Strap on your boots and slather on some sunscreen, we’re headed for the best hikes in Los Angeles! From #runyon to switchbacks through the Santa Monica Mountains, trails here showcase the bounty of nature in sunny Southern California.
Speaking of sun, as a Los Angeles local the first thing I’ll tell you about hiking here is not to be afraid of going out on a gray day. You’ll be grateful for the cooler temperature. Also, this is rattlesnake country. Keep a wary eye out for these critters on any trail in the area, and a short leash on any critter traveling with you.
And be sure to choose some hikes closest to where you’ll be staying in Los Angeles – it helps cut down on transportation time. With that, let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
- 12 Best Hikes In Los Angeles
- FAQs About Hiking in Los Angeles
Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support us by purchasing via the affiliate links on this page, which may earn us commissions. See our Advertising Policy for further explanation. Thank you!
12 Best Hikes In Los Angeles
All roads point to one sign on this series of treks in the Hollywood Hills.
As one of the top things to do in Hollywood, the Hollywood Sign has given rise to a host of hikes featuring views of this icon.
We’ll look at three. The easy way – Innsdale Trail is a short walk down a wide path and has easy parking on Canyon Lake Drive. Then there’s the hard way – Brush Canyon Trail is 8 miles, has a steady upward incline, and offers little shade.
But of course, here in Tinseltown, there is also a bougie way – The Official Hollywood Sign Walking Tour. Winner of a 2023 Viator Experience Award, this option includes snacks, bottled water, and sunscreen.
🤫 Pro Tip: Find the passage beyond the teal gates atop Deronda to take the “secret” route up Mount Lee.
Wisdom Tree (Burbank Crest Trail)
Come for the pilgrimage to a living legend, stay to cross the highest peak in Griffith Park.
🥾 Moderate/Difficult | 1.6 – 3 miles | Google Maps | 20 minute drive from Hollywood | Cost: Free | 🐕 Dogs: On leash only
The only tree to survive the Barham Fire, the Wisdom Tree is rooted in a place where new life has sprung up in the face of devastation. Here rebirth is no mere symbol, it is something that is happening all around you.
Sounds like a favorite hike of folks whose preparations include a microdose of mushrooms and selecting the right crystal…because it is… but you don’t have to be one of them to experience the power of this place. What you will need is sunscreen, water, and shoes with good tread.
You’ll reach the tree in just under a mile, but the highest point lies ahead. Views from Cahuenga Peak are incredible and crossing the saddle to Mt. Lee offers a look at Lake Hollywood. The trail ends atop Mt. Lee – and right behind the Hollywood sign.
📍 How to Get There: The entrance is at the end of Wonder View Drive, which is within a neighborhood comprised of narrow, twisty, permit-parking-only streets with spotty cell coverage. GPS ahead of time to Lake Hollywood Drive, where you’ll find the best available parking. Walk up the hill, take a right on Wonder View Drive, and go through the gate at the end.
A good trail with a great view, less than a mile from the most popular attractions in Hollywood.
Runyon Canyon rose to fame as an LA local go-to for a good workout with sweeping, eminently postable views of the city. Rumors about celebs frequenting the trails earned notice from paparazzi, then reality show location scouts, and before long people watching in Runyon was among the top things to do in Los Angeles for tourists as well.
On the plus side, high foot traffic tends to keep snakes away from the main trails, which all go to the viewpoint. But parking is limited, especially near the main entrance on Fuller Ave. There is a small lot and additional street parking on Mulholland Drive, just be aware that this option will mean hitting the toughest leg toward the end.
☀️ My Favorite Gear: Runyon has little shade and lots of dust, so unless your Insta aesthetic is grimy lobster, pick up a pair of Outdoor Research ActiveIce Sun Sleeves for this one.
Quiet treks to viewpoints overlooking a cascade of canyons sloping down to the San Fernando Valley and beyond.
Also popular with locals, the Betty B Dearing Trail winds through woods and chaparral on the north-facing side of the Hollywood Hills. The best viewpoint is from the park at the headquarters of the environmental non-profit TreePeople. The best time to see it is sunset or early dusk when lights in distant homes glow like fireflies on a blanket of darkening hills.
