When most tourists think of the things to do in Los Angeles, it’s all about the entertainment industry and beaches.
But beyond the bright lights and packed piers, LA is also known for its near-perfect weather and stunning natural wonders.
For this reason, hiking is one of the most popular outdoor activities recommended by almost every Angeleno.
Los Angeles is blessed with some of the best hiking trails in the country. Whether you’re new to hiking or a seasoned veteran you’re guaranteed to find a trail just for you.
Additionally, if you’re looking to take some of those classic and Instagrammable pictures that LA is known for, you’ll need to do a little hiking.
So throw on those shoes, slap on some sunscreen, grab your water bottles, and take your pick from our list of awesome must-try hikes in LA.
One of the largest city parks in North America, Griffith Park has 58 trails spread out over more than 4,000 acres of land. And thanks to its expansive variety there’s a trail for every type of hiker.
If you’re looking for gorgeous views of the city or looking to take pictures of the Hollywood Sign this is the place to be.
Throw in the fact that you can see other planets at the Griffith Observatory and you begin to understand why this park is one of the most visited in the U.S.
West Observatory Trail
One of the landmarks you shouldn’t miss when visiting LA is the Griffith Observatory.
Admission is free so go ahead and explore the fascinating exhibits and planetarium when you reach the Observatory.
Movie enthusiasts will be delighted to know that the Observatory was where they shot numerous scenes in Rebel Without A Cause. Commemorating the movie is a James Dean statue found right outside the Observatory.
Now you could easily drive up to the Observatory but know that during busy season traffic gets backed up half a mile or more.
This means parking is a hassle and depending on where you park you’re looking at a mini-hike to the Observatory.
For this reason, if you’re able and willing to hike, the West Observatory Trail is one of the best alternatives to driving.
Plus you’ll be treated to great 360-degree views of Downtown Los Angeles, many beautiful mountain ridges, and the Hollywood sign.
Trail Location: You can access the trail from the Ferndell Garden entrance off Los Feliz Boulevard. The trailhead starts at a split intersection when you enter a firebreak trail after passing Ferndell Nature Museum and Trail Café.
Distance and Difficulty: Rated as an easy to moderate trail loop so you can bring your family and kids. This has a 580 ft. elevation gain and takes you approximately 2 miles roundtrip. No fees or permits required to enter the hiking trail.
Take your hike further up Griffith Observatory and make your way to the more scenic and leisurely trail of Mount Hollywood. It offers a nice view of the Hollywood Sign, Vermont Canyon, the Greek Theater, and Downtown Los Angeles.
This trail also leads you toward Dante’s View which has a garden of trees and shaded picnic tables and benches.
It’s the perfect spot for you to take a break and grab a quick bite.
From here you can catch a few more nice views of Glendale and the San Gabriel Mountains. If you’re bringing your dog, there’s water available for pets as well.
Trail Location: You can access the trail via the Charlie Turner Trailhead located at the parking area of Griffith Observatory.
Distance and Difficulty: Rated as a moderate trail loop with a 500 ft. elevation gain and is approximately 1.4-3.2 miles round trip.
Amir’s Garden Trail
Another great trail to consider is Amir’s Garden Trail.
It leads you to a pleasant hike-in picnic area called Amir’s Garden. Here you can admire verdant greenery such as tall sycamores and a variety of succulents like ice plants and jade.
This trail has wide sweeping views of Griffith Park and Glendale along with the Verdugo and San Gabriel mountains.
You can also continue up to Mount Hollywood and Mount Bell. Dogs are welcome on this trail but they have to be on a leash.
Trail Location: You can access the trail at the intersection of Mineral Wells Road and Griffith Park drive, beginning from the Mineral Well picnic area.
Distance and Difficulty: Rated as a moderate trail loop with a 275 ft. elevation change and is approximately 1.1 miles round trip.
Here’s a little gem for the film buffs out there. This short and simple trail is one of the easiest to access and will lead you to the Bronson Caves.
