Los Angeles’s wealth of outdoors activities is no secret, and in Southern California, it’s hardly ever a bad time to get outside.
Hiking is a cheap way to enjoy the fresh air sunshine. But for those more reluctant hikers—folks who need a little carrot to dangle in front of them as they trudge up a hill—we’ve compiled a list of Los Angeles-area hikes that come with spectacular sights.
Each of the routes below offer beautiful or unique views along the way or at the end: waterfalls, stunning views, leftovers from bygone film shoots. So bribe friends and family by promising them a beautiful waterfall or a selfie with some old Hollywood backdrops, and get out there.
As with any outdoor adventure at any time of the year, it’s a good idea to pack more water than you anticipate needing and check the weather before you head out. This list of hiking essentials is a good way to prepare for even the shortest of walks in LA’s wilderness.
Also, don’t forget to check trail conditions—with the fire season still on, you never know when a blaze can crop up and make a hike infeasible.
Now, time to hit the trail!
1. Malibu Creek State Park
Hikes in Malibu Creek State Park have Hollywood connections, as the park includes areas that were used to shoot M*A*S*H and South Pacific. Though the area was hit by the Woolsey fire, there are still some (scorched) rusted Army Jeeps and other signs of filming here, making for a nice photo op.
Since the landscape is recovering from the devastation of that wildfire, do take extra care to stay on the existing trails.
The hike to the old filming location and back is under 5 miles round-trip and gains less than 200 feet of elevation, making it a pretty good trip for families with kids who can be coerced onto the trail.
Heads up: You will have to pay the $12 entrance fee to park in the lot if you want to start the hike at Crags Road; the trailheads for South Grassland Trail and Cistern Trail are both close to free parking. Hikespeak offers good directions with pictures.
2. Paradise Falls in Wildwood Park
A roughly 2-mile hike to see the falls can be extended into a moderate 4.5-mile hike by adding on a stop at Lizard Rock, which offers vistas of the Stagecoach Bluff area and the surrounding valley. Modern Hiker has a well-illustrated guide to the extended hike.
3. Echo Mountain
Want to have a picnic among some picturesque ruins? The trail to Altadena’s Echo Mountain will make you work for it. Beginning at the very top of Lake Avenue and through a big, beautiful gate, the 5-mile (round-trip) trail is all steep-ish switchbacks and little shade, but it is very well-maintained. It’s also peopled enough that a solo hiker can feel secure.
The reward is a dynamic history exhibit and shaded, very spread-out picnic space left over from the resort that used to be on the site.
There are also large pieces of the dismantled Mt. Lowe Railroad that once brought resort-bound vacationers here, and an old metal echo phone; yell into it and have your words bounce off the mountains back to you. Amazing! SoCal Hiker offers image-heavy directions.
4. Eaton Canyon
Eaton Canyon’s lower waterfall has water in it right now—it’s no Niagara but it’s pretty nice to look at. (Eaton’s upper falls are closed indefinitely.) The hike to the falls is relatively shady and fairly flat—the roughly 3-mile round-trip hike only gains about 375 feet.
Start hiking from the nature center, where there are restrooms, water, and people to talk to about the trails. This is a really nice novice hike or ideal for a day when you don't feel like being in pain later.
5. Murphy Ranch
By now, a lot of people know about Murphy Ranch—the compound built by 1930s Nazi sympathizers in Malibu’s Rustic Canyon that was eventually supposed to have enough self-contained infrastructure to provide for a small town’s worth of people. But who has really gone through the trouble of seeing the place for themselves?
This generally flat hike comes in at just under 4 miles and starts only a few miles from the 405. The grounds are graffiti-covered but the structures that were built are still mostly in one piece (or in discernible pieces), and there are staircases and gates still standing too.
In 2016, it was rumored that the buildings were being torn down, but photos show that it remains a mostly well-preserved site in a beautiful setting. Hikespeak provides detailed directions from the start of the trail.
6. Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park
This historic park in Chatsworth encompasses an area that was once the primary route between the San Fernando and Simi Valleys for the Tongva and Chumash who lived in the area. Later, the route was used by the Spanish and by stagecoaches to travel between Los Angeles and points north.
Today, the park is dotted with reminders of the Chumash (like their grinding basins in rocks) and the stagecoaches (look down and you might see wheel ruts in the sandstone). There are also exciting natural features like rock formations, cliffs, and maybe even a seasonal waterfall.
And then there are the vistas. “Panoramic views of the rugged natural landscape [serve] as a striking contrast to the developed communities nearby,” says the park’s website, a nod to the impressive views of the Valley available from the park.
Nobody Hikes in LA has directions for a 5-mile hike through the park.
7. Burbank’s Wildwood Canyon
Not to be confused with the similar-sounding Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks, Burbank’s Wildwood Canyon offers an easy-to-moderate 2-mile loop, with a peak providing sweaty explorers some amazing city views and a permanent reclining chair/memorial on which to kick back and relax until it’s time to carry on.
There are picnic grounds, restrooms, and drinking water off of Wildwood Canyon Road, too, so you can compare photos and munch on post-hike snacks while you sit down and cool off. Get there early, though: The park closes at sundown.