Best hikes in LA: Get outdoors and view the city from the hills

From secluded mountain treks in Altadena to unparalleled people-watching in Runyon Canyon, here are five of the best hikes in LA with great views of the city.

Photograph: Benny Haddad
Runyon Canyon

In a city where open space is sparse and the sprawl can feel endelss, climb up to escape from it all. These five hikes provide a great experience and unmatched views that really put Los Angeles in perspective. Whether you're more cityscape gawker or ocean gazer, we've got the trek for you, in this list of the best hikes in LA—with views.

1/5

Runyon Canyon, Hollywood

An exerciser’s paradise in the Hollywood Hills, Runyon’s the spot for views of the toned bodies and even tonier homes endemic to this part of LA. The packed dirt path leads hikers, runners, yoga enthusiasts and roving weightlifters on a loop around the canyon, guaranteeing countless moments to pause and utter “This is so LA”—particularly during the after-work rush hour, when people-watching reaches its frenzied peak. Look out for tatted-up porn-star bodies sprinting bare-chested through the hills. Make eyes with middle-aged gay couples, chiseled and waxed. And clear the path for at least one dog walker, clogging the trail with a pack of purebreds.

You can catch the loop from either the east (Fuller Avenue) or West (North Vista Street) side of the canyon. Either way, it’s a mostly gradual ascent, except for a treacherously steep and narrow section near the top of the eastern canyon wall. At the top, the trail plateaus along a ridge, giving views of the architectural hodgepodge of the Hollywood Hills—solar panels, pools and decks on stilts—downtown Hollywood and the Capitol Records building, the manicured tidiness of WeHo’s grid, and the tangle of high-rises along Miracle Mile.

Address: 2001 N Fuller Ave

Hours: Dawn to dusk

Parking: Street parking. Franklin Avenue is a good place to find a two-hour spot. You can enter the park on North Fuller Avenue or North Vista Street. Watch out for permit-parking only blocks in this neighborhood.

Pets? Dogs are welcome (encouraged, really), with much of the trail allowing off-leash roaming.

Length: ~1.5 miles with possibilities to extend

Time: 30-60 mins

Read more
West Hollywood
2/5

The Charlie Turner Trail to Mount Hollywood, Griffith Park

At the top of Mount Hollywood, 360-degree views of everything from the Verdugo Mountains to the Pacific Ocean (on a rare, smog-free day) offer a bird’s-eye crash course on LA geography. That is, if you can fight the feeling of visual overload—inspired by Griffith Park’s dazzlingly varied landscape—long enough to keep your bearings.

To get to the Mount Hollywood summit, Griffith’s highest peak, pick up the trail at the north side of the Observatory parking lot. Starting off amid scrubby evergreens, the path quickly emerges into the hills, winding higher and deeper, with the Hollywood sign appearing to the left about 15 minutes in.

After about a solid 40 minutes of walking, you’ll reach the top: a big, dusty clearing with picnic tables. It’s an ideal vantage point for checking out sweeping views of the Los Angeles basin, the edge of the San Fernando Valley, the hazy hills to the west, the skyline of Downtown Los Angeles with the observatory in the foreground, and the money shot: a close-up of the Hollywood sign at eye level.

Address: 2800 E Observatory Ave

Hours: From 5am-10:30pm. Hiking trails close at sunset.

Parking: Snag a spot in the lot next to the Griffith Observatory. If that lot is too hectic, look for street parking along Observatory Avenue.

Pets? Dogs allowed on leashes.

Length: ~3 miles

Time: 90 mins

Read more
Los Feliz Free
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
3/5

The Sara Wan Trailhead at Corral Canyon

Where mountains collide with ocean, it’s hard to go wrong in the search for perfect views. What makes Malibu’s Corral Canyon stand out is its status as the only coastal canyon in Los Angeles County that was never developed. That means raw nature—coastal sage scrub and willows clinging to parched hills, plus the occasional bunny or lizard—experienced over a 2.4-mile, fairly gentle and shockingly deserted (on a weekday afternoon) hike.

