Hiking near Los Angeles offers miles of spectacular Pacific Coast views from Santa Monica Mountains Park, the San Gabriel Mountains of the Inland Empire, and the iconic Hollywood sign in Griffith Park. Here are some of the best hikes in Los Angeles.
Hiking is a big part of Los Angeles culture. There are many places to explore in this area that offer a chance to enjoy the area’s scenery and escape the tiresome urban sprawl while getting closer to nature. From South Bay’s Ranchos Palos Verdes Peninsula to Malibu Vineyards in North County, we’ve chosen these 7 hiking trails that cover every area of Greater Los Angeles. From easy walks to challenging hikes, each hike will pay off big time for the effort you put in.
Hollywood Sign via Canyon Boulevard
Hiking to the Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park is an unforgettable experience and a must-see when visiting Los Angeles. The hike uses a series of interconnecting trails that take hikers behind giant metal letters, offering views of greater Los Angeles and beyond. The long hike is about 6 miles, with an elevation gain of about 1,100 feet (335 meters), and takes about 3 hours to complete. Start at the beginning of the Shrub Canyon Trail at the north end of Canyon Boulevard in the city of Hollywood. There is a free parking lot and you will find a plaque at the trailhead pointing to the Hollywood sign.
Trail: The trail begins 30 to 40 minutes uphill on a wide dirt road, after which there is a bench with a panoramic view of Los Angeles. The most challenging and steepest part of the journey is now over. Then there is a fork in the road, a sign marked “Mulholland Drive” towards the Hollywood sign on the left. About 20 minutes later, another fork appears. Follow the sign pointing to the Mt. Lee Drive tank, a moderately steep but paved trail. After following this trail for about 20 minutes, hikers will reach the back of this famous Hollywood sign. The sign itself is separated by a fence for safety reasons. This vantage point offers beautiful panoramic views of Los Angeles and beyond, especially on a clear day.
Starting point: 2980-3000 Canyon Dr., Los Angeles
Ballast Point Loop with two ports on Catalina Island
Not far from the coast of Los Angeles is the rural haven of Santa Catalina Island, Los Angeles, which can be reached by ferry or private boat. From the town of Two Harbors, you can walk along the Ballast Point Loop trail, a moderately challenging three-mile walk with an elevation gain of just under 1,000 feet (305 meters). This adventure features a steep ascent overlooking the ocean, with breathtaking views of the two harbor towns and the string of islands below. Be sure to bring water, as there are no services on this rugged hike.
Trail: Begin the hike from the bus stop and restrooms, which are just up the hill from the two harbor visitor centers. Follow the trail south past the little red schoolhouse and continue toward Catalina Harbor. Turn left along the road that crosses the east side of the harbor. There may be a herd of bison encountered, as these animals now inhabit the island. The road has a fairly straight grade until this point, when the road forks just before the 1 mile marker. Follow the trail uphill to a trail which begins to climb rapidly. At the top of the hill, there is a pile of rocks with a view of the ocean for miles around.
From here, follow the trail downhill and then turn east. Just before reaching the lowest point of the incline, turn left and continue on. In the second mile, hikers will reach the Banning Home Road. Follow it down toward town, but look left for a bird’s eye view of Catalina Harbor and right on a clear day for 25 miles to Los Angeles. Follow the main road straight ahead, heading down a steep descent toward the eucalyptus grove. The downhill section of this loop follows an old dirt road with a view of the island’s old radio tower. The final section of the descent will take you past the Banning House, the only hotel in either port. At the bottom of the hill, turn right and head back into town around the small red schoolhouse that still educates children ages 5-11.
1 Banning House Rd, Avalon
Ranchos Palos Verdes: Terraña Discovery Trail
Terranea Resort in the South Bay of Los Ranchos Palos Verdes is open to the public and costs about $10 for all-day parking. terranea Resort faces south on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, which means hikers can watch the day’s sunrise and sunset from a single location. sunrise and sunset from a single location. The resort’s cliff top follows two miles of coastal trails through 102 acres of open space.
The trail: Terranea Discovery Trail, which begins on the northern portion of the property, is a family-friendly trail that runs through the resort’s grounds for just under two miles and less than 200 feet (61 meters) in elevation. This long hike takes approximately one hour to complete. There are nature interpretive stations along the way for visitors to stop and learn about the local wildlife. There is also the historic Vincent Lighthouse, and hikers can even see sea lions and whales throughout the year.