👉 Pro Tip: If the main track is crowded, veer off onto the U-Vanu, an unmarked off-shoot about ½ mile from the trailhead that rejoins about 0.2 mi from the turnoff to Tree People.
Fern Dell Nature Trail
A popular choice for families, this green, well-kept track is among the easiest in Griffith.
Along with the LA Zoo and a couple of LA’s best museums, Griffith’s urban-wilderness area is home to 53 miles of hiking trails. Fern Dell is a great one to start on, a shady, lush path unlike any other in the park.
For families, the nature trail leg will be one of the easiest hikes on this list to do with young kids. The trek gets substantially more challenging after connecting to East Observatory Trail. Those willing to tackle this steep ascent are rewarded with spectacular views along the way and more up top, at Griffith Observatory.
🔭 Pro Tip: Peering up at the night sky through the observatory’s powerful telescopes is a big part of the observatory experience, just make sure to get a Lyft or Uber back down rather than trying to find your way in the dark.
Corral Canyon Loop
Bordering the last undeveloped canyon of its kind, this single-track carves its way through a wild, unkempt Malibu hillside to incredible views of the ocean.
This pocket of Malibu offers a roundtrip escape to an untouched wilderness in the space of only two hours. Within a few minutes of beginning your ascent, the Pacific Coast Highway traffic and busy parking lot are forgotten as you trace this overgrown trail into the mountains.
Long sleeves and pants are advised. Poison oak and nettles are among the brush plants here, which can be overgrown enough to warrant bringing a tool to clear the way. You’ll want good boots with tread, some parts are quite steep.
Hiking back you’ll be facing views of the coastline and may even welcome the busy parking lot – or at least the restaurant it comes attached to. Malibu Seafood, one of LA’s best restaurants, is the perfect place to refuel after your journey.
🌅 Pro Tip: Take the left trail from the fork near the trailhead to come back facing the ocean views.
Hondo Canyon Trail
Changing scenery and mountain vistas give this half-day Topanga State Park adventure the feeling of an epic journey, abridged.
This section of the 67-mi Backbone Trail is sort of like a movie montage. We open on a squishy marsh, the scenery shifting dramatically to a desert, then forest, onward and upward across a series of switchbacks through the mountains. An epic journey edited for time.
Saddle Peak Rd is typically where the ‘back’ portion of this out & back hike starts, but there’s a bonus round. Hang a sharp right and go east along the Fossil Ridge trail for about ½ mile. Bear right at the fork, then make another right on Topanga Tower Mtwy, which takes you to Topanga Overlook.
The view from this graffiti-covered platform is well worth the extra two miles, and a must-do for picture-takers. (To do just this leg, park at or near the Lois Ewen Overlook and walk down Topanga Tower Mtwy.)
⚠️ Word to the Wise: Keep an eye out for poison oak.
A Malibu Creek State Park trail steeped in LA history.
Having grown up watching reruns of M*A*S*H*, this trail winds its way through meadows of tall grass and wildflowers and right into my heart. You’ll find an old ambulance and a long abandoned jeep resting at the foot of the mountains shown in the opening credits.
This hike begins before you reach Malibu Creek SP, so so keep an eye out for parking spots near Mulholland/Las Virgenes Rd. Alternatively, you park in the lot and skip the first leg, going straight to Crags Road, which the Grasslands Trail merges with.
Much of this trail is in the sun, so make sure to plan accordingly. Those seeking solitude will find that foot traffic dwindles the further one gets from the pools and creek. On a related topic, know who else likes sunny solitude? Rattlesnakes. Keep an eye out.
👉 Pro Tip: Beyond the M*A*S*H* site Crags Road merges into Bulldog Road, one of the toughest trails around here. Beautiful ocean views at the end, but only advanced hikers should tackle Bulldog.
Views of downtown Los Angeles are a highlight of this hike in the San Gabriel Valley.
Sycamore Canyon is a delight in springtime when the surrounding mountains are covered in bright yellow wildflowers. The brush is borderline overgrown in places, and not just with flowers – long sleeves and pants are recommended.
For the best city views, take a right on the path that branches down from the canyon road. When you get to the fire road, take another right and head to the water tower.