The Bronson Cave is a drive-through tunnel famous for being featured in a lot of movies. Most notably it’s known as the entrance of the Batcave in the 1960’s Batman TV series.
Pretty cool, right?
From here, you can also catch a glimpse of the Hollywood Sign and hike up to the Hollyridge Viewpoint for some spectacular scenery.
Dogs are welcome but they need to be on a leash. Unfortunately, bikes are not allowed but it’s free to enter the Bronson Caves.
So come on, Robin, to the Bat Cave! There’s not a moment to lose!
Trail Location: You can access the trail at the end of Canyon Drive top of Bronson Canyon Park. The trailhead is accessible a tenth of a mile south of Brush Canyon Trail on the right.
Distance and Difficulty: Rated as an easy trail and is good for all skill levels including kids. The hike is more of a walk with a 50 ft. elevation change and is approximately 0.6 miles round trip.
Home to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the Walk of Fame, this Los Angeles neighborhood has some extraordinary trails for tourists and locals alike.
And, yes, the chances of spotting a celebrity are higher here than most other places on this list.
Right in the heart of Hollywood lies Runyon Canyon, the most famous hiking spot in Los Angeles.
Located in the Hollywood Hills this hike gives you fantastic views of Catalina Island, Santa Monica mountains, the Hollywood Sign, and the Sunset Strip. It’s also a fun hike for spotting million-dollar mansions and celebrities.
The trail will lead you to two other viewpoints: Inspiration Point and Clouds Rest.
Inspiration Point is a great place to rest and also take some Instagram worthy pictures without hiking all day. Meanwhile, at Clouds Rest you’ll get some epic views of LA at 1,040 ft.
There’s also free street parking close to the main entrance and dogs are welcome either on or off-leash.
Trail Location: You can access the trail beginning from the entrance of Runyon Canyon Park at the end of Fuller Avenue, up the hill.
Distance and Difficulty: Rated as a difficult trail since the terrain can cause you to slip. Still, it should be doable for all levels of hikers if taking the paved road instead.
The 3.5 miles roundtrip for all of Runyon Canyon Park has an 800 ft. elevation change. You also have the option to do shorter hikes of 1.9-2.65 miles with 500-700 ft. elevation change.
Wisdom Tree, Cahuenga Peak, and the Hollywood Sign
Another one of the most popular hikes is the Wisdom Tree and Cahuenga Peak hike right in the heart of Hollywood.
The trail leading up to the Wisdom Tree can be challenging but the payoff is worth it.
At the summit, you’ll be treated to some delightful views over Burbank, Hollywood, Universal Studios, and Toluca Lake.
Notable for being the only tree left standing after the 2007 Barham Wildfires, the Wisdom Tree is visited a lot by both tourists and locals. Here, they enjoy the sweeping views of the city while taking in some words of wisdom that are written on notebooks by other visitors.
Located behind the Hollywood Sign, the Cahuenga Peak is also the highest in Griffith Park.
It has great views of Mount Wilson, Echo Mountain, and Inspiration Point, and then Mount Lee, which overlooks LA
Note: if you’re headed to the Hollywood Sign, it is closely monitored 24/7 by the LAPD. There are numerous cameras and motion sensors since touching the sign is prohibited.
If you’re still up for it, take the Valley Overlook loop extension after the Wisdom Tree and Hollywood Sign. This loop will give you a clear view of Warner Brothers Studios and Forest Lawn Cemetery, where many Hollywood celebrities lay at rest.
Dogs are welcome on the entire loop but bikes are prohibited.
Trail Location: You can access the trail at the end of Wonder View Drive. There is roadside parking available at Lake Hollywood Drive.
Distance and Difficulty: The Wisdom Tree hike is rated as difficult since there are some steep and rocky sections. You might need some gear such as trekking poles and hiking shoes but the trails themselves are pretty solid and safe.
The full loop takes 4.2 miles with 1,690 ft. elevation change at the Wisdom Tree spot and 1,821 ft. elevation at Cahuenga Peak.
Malibu and Santa Monica
Malibu and Santa Monica hiking trails should be included in every trekker’s itinerary.
