From Ventura Blvd. in Studio City, take Laurel Canyon Blvd. about a mile south to Fryman Road. Make a right and you’ll see the large parking lot, which features restrooms, water fountains and picnic area. Because its parking lot entrance is located on Fryman Road, the 128-acre Wilacre Park is often mistakenly referred to as Fryman Canyon Park. In fact, this hike can take you through three parks: Wilacre, Fryman Canyon and Coldwater Canyon. One mile into your hike and you’ll be at Coldwater Canyon Park, home of TreePeople, a leading environmental nonprofit organization. The cul-de-sac at Iredell Lane leads you to the hidden Rainforest Trail within Fryman Canyon.
From the 210 in Azusa, take Exit 40, turning north on Azusa Ave (CA-39). Continue 12.2 miles as the road turns into San Gabriel Canyon Road. Take a right at E. East Fork road and continue 5.2 miles until a very sharp right hand turn onto Glendora Mountain Road. At this intersection, instead turn left onto National Forest Road 8W16. Drive on this road until it ends at Coyote Flats. Park and display your Adventure Pass. If you like river crossings and forgotten L.A. history, put the Bridge to Nowhere on your list. This epic 10 mile out-and-back follows (and crosses) the East Fork of the San Gabriel River deep into the mountains, where engineers tried to cut a road in the 1930s. The great flood of ’38 washed most of the road away, except for a 120-foot concrete arch bridge that still stands. This flat hike is great in the summer and will wipe you out – and is definitely worth fighting the crowds at the trailhead.
From Franklin Ave. in Hollywood, go north on Canyon Dr. until the road ends, at the "Camp Hollywoodland" parking lot. Cross the small, red concrete bridge on the right (east) side of the road. Walk around the vehicle barrier, keep left and follow the unpaved road for the short walk into Bronson Canyon. Located in the southwest section of Griffith Park and easily accessible from Hollywood, Bronson Canyon has been a popular location for generations of filmmakers who make use of its remote-looking, somewhat alien setting. Bronson Canyon has been featured in classics like The Searchers and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, as well as more recent films like Star Trek VI and Army of Darkness. “Bronson Cave” is actually a 50-foot long tunnel, the remnants of a quarry that was founded in 1903 and originally called Brush Canyon. The tunnel entrance is best known as the mouth of the Batcave from the 1960s Batman TV series.
You can park in the lot on Canyon Dr., located just past Bronson Park. From there, head uphill past the gate and pick up the trail on the fire road heading toward the Pacific Electric quarry. You’ll pass a park and a picnic area and then climb out of the canyon. After about 3/4 of a mile, the trail intersects with the Mulholland Trail. Follow the trail to the right and continue another 1/4 mile to Mount Hollywood Dr. To get back, follow the same route, taking a left at the Mulholland Trail junction.
The easiest way to get to the trailhead and avoid the maze of Hollywood Hills roads is to take Lake Hollywood Drive from Barham Blvd. Follow this road through the hills until you see Wonder View Drive heading east. You can't park on Wonder View unless you're a rich person with a driveway, but there's plenty of free parking on Lake Hollywood. No passes or permits needed (although there's no parking between 9PM and 6AM every night). There are many ways to hike to the back of the Hollywood Sign in Griffith Park, but only one that feels like an actual wilderness adventure. The recently-added trail to Cahuenga Peak passes the beloved Wisdom Tree (the only tree in the area to survive an early 2007 fire), hops along a ridge on some gorgeous single-track, and then finally joins with the more tourist-friendly paved route on the back of Mount Lee. If you want to hike to the Hollywood Sign and still have a bit of solitude, this is the hike for you.
From West Los Angeles, head north on Beverly Drive, following signs to Coldwater Canyon. Turn left on Coldwater/Beverly Dr., and turn left again on Beverly Dr., at Fire Station No. 2. The third right is Franklin Canyon Dr. Continue through the residential area to the park entrance. At the intersection of Franklin Canyon Dr. and Lake Dr. turn right to go to Franklin Canyon Ranch site, or turn left to go to the Sooky Goldman Nature Center and Franklin Canyon Lake. Located near Benedict Canyon at the geographical center of Los Angeles, Franklin Canyon Park spans 605 acres and features over five miles of hiking trails. The easy stroll around the reservoir offers plentiful views of birds and wildlife, as well as access to other, more difficult trails such as the Hastain Trail, which rises to offer views from West LA to the Pacific. The 3-acre Franklin Lake was the “fishing hole” in the opening credits of The Andy Griffith Show, as well as the lagoon in the Universal Studios horror classic Creature from the Black Lagoon.
