Downtown LA might look like a cement jungle, but it’s surrounded by a wealth of natural beauty. This is the best time to get outside around Los Angeles: The weather starts to cool, and we might even get some rain to fill the streams, ponds and lakes. Get away from the hustle and bustle to rejuvenate and relax, whether it’s for a hike, bike ride or picnic. Popular trails like Runyon Canyon are often elbow-to-elbow with hikers. But there are so many more places to find a slice of peace and quiet in nature, from the coast to a quick drive away. Here are six great picks.
This 300-acre park is a hidden gem and particularly close to DTLA. What was once an old ranch is now an urban oasis with several different hiking trails, including a five-mile loop that connects different parts of the park. There are semi-paved roads, dusty trails — some are pretty steep — great views of the surrounding cities, a small duck pond and nature center. While there are a lot of trees about, the trails aren’t very shaded, so early morning or later day hikes are best.
As one of the largest urban parks in North America, you can be sure to find a good hiking trail in Griffith Park. Many trails are dry and dusty with little to no shade, but there’s something for every skill level. The Ferndell trail to Griffith Observatory is a 2.5 mile loop that starts in a woodsy area and goes to the historic structure. There’s the easy Bronson Trail, which leads to caves featured in the original Batman series. And another with old cages and relics from the original LA Zoo. The most popular is probably from the Observatory parking lot to the summit of Mount Hollywood, the highest peak in the park with spectacular views of Downtown LA and beyond. Get maps and info at the ranger’s station (323) 913-4688.
Set in the Santa Monica Mountains in Calabasas, the trail follows the stream and leads to oak and sycamore woodlands and chaparral-covered slopes. You’ll be surrounded by volcanic rock gorges, scenic pools, and breathtaking views of the Las Virgenes Valley and Malibu Canyon. Way back in the day, TV shows like Planet of the Apes and M*A*S*H were filmed here (some of the relics are still around).
Closer to the beach, this lovely park features several options for easy to strenuous hikes through coastal sage scrub. Stay on the Solstice Canyon Trail for a shaded and gentle stroll, and the Rising Sun Trail for a more challenging climb. The waterfall is a focal point, which makes it more popular during hot summer days (those are best to avoid), but is equally as enjoyable during winter months. Wildfires have torn through here over the years, which have both changed the landscape and left behind relics, like the stone and brick ruins of The Roberts Ranch House. Note: There’s limited parking, which gets super packed on weekends.
These chaparral-covered hillsides between San Fernando Valley and Beverly Hills feature a few beautiful, some more difficult than others. The short and super easy Discovery Trail loops through black walnut woodlands along the canyon bottom, while the 2.3 mile Hastain Trail culminates in an overlook with views all the way to the ocean (on a clear day). Inside the park there’s a duck pond, expansive picnic grounds, and a nature center.