They offer amazing scenery, picturesque sunsets, and a cool ocean breeze that’s criminally underrated.
Plus, you can go from hiking to laying on the beach within minutes. Throw in some ice-cold margaritas and, well, this situation is clearly a win-win-win.
This is an easier, more family-friendly hike with a lot of shade, a flowing creek, and sweeping ocean views.
Along the way you get to see exotic plants, ruins of an old stone building, and a hidden Virgin Mary statue.
At the end of this hike is a small waterfall where you can cool off and check out the ruins of a ranch house called the Tropical Terrace, which was built in 1952.
Unfortunately, it was burned by wildfires in 1982. Still, there are some fairly well-preserved features and aspects of the house that you can explore.
Note: You’ll see another trail in Solstice Canyon called The Rising Sun Trail. This trail is more rugged and offers almost no shade. Precautions should be taken if you decide to hike this trail in hot weather.
Trail Location: You can access the trail from the Solstice Canyon Education parking lot which is just off the Pacific Coast Highway north of Malibu.
Distance and Difficulty: Rated as a moderate trail with 800 ft. elevation gain, it’s approximately a 6 mile round trip.
Murphy Ranch Trail
Murphy Ranch was known for being an old Nazi sympathizer camp in the 1930s. It was raided and closed by the US authorities in 1941 shortly after the bombs fell on Pearl Harbor.
The building structures were then left in urban decay and eventually demolished by LA’s Department of Parks and Recreation.
Due to some safety concerns, only a little is left for the hikers to explore.
The trail to the ruins starts on a wide paved road that gives you a partial view of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Monica Mountain peaks.
Shortly after beginning, you will descend a steep, long, and narrow concrete stairwell. Here you will encounter the first out of the many concrete buildings that make up the ranch.
From here you can follow the Rustic Canyon Trail and explore the rest of the area. Just be careful as hikers report that you may encounter poison oak along this trail.
Trail Location: You can access the trail from the end of Sullivan Ridge fire road by the entrance of Topanga State Park.
Distance and Difficulty: Rated as a moderate trail loop with 325 ft. elevation gain and is approximately 3.85 miles round trip.
A popular trail for ocean lovers is Point Dume. The cliffs located here are a promontory, jutting into the Pacific Ocean and are located northwest of Santa Monica.
The top of Point Dume overlooks Zuma Beach with the entire area showcasing pristine white sand beaches and crystal blue waters.
Other trails in the point lead to two beaches. One is secluded while the other is more popular for being a good spot for whale watching.
The cliffs of Point Dume have also been featured in movies such as Planet of the Apes and Iron Man to name a few.
Dogs and off-trail hiking are prohibited but no fee or permit is required to enter. So, go soak up the sun and enjoy the ocean breeze!
Trail Location: You can access the trail in the parking area behind the Point Dume Natural Preserve park or via Westward Beach. Starting at Westward Beach does make it a much longer hike but it is less crowded.
Distance and Difficulty: Rated as great for all levels with a 100 ft elevation gain. It’s approximately 1.4 miles roundtrip if coming from the cliffside drive and a total of 4 miles if starting at Westward Beach.
Parker Mesa – Los Liones Trail
The Parker Mesa Overlook is recognized as the world’s largest wildland within the boundaries of a major city. It also has breathtaking views of Santa Monica and the Pacific Ocean.
Getting here via the Los Liones Trail may be the longer option but you get to pass through a more shaded and lush route of ivy and chaparral.
Dogs and bikes are not welcome but no fee or permit is required to hike on the trail.
Trail Location: You can access the trail on Los Liones Drive in the Pacific Palisades and take advantage of the free street parking.
Distance and Difficulty: It’s approximately 7.3 miles roundtrip and is rated as a moderate trail for hiking with a 1,190 ft elevation gain.
Angeles National Forest
First of all, the Angeles National Forest is huge. Massive. Ginormous.
For context, it’s twice the size of the city of Los Angeles!