From the 210 Freeway, head north on Altadena Drive about 1.5 miles to the park entrance. Eaton Canyon Natural Area is located at 1750 North Altadena Drive, one block north of New York Drive in Pasadena. Open daily from sunrise to sunset, the Eaton Canyon Natural Area is a 190-acre zoological, botanical, and geological nature preserve situated at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains. In addition to hiking, visitors can enjoy equestrian trails with a staging area, picnic areas, a seasonal stream, and native flora and fauna in their natural habitats. The Eaton Canyon Nature Center features a wonderful variety of live animals on display, fascinating exhibits and useful visitor information. From the trailhead at the north end of the parking lot, hike along the well-marked main path of the Eaton Canyon Trail to the junction marked WATERFALL. Continue to the next junction and follow the trail under the concrete bridge and into Eaton Canyon. From here, the trail is less defined and much more rugged. There’s boulder-hopping and - depending on the season and rainfall - you could be creek-crossing, so be prepared. Continue through the main canyon and you’ll arrive at a 40-foot waterfall, an especially popular destination during the summer, thanks to its cooling mist and the small pool at its base.
From the 210, take the Lake Avenue exit north from Pasadena into Altadena. Continue on the road as it climbs a hill and park near the sharp left hand turn outside the Cobb Estate. No permits are required. After the Civil War, the nation’s first military aeronaut retired to Southern California and built a sprawling resort and observatory complex in the San Gabriel Mountains. You could take the old Red Car train from downtown L.A. right to the hotels via a winding railway or an exciting funicular. Time and fire have claimed most of the buildings, but many ruins of the resort are still waiting for you just north of Altadena.
From the 110 north of downtown, take the exit for Avenue 52 and head east (there should be a sign for the Audubon Center). Ave 52 turns into Griffin Ave after a sharp southward turn (note the giant metal bug sculptures and speed bumps). The entrance for the Audubon Center will be on the east side of the road just down the street. There is a free parking lot near the Center, but it's small and will most likely be full (the lot closes at 5PM, too). Park on the street and just walk back up the entrance road to get to the trailhead. This park next to the Arroyo Seco is a great, dog-friendly park with a variety of terrain and great views.
Head northwest on PCH from Santa Monica for about 17 miles. Not far from Solstice Canyon and just past Latigo Canyon Rd., you’ll see the turnoff for East Winding Way, where you can park in the well-marked lot. Follow the paved road toward the mountains. It’s a little less than a mile to the end of East Winding Way. You’ll see the entrance of Escondido Canyon Park clearly marked at the end of the pavement. From the trailhead, it’s about a mile-long trek to the falls. The trail crosses Escondido Canyon Creek several times, so prepare to get your feet wet if you’re hiking in the rainy season. This is a gradual climb that drifts in and out of tree covering, alongside canyon walls. Soon, you’ll be standing at the base of the 50-foot-high Escondido Falls, admiring the multi-tiered cataract flowing over moss-covered rocks.
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In the springtime, the waterfall is usually quite active, but the amount of water varies depending on the time of year. Scramble up the rocks to see the upper level and even more of the falls — the upper tier is about 100 feet high. Wading in the pool beneath the falls is a great way to cool off before heading back along the same route.
From I-5 heading south, take exit-141 and follow the signs for Los Feliz Blvd W for 1.4 miles. Turn right onto Hillburst Ave for .2 mile then right onto N Vermont Ave for 1.7 miles before reaching the Observatory. The West Trail Loop starts at the Fern Dell picnic area near Los Feliz Blvd. You can pick up the trail near the creek past the restrooms. Stay to the right and head uphill toward the Griffith Observatory. You’ll be able to stop and enjoy views of the city along the way. As the path flattens out, you’ll see a trail to the right leading up to the observatory. On the way back, stay right all the way down the hill. The trail will curve around a bit and then take you back to the Fern Dell picnic area.
