Los Angeles’ 5 Most Popular Hiking Trails

Photo: John Gibbons

The idea that Los Angeles is filled with freeways, movie stars and smog might be partially true, but it also has the Pacific Ocean and plenty of mountains, both which can be explored by hiking trails. If you happen to be in LA take a day or two to walk some of these eclectic trails before you go back to searching for movie stars.

Mt. Hollywood Trail
The Hollywood sign is a Los Angeles icon and if you can’t get close to a movie star, you can at least get close to the sign on this trail. The hike of about three miles starts at Griffith Observatory and is nice and easy, and a reasonable hike for children. It’s a top trail for natives of Los Angeles so you will be passing and be passed by hikers and runners, many on their cell phones. It’s a popular trail because of the view once you get to the top with the city of Los Angeles to the south and Hollywood sign to the west and if you look behind the sunglasses and hat, you might see a movie star walk past you.

 Sara Wan Trail Head at Corral Canyon
This 2.5 mile trail winds through the last undeveloped canyon filled with willow and sycamore trees that flows down to the ocean in Malibu. The trail is in the 1,000-acre Corral Canyon Park in the Santa Monica Mountains. Your hike begins on Pacific Coast Highway next to a deli—which is so LA. There is no parking allowed on the PCH near this trail but there is a parking lot at the trailhead which charges $5.00. This is an easy hike with a view of the ocean and mountains, but make sure you bring plenty of water, wear long pants for bushwhacking, and be on the lookout for snakes that hide in the tall grass. Other than that, this hike is a lot of fun.

Echo Mountain, Altadena
The Sam Merrill trail on Echo Mountain is the path to take for the best experience. The trail head begins at the intersection of East Loma Alta Drive and Lake Avenue in Altadena, at the entrance to the Cobb Estate and you begin your walk on an old driveway. The climb is steep, but it won’t take long for you to catch views of Altadena, Pasadena, and Los Angeles. The trail ends at the ruins of the Echo Mountain House, a resort built in the late 1800s and which eventually was destroyed by wildfires. This is a strenuous 5.8-mile hike with 1,400 feet of elevation gain, so bring plenty of water and make sure your camera is charged because there are all kinds of old artifacts to be found along the trail.

Portuguese Bend Reserve, Rancho Palos Verdes
This nature preserve of almost 400 acres is filled with sagebrush and wildflowers that cling to the craggy cliffs. You might think you are in Northern California, walking through Big Sur, but then you remember where you parked your car and realize you are in Los Angeles. The best trail, according to locals, is a six-mile round-trip walk to Sacred Cove, which will reward you with oversized waves crashing onto the rocks and of view of the Catalina Islands.

Trail Canyon Falls, Angels National Forest
Trail Canyon Falls is a 4.5 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Tujunga, neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley. The trail is steep—700 feet of elevation—but when you arrive at the 30-foot waterfall that spills over a smooth wall into a shallow pool, you will be glad you kept going. Dogs are welcome on Trail Canyon Trail (they like to use the word ‘trail.’) and even better, it’s free to park at the trailhead.

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