This piece originally appeared as part of the 20 Great Walks guide in the February 2018 issue of Los Angeles magazine.
On a Thursday night, people of all ages trickle across the lot by the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round, more than a few with water bottles and telescoping walking sticks dangling from carabiners. Many of them have been doing these Sierra Club hikes in the park for years and catch up with one another as first-timers like me sign an insurance waiver.
At 7 p.m. an organizer announces who’ll be leading the hikes, which are divided by level of difficulty, ranging from one (all flat) to six (fast and more vertical); for newcomers, an easy-to-moderate level three is the limit. How far a group travels varies, depending on the intensity level of the hike, though all outings have to end before the park’s 10:30 cutoff.
My group’s goal: to reach the helipad on the ridge above. As we head out into the darkness toward a fire road, coyotes yelp beyond the silhouettes of trees and chaparral. During the slow ascent, we get a sweeping view of the Valley, the lights of Burbank so bright that we don’t even need headlamps. Despite pausing occasionally for a pair of four-year-olds to catch up, we make the 1.7-mile trip up faster than expected, the conversations keeping pace the whole time. High above the sea of lights that stretches from downtown to Koreatown to Century City and beyond, photos are snapped and snacks are eaten. Then it’s time to make the trip back down to earth—all in less than two hours.
Looking for other group hikes and walks?
Contemplative solo walks have their merits; esprit de corps is not one of them. This is where Meetup.com comes in, enabling you to make some friends in fun, low-pressure context. There are more than 100 Meet-up groups devoted to walking and hiking in Los Angeles, with new ones popping up every day. The Los Angeles Hiking Group is the largest, with more than 24,000 members, hosting hikes all over the county nearly every day.
But you can also find niche excursions. One is geared toward parents talking with their teens about sex. On another, participants walk through skid row, handing out food and other essentials. On a recent seven-mile “Literary Hike,” Kurt Vonnegut fans discussed his last book while trekking to the Parker Mesa Overlook in Malibu. And if you can’t find what you’re looking for, you can always start your own.
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