Hiking is my one of my favorite things to do in Los Angeles. It is my exercise, my “me” time, my therapy, my church, my breath of fresh air, and my way to explore my own city — all rolled into one activity. If you follow me on instagram you already know this and have seen photos of my weekly hikes (follow #OLDhikes & #OLDsfaveplacesinLA). But lots of people ask me what my favorite hikes in Los Angeles are, so I thought I would share them today, along with my current favorite hiking playlist! Now keep in mind there are tons of amazing hikes in LA and some truly stunning coastal hikes I’m not including because I don’t get to do those. The hikes I choose are my favorites for three reasons: they provide a good workout, they are hikes I feel safe doing on my own because of their location (and are ones I can get to easily after I drop my son off at preschool nearby), and they are beautiful. So these aren’t necessarily what some people would choose as the best hikes in LA, but they are my most frequent hikes and therefore my five faves.
1. Runyon Canyon: This was my first hiking spot in LA and is the closest to where I live. My husband and I used to do Sunday morning hikes here every weekend before we had kids. It is easily accessible, provides great views of the city, and also is pretty good for celeb spotting. It is also popular with dog owners. The one downside to this hike for me is that it is always busy — there are a lot of people and dogs to dodge. It’s a great place for a social hike, but when I hike alone I prefer a quieter place. You can find more details about the trail and how to get there here.
2. Griffith Observatory Hike: This one is my most frequent hike. It’s about a mile up and a mile back (depending on the route you choose) but is pretty much at an uphill grade till you reach the top, making it a really nice workout. And the views at the observatory are your reward. I like to park on Fern Dell across from Trails Cafe. There’s a small playground and a building with restrooms. Just past that, you’ll see two trails (one is called the East Observatory Trail, the other the West Observatory Trail). Both lead to the observatory, taking a slightly different route. The one on the right gives you more shade if it is a hot day. Once you go back down you can treat yourself to a coffee or scone at Trails Cafe. There’s a more detailed description of this hike here.
3. Charlie Turner’s Trail: For this one you park at Griffith Observatory and hike up from there. This is another great hike but is mostly in full sun, can be a pretty dusty trail, and is a little more secluded (during weekdays) so I usually save this one for doing with a buddy, but I hear it is crowded on weekends. This one isn’t as strenuous overall — lots of level areas for a break in the incline. But it does go high. Keep going up to get to Dante’s View (view pictured above) for the big payoff. See the Observatory in the distance?
4. Bronson Caves & Brush Canyon: This is another trail option that is considered a Griffith Park trail (though I park at the top of Bronson Canyon and enter that way). You can take a little side trip to the right and visit Bronson Caves (cool to see and walk through, but take a buddy and stop your feet to scare away any rattlesnakes.) The caves walk is short, once you’ve seen them you walk back the way you came and the main Brush Canyon trail is further up on the left.
5. Hollyridge Trail & Mt. Lee (the Hollywood Sign hike): This one is my absolute favorite hike. But for me, it’s a good two hours and I don’t always have that much time. There’s a lot of climbing, so it is a great workout. You go past Sunset Ranch Stables, so there are horse sightings. And the big payoff is a view from behind the Hollywood Sign. Yes, you can say you climbed all the way to the Hollywood Sign. And the views are off the charts. I recommend this hike to anyone visiting LA and looking to get some sightseeing in at the same time as some exercise. I drive up Beachwood Canyon. You’ll see lots of signs saying “no access to Hollywood sign.” Just go up till you see a big closed gate. Park in the residential area on the street (look for signs making sure you’re allowed to park there on the day and time you’re there – I have no problem parking there on weekdays). There is a door attached to the metal gate on the left and it is unlocked – open and follow the road up till on the right you see a sign that directs you to the hiking trail. That’s Hollyridge Trail. Follow that until it forks and take the sharp left up at the fork (right will take you on Mulholland Trail and eventually Brush Trail and towards Griffith Park). The next time you come to a place where the trail splits off, go right to follow Mt. Lee. This will go up up up, ending at The Hollywood Sign (you’ll come in from behind). I can’t recommend this hike enough!
And because there are lots of trails and things can get confusing, here is a Griffith Park trail map to help you. I also use Map My Run, which shows you which trail you’re on and you can see when forks are coming up and if you get off track. Spring is my favorite time of year for a hike because everything is blooming and colorful and it isn’t too hot yet. So now’s the time to pick one of these hikes and see for yourself.
If you’re hiking alone and for exercise like I do, great music is a must. My current playlist is a variety of songs that motivate and push me on my way up, and chill me out on my way down. You can find it below as well. Happy hiking!
What are your favorite hikes, either in LA or wherever you live? What’s your must-have song for your workout playlist?
PS – Follow along with all of my Five Faves features.