Located just north of the Greater Los Angeles metropolis this forest has 700,000 acres of land that go up to 10,000 ft in elevation. It’s an accessible and adventurous playground for hikers, campers, bikers, and all-terrain vehicle enthusiasts alike.
So, yeah, whatever type of outdoor activity you’re looking for it can most likely be found here.
Bridge to Nowhere
Be prepared to get wet on this fun trek as there are plenty of stream crossings and water holes to cool off in.
Just be careful as there are yucca and prickly plants in the area. More than a few sightings of rattlesnakes have also been reported.
The trail takes you along the San Gabriel River in Sheep Mountain until you ultimately get to a huge 120-foot-high bridge.
Initially, this bridge was built to get to East Fork Road which would later on connect San Gabriel Valley with Wrightwood. Unfortunately, the road was washed away in 1938 during the San Gabriel River floods.
Thus the bridge has been called the Bridge to Nowhere ever since.
Now, the bridge serves as a point of interest for thrill-seekers. The adventure company, Bungee America, operates here allowing for safe bungee jumps off the bridge.
It is advised to hike this trail in the summer and avoid rainy days as much as possible.
Dangerous flash floods have been known to occur and on typical rainy days, the river can go up to waist level and cover portions of the trail.
Trail Location: You can access the trail 30 minutes north of downtown Azusa. You’ll need a pass before you can access the trailhead and a permit to trek Sheep Mountain Wilderness. There is paid parking in the area.
Distance and Difficulty: Rated as a moderate hike with 800 ft. elevation gain it’s a 10.5 mile round trip.
Mount Baldy got its name because of the treeless appearance of Baldy Bowl when viewed from LA.
Its official name is Mount San Antonio but you won’t catch many locals calling it that. What you will catch them doing is making a trip to its summit as Mount Baldy’s peak is the highest point in all LA at 10,064 ft.
The best time to hike here is during the summer, though, regardless of the time of year, you must leave the trail before sunset.
Note: It is strongly advised to avoid Mount Baldy during high winds, low temperatures, and snow. People have died on these trails due to bad wintery weather so plan ahead and be cautious.
Trail Location: You can access the trail past Manker Campground which is an hour east of downtown LA. Two popular trails can be used as a starting point: Baldy Bowl/Ski Hut Trail and Devil’s Backbone trail.
Distance and Difficulty: Rated as a difficult hike with 3,950 ft. elevation gain it’s approximately a 11 mile round trip.
Mount Baden Powell
The hike to Mount Baden Powell is another trail for the more seasoned hiker. But for anyone who makes it to the summit you’re greeted with incredible panoramic views of the San Gabriel Mountains.
There are some fascinating elements to this trail.
For example, along the trail you will encounter the Wally Waldon tree, a 1500-year-old peculiarly bent pine tree. You will also see a monument of Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts and the mountain’s namesake.
Thankfully, this hike is pretty straightforward and clearly marked.
It is characterized by its 40 switchbacks on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) while being sheltered with trees for most of the trail.
Trail Location: You can access the trail via the PCT parking lot from Vincent Gap near Wrightwood. This is located near Valyermo, California.
A parking pass is needed but no permits are required to hike on the trail. Dogs are welcome but must be leashed.
Distance and Difficulty: Rated as a hard but doable hike with 1,512 ft. elevation gain it’s approximately a 8.3 mile round trip.
Pasadena is known for its annual New Year’s Day Rose Parade and Rose Bowl game.
It’s also known for its prestigious scientific community as home to the California Institute of Technology and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
But, Pasadena also has some exciting hiking trails that you won’t want to miss either. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Eaton Canyon is a relatively short trail that takes you through a few water crossings to an impressive 40-ft high waterfall.
Here, depending on the season and recent rainfall, you’ll find a wide and refreshing knee-deep pool in which you can cool off.
Due to its location close to the city this trail can get a little crowded, especially during springtime when the wildflowers are in bloom. Still, it’s a fairly easy hike and worth the visit.