From the west, take the 10 and get off at the La Cienega Blvd. exit. From the east, take the exit for Washington Blvd. / Fairfax Ave. and continue on Washington for about a half mile before turning south onto La Cienega. Continue on La Cienega for 1.4 miles and take the exit for the Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area. In the park, continue driving past the playground, pond, and community center and up a hill to the parking area near Janice's Green Valley (you'll see some bathrooms and another play / picnic area near the parking lot). Park your car and head toward the Green Valley to begin the trail. Car entrance to the park costs $6 at time of writing. Chances are you’ve driven through this park on the way to LAX, noticed the oil rigs and just kept driving. But if you stop to explore you’ll find a hidden gem – one of the largest open spaces in Los Angeles. Featuring strands of dense wood, huge open meadows, and some fascinating L.A. history. With views stretching from the Pacific Ocean past Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles with the San Gabriel Mountains in the background.
From the Pacific Coast Highway, turn east onto Sunset Blvd. and left onto Los Liones Drive after 0.3 miles (the turn comes up quick, and it's not a major intersection - so be careful!). The trailhead is clearly marked about 0.6 miles down Los Liones Drive, just before it makes a sharp turn to the west. There are several parking areas closer to Sunset Blvd, which have a short trail connecting them to the Los Liones Trail. You do not need to pay to park on the street inside Topanga State Park. Switchbacks and steep hill climbs characterize the first two miles of this hike. With an elevation gain of about 1,300 feet, it's definitely a tougher climb. But you can find your reward as you gaze out from a vantage point atop the bluff. Enjoy a picnic lunch or relax on a bench while taking in the overlook.
If you're headed from the South, turn onto Malibu Canyon Road off the PCH and continue 6.1 miles. Turn left into the entrance station. From the North, take the Las Virgenes Road exit from the CA-101 in Calabasas. Continue south on Las Virgenes Road for 3.4 miles and turn right into the entrance station. There is a $10 parking fee. If you don't want to pay to park, you can also park your car near the intersection of Las Virgenes and Mullholland, then hike into the park on the Grassland Trail. However, some fee-dodgers on Localhikes have reported break-ins in that area, so be forewarned. Rock climbing, lakes and rivers, twisted California geology, ranching and film history, and great scenery. Malibu Creek State Park has it all – and whether you’re taking a flat stroll along the Canyon floor or climbing the ridge of the Castro Crest, this park is definitely worth your time.
From the PCH, take Yerba Buena Road (right near the border of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties) past the Circle X Ranch. A dirt parking lot is on your left after rounding a bend. This trail will take you to the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains, past jagged peaks, riparian canyons, and popular rock climbing routes. With killer views of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Monica Bay, this is an absolute must-hike.
From the 210 in La Canada Flintridge, take the Angeles Crest Highway 50.3 miles to Vincent Gap. There is a moderately sized parking lot there, with access to several trails and a vault toilet. Park here and display your Adventure Pass. The trailhead is at the western corner of the lot. Alternatively, you can also reach this trailhead from I-15. In the Cajon Pass, take the CA-138 exit toward Palmdale and travel 8.6 miles on the 138 to the junction with the Angeles Crest Highway. From there, Vincent Gap is just under 14 miles. This prominent and popular peak is a bit of a drive down the long and winding Angeles Crest Highway, but the trip to Mount Baden-Powell is worth it. This trail switchbacks its way up to the 9,407-foot high summit. Along the way you’ll get incredible views of the Antelope Valley, hike past 1500 year-old limber pines.
Take I-210 to Upland, California and exit at Mountain Avenue. Continue north on Mountain until it turns into Mount Baldy Road. Continue through Mt. Baldy Village and past Icehouse Canyon to the Manker Flats Campground. The trailhead begins just north of the campground at San Antonio Falls Road. Look for a port-o-potty off the main road. If you want to take the Ski Lift up, continue past the campground to the end of Mt. Baldy Road. The road ends at the ski lift. Display your Adventure Pass. No SoCal hiker’s journey is complete until they’ve summited Mount San Antonio, better known to locals as Mount Baldy. At 10,064 feet, this is the highest point in Los Angeles County, the highest peak in the San Gabriel range, and the third highest peak in Southern California. This leg-busting and exhilarating loop route features jaw-dropping views and hair-raising ridgeline trails that will make you question whether or not you’re really only an hour from L.A.
