The Five Best Hiking Trails in Los Angeles

Nobody walks in L.A.? Ignore the cliche and trek into the not-so-hidden wilderness.

Hopper Editors - Oct. 26, 2017

Let's get something out of the way right up front: you will not see the Hollywood Sign, Runyon Canyon Loop or Solstice Canyon on this list. Though not without their charms, these hikes offer the same chance to escape the city, commune with nature and enjoy inner peace as your average ride on a rush hour bus, i.e. none, zip, zero, nada. They are eminently bucket list-able: once accomplished, check 'em off and move on.

Unknown to many (particularly visitors), Los Angeles and its surrounding forests, mountains and coastline are seeded with a bounty of gorgeous, challenging, invigorating hiking trails that offer escape from the urban jungle. Here are five of the very best hiking trails Los Angeles has to offer.

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5. East Fork San Gabriel River

The hike to the fabled "Bridge to Nowhere" makes this list by a whisker, as it has received a lot of exposure lately and is beginning to feel a bit crowded during peak hours. Tucked into the serene San Gabriel Mountains northeast of the city, at 10.1 miles this hike is an honest day's work. There's also plenty of play: the trail hops the river several times, offering numerous opportunities to swim and sight-see. An abandoned highway bridge across a steep gorge is the money shot and the swimming holes beneath are top notch. Elevation gain is only 800 feet, so despite the length this one is fit for hiking novices.

4. Quarry Loop in the Forrestal Nature Reserve

Turning to the South Bay, here's a short hike that can be knocked off in just a couple hours. The Mariposa/Quarry Loop in Palos Verdes offers spectacular views of the Pacific along a spirited-but-not-too-challenging 1.9-mile jaunt through hills and canyons. Those views include Catalina, Santa Monica and (marine layer permitting) Santa Barbara Island way, way out in the channel. A minor detour even gets you down to the beach and one of LA's primo surf spots. One warning: the vibe in the waves here is "locals only," so think twice about bringing your board.

3. Escondido Falls Trail

Photo by maveric2003/Flickr.

Also nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains, the Escondido Falls Trail winds 3.8 miles through lush foliage, light woods and a steep river canyon. The climax is a 150-foot waterfall that is spectacular during the wet season (typically November through April, but this is California so you never know). The trail crosses the river several times along the way, so bring footwear appropriate for rock-hopping or wading. Hikers can climb to a small landing beneath the falls for a better view or splash in the pools below. Dogs and mountain bikes are welcome and there are no fees for access.

2. Malibu Creek State Park / 'MASH' Set Hike

Moving west of town, Malibu Creek State Park is home to the former 20th Century Fox Film Ranch, shooting site of numerous films and television shows featuring extensive outdoor locations. The set from the television series MASH remains as a museum of sorts and includes some rusted out military hardware, photo exhibits and more. The hike to the set and back is 4.75 miles with minimal elevation, short enough to fit into half a day. Sharp-eyed explorers may catch a glimpse of mountain lions or bighorn sheep.

1. Mount Wilson Trail via Chantry Flats

"Hike the Southern California Six-Pack of Peaks" is a thing, and for most people Mt. Wilson is first on the list that includes Cucamonga Peak, Mt. San Antonio, San Bernardino Peak, San Jacinto Peak and San Gorgonio. Your mission to Mt. Wilson begins in the foothills above Pasadena – total length is 12.6 miles, so plan for the whole day. This hike includes a brief detour from the main route to visit Sturtevant Falls, a 50-foot stunner that is one of SoCal's most picturesque waterfalls. This hike is great practice for anyone building strength for more challenging excursions.

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