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When many think of L.A., the first images that come to mind may be bustling views of downtown, Rodeo Drive, or Disney Hall. Although it is known as one of the busiest metropolises, Los Angeles is also home to some of the most beautiful hiking trails in the world. With boasting points such as the largest municipal park in the country and the largest municipal wildland in the world, it is no wonder why Los Angeles real estate is internationally coveted.
Take a Hike – And Love It
When the stress of the city becomes overwhelming, hiking is a great way to decompress. Escaping the city’s traffic and smog for sycamore-lined hiking trails overlooking the ocean is a great way to mentally rejuvenate over the weekend. The activity does not require sophisticated equipment and, aside from commuting costs, is completely free.
Mercer Vine’s list of the seven best hiking trails in L.A.
This list is broken down by difficulty, average hiking time, and dog friendliness.
1. Runyon Canyon
Average Hiking Time: 1 hour
Arguably the most popular hiking trail in Los Angeles [link to primary community page], Runyon canyon is an 130-acre preserve at the center of Hollywood. Runyon was purchased in the mid 1980s by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the City of L.A. and remains one of the most popular dog parks in the city. The trailhead is at the intersection of Franklin Avenue and Highland Avenue and follows a 2-mile loop. The trail passes the ruins of Frank Lloyd Wright pool house that was occupied by Errol Flynn in the 1950s.
2. Topanga Canyon
Difficulty: moderate to strenuous
Average Hiking Time: 3.25 hours
Dogs: not allowed
Because Topanga State Park is entirely within the confines of Los Angeles, the area is known as the world’s largest municipal wildland. The 11,525-acre park is adjacent to Temescal Canyon and Santa Ynez Canyon. The park’s highest point is Temescal Peak, which towers at a staggering 2,126 feet. The trails feature a stunning variety of natural attractions such as open grasslands, watered canyons, caves, waterfalls, marine fossils, volcanic intrusions and more. Trippet Ranch –formerly an old homestead from the 1890s – serves as the park’s entrance. Parker Mesa Overlook is a popular destination within the park that offers unparalleled overlooks.
3. Griffith Park
Difficulty: easy to strenuous
Hiking Time: 1.5 hours
Griffith park is the largest municipal park in the U.S. Donated in 1896 by Welsh immigrant Colonel Griffith J. Griffith, the park was deemed a Christmas gift to the citizens of L.A. as “a place of rest and relaxation for the masses.” The park encompasses 56 miles and has an expansive network of hiking and equestrian trails. Its landscape is characterized by ridges, peaks, concealed canyons, creeks, springs, and gardens. The park’s elevation ranges from 384 feet to 1,625 feet at Mount Hollywood’s summit. Tourist attractions such as Griffith Observatory, The Wisdom Tree, Greek Theatre, the historic merry-go-round, and the Old Zoo are all located within the confines of the park.
4. Palisades Park
Average Hiking Time: 2 hours
Palisades Park sits on 100-foot bluffs and encompasses 26 acres. It overlooks Santa Monica State Beach and stretches 1.6 miles between Ocean Avenue and the area’s sandstone cliffs. The surrounding landscape is filled with palm, oak, and eucalyptus trees. Gardens filled with native and introduced flora line the trail with benches and gazebos available for short respites. At the south end of the park, hikers can walk directly onto the Santa Monica Pier, which leads all the way to Venice.
5. Malibu Creek State Park
Average Hiking Time: 2 hours
Dogs: not allowed
Malibu Creek State Park is one of the most iconic hiking destinations in Southern California. Featured in films like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Daniel Boone, Tarzan, Planet of the Apes, and TV series like M*A*S*H*, the landscape is very familiar. The park has more than 20 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails throughout. Sandstone, volcanic rock formations, expansive meadows, and sycamore woodlands are all enveloped within the park. A 13-mile river runs through the park’s creek adding a picturesque quality to any hike.
Take A Break From City Life
Before planning your hike, Mercer Vine recommends doing a little research about the trail you plan to explore. With the internet and hiking manuals such as Stone’s Day Hikes Around Los Angeles, hiking novices will know what to expect before embarking on their new adventure. As always, remembering to bring water, sunscreen, and sunglasses are vital to staying comfortable and safe while exploring the landscapes of the city.