From Hollywood Blvd., head north on Fuller Ave. Park at the end of Fuller and enter the well-marked park. Take the trail to the right and complete the loop counterclockwise. By no means is this hike a wilderness experience, so if you’re looking for solitude, you might want to try other trails. This hike is highlighted by million dollar mansions and priceless views of the Hollywood sign, the Sunset Strip and the LA Basin. While a lot of hikers who enjoy the solitude of longer trails in the wilderness will turn their nose up at Runyon (and I used to, too), this is one of the most popular and most accessible hikes in L.A. – and for good reason. There’s a gently graded paved path for beginners, a rare off-leash dog area for our canine friends, free yoga near the Fuller Avenue entrance, and a surprisingly rugged outer loop that will definitely give you a good workout. Yes, there are celebrities hiking the trail – and people who are desperately trying to be celebrities.
Head to Will Rogers State Park in Santa Monica. The main road to the park is just off Sunset Blvd. about a half mile east of Chataqua Blvd. You can park the car near the visitor’s center. The hike begins just behind the main ranch house at the park, next to the sign for Inspiration Point Trail. After about a mile, you’ll see the turnoff for Inspiration Point. It’s a quick detour and worth the effort to head up this side route for some spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, the LA Basin and the Santa Monica Mountains. Follow Backbone Trail to the junction with Rustic Canyon. Follow that trail back to Will Rogers Park. After the hike, explore the park and enjoy a picnic on the massive lawn in front of the house.
Take the Santa Anita exit from the 210 toward Acadia. Keep on Santa Anita Canyon Road until it ends at Chantry Flats. If you can find a parking spot here, snag it and display your Adventure Pass. The Pack Station has overflow parking, but you’ll have to pay five bucks - even if you’ve already got a pass. Santa Anita Canyon is probably the most beautiful river canyon in Southern California. This stellar loop winds through a canyon dotted with historic cabins and two waterfalls, including 50-foot Sturtevant Falls. While the falls can be crowded, the trail above the falls is idyllic and serene, the canyon floors covered in ivy. There are several campsites here and junctions with longer trails – and you won’t be able to believe you’re in Southern California.
From Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) in Central Malibu, take Solstice Canyon Rd. to the entrance, located at Corral Canyon Rd. Solstice Canyon is an easy hike along a shaded trail that is partially paved before it gives way to a fire road. Depending on the time of year, a waterfall cascades into a pool in the rocks behind the home here. Do some exploring and you’ll find a statue of the Virgin Mary in a nearby grotto. You can take Solstice Canyon back, or work up a sweat on the switchbacks that take you to the Rising Sun Trail at the top of the hills
The trailhead and parking are at the intersection of Sunset Blvd. and Temescal Canyon Road in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles. You may park inside the park gates (parking fee is $7 at time of writing) or you can park for free on the street on either Sunset or Temescal Canyon Road. If you do choose to park inside the gate, beware of the stop-sign camera inside the park. It's notoriously trigger-happy. Temescal Canyon‘s loop trail offers a steep, shaded canyon or a more gradual sunny ascent. It also features a seasonal waterfall, strange rock formations, and stunning coastal views – all right at the Westside’s doorstep.
From Santa Clarita in northern LA County, take the Golden State Freeway (I-5) north to the Antelope Valley Freeway (CA14) north toward Palmdale/Lancaster. Exit on Agua Dulce Canyon Rd., turn left and follow the signs to the park entrance. Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park is a 905-acre park located in Agua Dulce, about an hour north of Downtown LA. The park’s striking, multi-colored rock formations reach heights of 150 feet and are the result of tens of millions of years of seismic activity and erosion. Vasquez Rocks takes its name from the outlaw Tiburcio Vásquez, who used the area as one of his many hideouts. A portion of the famed Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches 2,663 miles from Canada to the Mexico border, passes through Vasquez Rocks. The gentle incline and numerous trails provide plenty of options for exploring the park. The excursion is especially memorable when combined with views from atop the famous rocks.
From the South, take the CA-2 or Glendale Blvd. north into Glendale. If you're taking the 2, exit at Mountain Street and turn left. In 0.5 miles, turn right onto Verdugo Road, which becomes Canada Blvd. In 1.8 miles, take a left at the light onto Country Club Drive, and follow this road for 0.4 miles before taking a left onto Beaudry Blvd. Drive another 0.4 miles to where the road makes a sharp right hand turn on a steep incline. This is the trailhead. Park on the street - no permits required. North of Glendale and east of Burbank lie the Verdugo Mountains, a rugged little island of nature inside a sea of urban sprawl. These peaks are lined with old fire roads and ridge trails and are a popular yet uncrowded destination for hikers and mountain bikers alike. On clear days, you’ll have commanding views of the L.A. Basin and you won’t have to drive very far to get there.
Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park