From Malibu to the East Side, from moderate climbs to vigorous inclines, there’s a compelling argument that hiking is the perfect L.A. pastime. With the promise of zone 2 cardio, hassle-free terrain, and stunning vistas, the city has trails that are perfect for the less experienced but eager hiker—or any Angeleno ready, willing, and able to give it a shot.
And did you know that taking in panoramic views can reduce anxiety? With more parks and paths than anyone can tackle in a respectable period of time, deciding which trail to ascend is often reason enough to justify taking root on the couch instead. Lucky for you, we’ve done the leg work (quite literally). Behold, our six favorite hikes in LA.
Backbone Trailhead to Sandstone Peak at Circle X Ranch
12860 Yerba Buena Road, Malibu
As the highest peak in the Santa Monica Mountains, this out-and-back trail offers panoramic views of… pretty much the entire Southland. From expansive mountain ranges and the Pacific to the Boney Ridge rock formation and Malibu beyond, this three-mile excursion deep in the boonies of Malibu offers over 1,000 feet of elevation gain, and that ta-da! moment at its summit. After climbing what an in-shape Angelino would call a moderate trek (but that’s all relative, right?), ascend a bit of rocky terrain before taking in 360-degree Malibu magic atop a massive boulder at Sandstone Peak.
Overachievers can make this a longer 6.25-mile loop by splitting off to the Mishe Mokwa trail, which also takes you to the 3,111-foot summit.
Eagle Springs Loop Trail from Trippet Ranch
20828 Entrada Road, Topanga
No dogs allowed
This particularly verdant 5.5-mile loop takes 2.5-3 hours to complete, offering views of Topanga State Park and its sandstone rock formations along the way. After parking at Trippet Ranch (or just before the gate if arriving outside the hours of 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.), scale Eagle Springs Fire Road to the ever-impressive Eagle Rock. The wide, open fire road gets next to no shade; so layer that SPF over your moisturizer and bring a hat, we implore you. After reaching the 1,957-foot summit, descend the more narrow Musch trail back to Trippet Ranch. Dotted with oak trees and with plenty of deer to spot, this moderate trail is like Snow White’s paradise. After rain or fire season, the path is positively lush (by L.A. standards), littered with wildflowers and grasses.
899 Paseo Miramar, Pacific Palisades
No dogs allowed
Of all the glorious hikes L.A. has to offer, this 5-mile out and back is the jewel in the crown. The incline offers a noble workout—challenging for a local but not downright impossible for your fit-enough out-of-town guests, with stopping points throughout to catch your breath. From the outset, the scenic overlooks are supreme, offering ocean, mountain, and city views without having to drive too far from the city. The bench at the hike’s peak offers a respite to take in the scenery or meditate before heading back. You could elongate the hike by beginning at the lower, more narrow Los Liones trailhead, which feeds into Paseo Miramar. However, starting higher up where the trail is wider allows for better views from the get-go. Besides, the Paseo Miramar portion takes 2.5 hours, and that brunch spot where you’re headed after this excellent morning hike trail only seats complete parties.
The Whoops Trailhead at Kenter Canyon
1184 N. Kenter Avenue
Off-leash dogs welcome
Known by the more buttoned-up crowd as Lower Canyonback Trailhead, the various paths along this 3.25-mile loop allow the hiker to choose their own adventure. The main fire road is moderately paced with peaks, valleys, and flat terrain throughout while offshoots provide more strenuous climbs, albeit in short spurts. One of the more arduous ancillary paths offers a respite about 3/4 of the way up, in the form of a bench shaded by a large tree. It’s the perfect spot for appreciating ocean and city vistas.
Ridge Hiking Trail at Runyon Canyon
1854 N. Fuller Avenue
Note that this list is our favorite hikes in L.A.—not necessarily the paths most traveled. With that said, this 3-mile loop in Runyon Canyon is, in our opinion, the most elite trail in the whole park. This trail has rough(er) terrain, a dilapidated set of wood stairs (only a little wobbly), steeper inclines, and an actual hiking path; it’s no glorified driveway and is best enjoyed at sunset when the temps are cooler and the sky is showing off. After entering the park at the Fuller Avenue entrance, veer left and up the paved Runyon Canyon Road before taking a sharp left onto W. Ridge Trail. The loop eventually leads back to Runyon Canyon Road.
Griffith Observatory to Mount Hollywood Trail
Fern Dell Drive and Black Oak Drive intersection
Off-leash dogs welcome
In an effort to avoid the absolute chaos that is the Griffith Observatory parking lot, start
by hiking up the evergreen Ferndell Trail. This quarter-mile walking path feels more like
a tropical rain forest than a Los Angeles national park with streams, ample vegetation
and sycamores that provide plenty of shade. From here, you’ll reach a cluster of trails, all of which lead up to Griffith Observatory. The East Observatory trail offers a more steady
ascent, while you’ll find a sharper incline but better views on the West Observatory Trail. From the back of the observatory parking lot, take the Mount Hollywood Trail to drink in scenes of downtown L.A., the San Gabriel mountains, and the Pacific Ocean until you reach the summit, after 1.25 miles. Then head back to where you began for a relatively easy 4-mile climb. It’s perfect for locals and tourists alike.
Stay on top of the latest in L.A. news, food, and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.