Located on the east side of the greater Los Angeles area, the trailhead is reached via a dirt parking lot off Workman Mill Road. Pay careful attention to parking signs if the lot is full. Much of the surrounding area is permit only, and residents warn that you will get a ticket.
Rock Pool Trail
Dip your toes into the wonders of Malibu Creek State Park on this low-risk/high-reward hike.
You’ve heard of Malibu’s gorgeous beaches, but there’s a wealth of natural wonder in the hills as well! This Malibu Creek State Park trail is a prime choice for first-timers looking to explore. Partially shaded by tall oak, the path winds alongside a creek through hills dotted with wildflowers.
Go down Crag’s Road from the parking lot, then make a left after crossing Crag’s Bridge. The larger trail branches off into multiple smaller tracks that go to the pools. Take one that goes back across the creek to get to better spots for getting in the water. The pools are swimmable but the water level varies. Leaping into them from volcanic boulders is dangerous (and illegal.)
👉 My Favorite Gear: Ever dropped a wet towel on a dusty path? Instant, visceral ick. You don’t even want to touch the thing, much less carry it. It’s a whole mess. One you can avoid forevermore with the Matador Nanodry Towel. Fast-drying and super absorbent, folds down into an aerated silicone case that clips to your pack.
Vasquez Rocks Trail
Located in an arid valley of the San Gabriel Mountains, this trek features breathtaking landscapes that inspired many a vision of planets far, far away.
Next up in out-of-this-world scenery, we boldly go where more than a few film directors have gone before. The Vasquez Rocks aren’t merely a point of inspiration for otherworldly rock formations of worlds unknown. These are them. The likes of Star Trek and The Twilight Zone used these very dramatic juts of stone against an endless sky to shape the perception of faraway planets for generations.
The main trail is a section of the Pacific Crest Trail that arcs across a ridge around the rocks before coming back to them, ending at the same parking lot you’ll start in. Steep enough to warrant good shoes with enough overgrowth to warrant long pants. Pay careful attention when hiking the extended loop, there are a couple of spots where the next move isn’t immediately apparent.
⚠️ Danger for Dogs: This is one my dogs don’t join me on, leashed or otherwise. Because of rattlesnakes. Lots of rattlesnakes.
Beautiful scenery, spooky ruins, a waterfall, Pacific Ocean vistas, public restrooms… this Malibu excursion plays the hits.
Featuring a range of intriguing sites set close together, this scenic canyon sampler is one of the best things to do in Malibu, especially for visitors or newcomers. Something to whet the appetite for further explorations of the Santa Monica Mountains.
Two paths lead out of the main parking area. I recommend starting to the left, which takes you to the ruined foundations of the Roberts House and Tropical Terrace before reaching the waterfall in just over a mile. This leg is easy enough for just about anyone to enjoy.
To go the full loop, follow Rising Sun Trail to climb up the side of the canyon (about 0.7 mi, steep) then enjoy a 1.2-mile descent facing the ocean.
🪰 Pro Tip: For part of the way there’s a smaller path that borders the creek. It’s a nice little sidetrack, just make sure you have a good bug-repellent.
FAQs About Hiking in Los Angeles
Is LA good for hiking?
LA is great for hiking! There are loads of trails in Griffith Park and the Hollywood Hills. For more extensive adventures head west to the Santa Monica Mountains or east to Angeles National Forest and the San Gabriel Mountains.
What is the hardest hike in Los Angeles?
The hardest hike in Los Angeles is Mount Baldy in the San Gabriels. The trail beginning at Manker Flats gains nearly 4,000 feet in just over 10 miles, crossing two peaks and the Devil’s Backbone.
Can you hike in Los Angeles right now?
Thanks to mild weather and ample nearby natural wonders, there is somewhere you can hike in Los Angeles right now, no matter when you visit.
Where do people go hiking in LA?
Runyon Canyon, Griffith Park, and Malibu Creek State Park are some of the most popular hiking areas in LA.
Thanks for reading my picks for the best hikes in Los Angeles! I wish you adventures aplenty on these treks in and around LA. Want to go further afield after exploring hikes in LA? Check out my guide to the best day trips from Los Angeles.
Help us help you travel better!
Your feedback really helps ...
What did you like about this post? Or how can we improve it to help you travel better?