If you want, you can extend this hike a bit further until you reach Hennigan Flats. This a scenic perch overlooking the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and it also has a museum nearby.
No fee or permit is required to enter the trail and dogs are allowed but must be leashed.
Trail Location: You can access the trail in northeast Pasadena. The trailhead is at Eaton Canyon Natural Area Park and Nature Center, located off Altadena Drive.
Distance and Difficulty: Rated as a moderately easy hike with 375 ft. elevation gain and is approximately 3.5 miles roundtrip.
The Switzer Falls trail first leads you to the remnants of Switzer Trail Camp, which was a mountain resort built in 1884. It was abandoned during the depression in WW2 and later demolished in 1943.
As you trek further along the trail, you will be treated to the gorgeous landscape of surrounding mountains and views of the canyon.
Finally, you’ll arrive at the waterfalls. Being the most popular waterfall hike in Los Angeles, it can get pretty crowded here especially during the weekends. Still, trust us, it’s worth it.
Note that you will be arriving at the lower falls. Climbing to the upper falls is discouraged and many accidents have occurred in attempts to reach it.
No fee or permits are required to hike the trail but you will need a pass to park. Dogs are welcome but must be on a leash.
Trail Location: You can access the trail starting at the Switzer Picnic Area which is in Angeles Crest Highway. Down the lower parking lot is the Switzer Falls trailhead.
Distance and Difficulty: Rated as a moderate hike with 650 ft. elevation gain and it is approximately a 4 mile round trip.
Regarded by USA Today as one of the “10 Great North American Hikes” and one of the “Top 45 Hikes in the West” by Sunset Magazine, this hike is sure to satisfy both the history buff and the active hiker.
Echo Mountain House was built by Professor Thaddeus S. C. Lowe in 1894. It was a 70-room Victorian hotel that was painted a brilliant white which gave it the nickname, “White City”.
During this time, it was one of the most popular tourist attractions in California.
Tramcars were also built to transport guests to and from the White City.
Fire and windstorms destroyed the Echo Mountain House in 1905 and, sadly, the railways had to be dismantled a few years after that.
The Forest Service also had to demolish most of the structures due to safety. Still, the remaining ruins, stories, and photographs of the Echo Mountain House are available for hikers and tourists to admire.
You’ll start your journey on the Sam Merrill Trail in the lower San Gabriel Mountain which follows Old Mt. Lowe Railway to Echo Mountain.
This trail also gives you the option to continue to Inspiration Point, which was a historic viewpoint originally built for the Echo Mountain House guests.
Here you’ll find amazing panoramic views of Los Angeles, Catalina Islands, and the surrounding mountains.
Trail Location: You can access the Sam Merrill Trail to Echo Mountain at the 1070-acre Cobb Estate at the intersection of East Loma Alta Drive and Lake Avenue in Altadena.
Distance and Difficulty: Rated as a moderate to hard hike with 2,740 ft. elevation gain and it’s approximately a 10.4 mile round trip including Inspiration Point.
It’s only a 6 mile round trip if you just want to hike the Echo Mountain ruins.
This suburb of LA is home to Disney’s Creative Campus (such as Disney Interactive and Marvel Studios), DreamWorks Animation, IHOP headquarters, and is also the final resting place of many celebrities at Forest Lawn Memorial Park.
Located between the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys, Glendale residents and visitors have numerous excellent hiking spots to choose from.
Beaudry Fire Road Loop
This fire 5.5 mile loop is an ideal hike in the evening with headlamps or flashlights as the broad trail is well-maintained with distinct signs and landmarks.
It provides excellent sunset views of the LA Basin, Griffith Park, San Gabriel Mountains, Palos Verdes Peninsula, Santiago Peak in Orange County, and Catalina Island.
Dogs are welcome but must be on a leash. Bikes are also permitted on the trails.
Trail Location: You can access the trailhead at the end of Beaudry Blvd in Glendale near a flood control dam and spillway. This is also known as the Beaudry Motorway Trail.
Distance and Difficulty: Rated as a moderate hike with 1,368 ft. elevation gain it is approximately a 5.5 mile round trip.