As the trail begins, the noise of the PCH and the sea breeze follow you up. But things quiet down—and heat up—quickly on this shadeless trail. Hang a left at the first fork—this way you can face the ocean during your descent. Cutting through wild fennel and rust-colored grasses, the packed dirt path leads you on switchbacks along the east side and top of Corral Canyon.

While the loop lacks a crowning “inspiration point” to linger on, the descent toward the ocean has sweeping views of Santa Monica beaches all the way to Point Dume that are more than easy on the eyes.

Address: 5623 Pacific Coast Hwy

Hours: Dawn to dusk

Parking: Plenty on PCH by Malibu Seafood; or pay $5 (cash or check) in the lot at the trailhead, just east of the restaurant.

Pets? Dogs allowed on leashes.

Length: ~2.5 miles

Time: 60-90 mins

Read more
Photograph: Benny Haddad
4/5

Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, Culver City

An oil-rig studded hill on the edge of Culver City’s industrial zone is an odd place for a state park. But that’s all part of this urban overlook’s understated charm. A destination for exercisers south of the 10 freeway, the park’s main draw is the steps: more than 260 stone slabs that deliver hikers—breathless, aching—to the top in under 20 minutes.

If it’s your first time, don’t look back until you reach the top. That way you’ll maximize the surprise of this north-gazing view of LA’s east-to-west spine—far less photographed than the standard postcard pic snapped from south-facing Hollywood Hills, but just as worthy. Peer east toward Downtown’s skyline and the sprawl of South LA. To the north and west, Century City high-rises and Westwood’s Mormon temple cut imposing figures, with the Santa Monica Mountains serving as a smoky backdrop.

At happy hour, a no-frills workout scene flourishes, with people streaming into the park up until the moment it closes at sunset (and after). The paved viewing deck at the top turns into a sweaty zone of improvised pilates, exuding an electric post–work day energy that reverberates in the glow of city lights below. The hill’s central location and low-key crowd make you feel like you’re above the city, and within it, all at the same time.

Address: 6300 Hetzler Rd

Hours: 8am to dusk. The visitor center is open occasionally, usually Thursday to Saturday mornings.

Parking: Look for parking on Jefferson Boulevard or drive to the top and pay $6.

Pets? No dogs allowed (sorry!).

Length: Less than 1 mile, but very steep

Time: 30 mins

Read more
Photograph: Benny Haddad
5/5

Echo Mountain, Altadena

“A quiet refuge from people and wild life forever,” declares a sign at the entrance to the Sam Merrill trail. While you’ll only linger here for a few hours, forever wouldn’t be too long. This hike feels more like a weekend destination than an after-work jaunt, unless you live in the neighborhood. And based on the camel packs and hiking poles, the crowd who comes is a bit more serious about hiking, than say, at Griffith, but that doesn’t mean it’s too challenging for a novice.

The hike begins by scaling the wall of a canyon and emerging onto the face of the mountain about 15 minutes later. The views of downtown LA, Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley are stellar even at low levels. But once you get to the top, there’s the added bonus of a fascinating LA history: In 1894, ambitious industrialists linked this mountaintop to nearby Pasadena with a train and then established an alpine resort, the White City, complete with a 70-room mansion. Two fires burned everything to the ground within a decade of its opening. All that’s left now are ruined foundations and train tracks for hikers to explore and picnic on. It's a poetic view of the charred remains of a long-lost dream.

Address: E Loma Alta Dr at Lake Ave

Hours: Part of the Angeles National Forest, the trail doesn’t officially close and is popular with night hikers.

Parking: Look for street parking by the entrance.

Pets? Dogs allowed on leashes.

Length: 5 miles

Time: 2.5-3.5 hrs

Read more

Comments

Maria F
Maria F

Miss Heaven's Bustop at the top of Runyon!

Justin S
Justin S

Whatever dumbass wrote this article gave the wrong address for the Sara Wan Trailhead. 25623 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu 90265

Jack
Jack

Great site to explore the city.

Julie Kashen
Julie Kashen

Corral Canyon is awesome, but the address you have listed is wrong. Newport Beach is also beautiful, but not as good for a great hike. I recommend you correct the address.