feet of elevation.
As you can see, the city of Los Angeles offers a little bit of something for everyone. Whether you love history, film, wildlife sightings, or winter weather sports, there is an LA hike for you. Another great thing about hiking in Southern California is that the hike trails range in difficulty from very basic beginner to very difficult advanced hiker. Let us know which hikes you choose to go on for your next adventure!