Brand Library Hiking Trail
Not a lot of hikers climb up this somewhat steep trail but once they make it to the 500 ft. plateau, they’re treated to a 360-degree view of Pasadena, Downtown LA, Griffith Park, Studio City, and even Catalina Island and the Pacific Ocean.
If you keep going past this initial plateau the views get even better – but the hike also gets harder.
Still, this is a less crowded spot compared to Griffith Park and is a great workout for hikers. It’s hands-down my favorite trail to run when I’m looking for a quick but intense workout.
Some ticks and poison ivy can be found within the area so be careful when hiking.
Free parking is available at the Brand Library parking lot and no fees or permits are needed to hike on the trail.
Dogs are permitted as long they’re on a leash.
Trail Location: You can access the trail at the Brand Library parking lot.
Distance and Difficulty: Rated as moderate with 744 ft elevation gain this is approximately a 2.1 mile hike.
Vasquez Rocks – Santa Clarita
Vasquez Rocks is a 932-acre LA Country Park that features unique rock formations with a scenic desert backdrop. It’s also a relatively convenient and quick drive from LA.
The ancient rock formations found here, also known as the Famous Rocks, were caused by 20 to 25 million years of earthquakes.
The rocks lie along the Elkhorn Fault which is an offshoot of the silent but dangerous San Andreas Fault.
These natural geological structures are so striking that they’ve been used in movies and TV shows like Star Trek, Flintstones, Power Rangers, Planet of the Apes, Austin Powers, and many more.
Fun fact: the Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park is the only park that’s named after a famous bandit, Tiburcio Vasquez, who evaded sheriffs by hiding in the caves in this area.
No fees or permits are required to hike this trail and dogs are welcome but must be on a leash.
Trail Location: You can access the trail at the Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park which is just off the Antelope Valley Freeway.
Distance and Difficulty: Rated as a moderate hike with varying distances and elevation depending on the loop. It is approximately 3.4 miles roundtrip with 325 ft elevation gain if you take PCT and Foot Trail.
This route passes through the impressive sandstone formations and provides great views of the park. If you extend to the tunnel beneath route 14, it’s approximately 5.3 miles with 375 ft elevation gain.
Paradise Falls – Thousand Oaks
What better way to end this list than a nice, short, enjoyable hike in Wildwood Park to a frequently visited waterfall.
This trail takes hikers through fields of cactus and sage and over a creek lined with sycamores and oaks until they finally get to Paradise Falls.
Here you’ll come face-to-face with a 40 ft high waterfall that drops into a large pool along the Arroyo Conejo.
Unfortunately, even though the water is deep enough for a quick dip, there are prominent signs that discourage swimming. This is because the water is being fed by both natural springs and street runoff.
Nevertheless, visitors can rest or have a picnic in shaded areas along the canyon near Paradise Falls.
If you want to do some more hiking, the park also has other attractions like Lizard Rock, which can extend your total trek to 4.35 miles or more.
Note: There’s plenty of poison oak in some parts so extra precaution is advised. Also, Kat had a lizard run up her shorts while resting in the shade. She handled it well but I may or may not have screamed and run away. So, beware of little critters.
No fees or permits are required and dogs are welcome but must be on a leash. Bikes are also allowed.
Trail Location: You can access the trail in Wildwood Park which is in Avenida de los Arboles.
Distance and Difficulty: Rated as a moderate hike with a 260 ft. elevation gain this is approximately a 2.15 mile round trip. If you decide to extend your hike to Lizard Rock or other attractions you’re looking at about 4.35 miles total.
Los Angeles has anywhere between 150-200 trails but, in my opinion, these are the top 20 hikes in and around LA.
Do you agree? What are some of your favorite hikes? And what other hikes do you feel should have made our top 20 list?
Gordon loves eating, traveling, lifting, sports, and in-depth research. He works at a large research university and has called five cities home ranging from populations of 35K to 22M. He uses these experiences along with his love for research to help make every moment of your trip or getaway memorable.