At dusk inside Brentwood’s Sullivan Canyon, lamplit mountain bikers are the only humanity to be found besides yourself. Make like the wheelmen by executing a few jumps from the trail’s banks; each turn offers gardens of monkey flower, milkweed, and anise. Sullivan provides an ideal workout, gaining elevation slowly over three miles before a final burst of steep switchbacks. By the time the horned owl floats overhead and the last light drains from the sky, your mind has entered a refreshing trance. » From Sunset Blvd. head north on Mandeville Canyon Rd., left on Westridge Rd., and left on Bayliss Rd. to Queens--ferry Rd.; a green gate marks the trailhead.
The best time for your first ascent is on a morning of threatening weather. You find the trail—a Griffith Park fire road accessed at Charlie Turner Trailhead—in fog, your fellow hikers indistinct forms heard before they’re seen. At Dante’s View, a garden near the summit, a hint of sunlight appears. It’s a thrilling sensation to reach the top: You are above the clouds, the Hollywood sign seems within grasp, and the city below is shrouded in gray. The workout, neither overtaxing nor underwhelming, is a perfect start to the day. » Enter the park on Vermont Ave. and turn left on Observatory Rd.; the trailhead is at the rear of the observatory parking lot.
While herds of walkers circle the Rose Bowl, head for the semiwilderness found to the north. Notched between a hillside overgrown with lantana and the Brookside Golf Club, a trail slips through oaken shade to the waters of the Arroyo Seco. This passage is gentle, so you’ll have to hoof it to feel the burn. At the overpass of the 210 freeway, an about-face brings you to your car in 15 minutes, or you can forge ahead to Devil’s Gate Dam for a glimpse of the verdure in Hahamongna Watershed Park. » Park at the north end of West Dr. near the intersection of Washington Blvd. and Park-view Ave.; the trail is across Parkview on the west side of the golf course.
Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area
Rolling across the loftiest reaches of Baldwin Hills, Kenneth Hahn SRA beckons like a jewel to Mid City. Following a dam disaster in 1963, homes were razed and trails mapped out through the coastal sage scrub. Steeper paths near the main gate get the heart racing and lead to views of Mount Baldy and Catalina. Trace the ridgeline to Janice’s Green Valley, then hike along the meadow until you pick up the La Brea Loop Trail, passing errant swallowtails by the butterfly garden. You’ve just covered three miles, and lunch isn’t over yet. » Exit the 10 freeway at La Cienega Blvd., then head south to the entrance at 4100 S. La Cienega Blvd.
Aerobic pacing (warm up, heat up, cool down) is laid out naturally in Hollywood’s Runyon Canyon. Don’t bother stretching: After entering the Fuller Avenue gate and bearing right, the first hill’s gentle climb will juice your calves. In ten minutes you’re gazing toward China and moving on to the butt-kicking leg of the trail: railroad-tie steps that lead to the canyon’s summit. Keep your workout to a brisk half hour by ignoring the tempting benches, and instead begin Runyon’s descent past paunchy Industry types expending lung power on development chatter. » From Hollywood Blvd. drive north on Fuller Ave. until it dead-ends at the gated entrance.
Images courtesy (in order): (1) Flickr/jeffmoser/bikecarson, (2) Flickr/aurora.leonard, (3) Flickr/djfrantic, (4) Flickr/ericrichardson, (5) Flickr/blmurch