100 Terranea Way, Rancho Palos Verdes
Inland Empire: Waterman Mountain Loop Trail in the Los Angeles National Forest
The Waterman Mountain Loop Trail is about an hour’s drive from downtown Los Angeles and is about a six-mile walk near Mount Wilson in Angeles National Forest. The hike takes about three hours to complete, and even though it only includes an elevation gain of 1,400 feet (427 meters), it’s a challenge because it starts at nearly 7,000 feet (2,134 meters) high in the mountains. It is best done when it is not snowing from March to November. There is plenty of parking near the trailhead, but visitors will need to display a Forest Park Pass, which can be purchased at various nearby convenience stores, including gas stations. Bring a map or pre-downloaded electronic map, as there is no internet or cell phone service in this area.
Trails: There are many beautiful views on the way to the summit, the most beautiful of which is about a mile after the climb, where there is a point where you can see beyond the San Gabriel Mountains and across the San Gabriel Valley to the contours of the Santa Ana Mountains in San Diego. Waterman Mountain peak is marked with an elevation of 8,039 feet (2,450 meters). About 3.3 miles after the descent, turn right at a fork in the road and follow the main Mount Waterman trail all the way down. Hike through several Frisbee golf baskets and descend to Mount Waterman Village, where a cabin sits at the top of the main gondola to Mount Waterman Resort.
Start: Waterman Hiking Trailhead, CA-2, Pear Blossom
Downtown: Baldwin Mountain Scenic Overlook
This moderate hike takes two hours and has an elevation gain of about 300 feet (91 meters) and an elevation gain of over 1.25 miles. Parking is free on the street at the base of the mountain. There are multiple ways to climb to the top of this Midtown peak, except for the top of the moderate road twist. Exercise enthusiasts looking for a more strenuous workout can opt to climb the nearly mile-long staircase directly. The easiest way to reach the summit is to take the sidewalk along the road leading to the visitor center and amphitheater area. The visitor center includes seasonal exhibits of local wildflowers, birding and wildlife, and the story of the land – historically mined for oil – that has become a symbol of conservation and restoration for the benefit of all.
Trails: The Baldwin Hills Overlook Scenic Hike is unique because of its location in downtown Los Angeles. But for such a short trail, it offers an impressive view of greater Los Angeles. To the west, hikers can see Santa Monica Bay. To the northwest, the ridge of Malibu rises. Century City and the Sony Pictures parking lot can be seen below, as well as the Hollywood sign and the Griffith Observatory toward Hollywood. To the east is downtown Los Angeles, surrounded by the San Gabriel Mountains, which are sporadically dotted with snow in the winter months.
Intersection: 6300 Hertzler Road, Culver City
Santa Monica: Parker Mesa Overlook at Topanga State Park
The Parker Mesa Overlook is located on the west side of Topanga State Park. It’s an approximately 7-mile trek with an elevation gain of 1,171 feet (357 meters) from which you can look down on the entire Los Angeles Basin. This means that on a clear day, hikers can see the San Gabriel Mountains to the east, Catalina Island to the south, and the crescent-shaped coastline of Santa Monica to the west. There is little shade on this trail, so as always, it’s important to make sure you bring water and sunscreen.
Trail: From the Los Liones Trailhead, start at Los Liones Boulevard, at an obvious entrance to the Grand Pinoy Palisades Park. There is plenty of free street parking on the road. In about a mile there will be a vista point and intersection with the Paseo Miramar Trail. Take a sharp left and follow the wide fire road up the hill. From here, the trail continues to roll up and down the hillside to the Paseo Mesa Overlook at the three-mile mark. At the top, there are several strategically placed benches that contribute to a well-deserved rest and photo opportunity.
580 Los Liones Drive, Santa Monica
Malibu Wine Hike
For wine tasters who like to take a nice walk before drinking, the Malibu Wine Hike Center offers a guided two-mile hike for all ages to explore the vineyards of Malibu’s Madrilock Ranch. This long hike has approximately 300 feet (91 meters) of elevation gain and offers views of the Pacific Ocean and surrounding vineyards. Hikers will learn firsthand about the types of wines produced on the ranch and see a well-preserved illustration of the Chumash 303rd room of the Legion of Dudes along the way. There will also be an opportunity to sample produce from the on-site organic garden and take plenty of photos. At the end of the hike, everyone will receive a full bottle of their choice of wine, as well as white, red and rose wines. On-site parking includes the purchase of a ticket.
3/21/11 Mulholland Highway, Malibu