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5 Breathtaking, Natural Los Angeles Hikes

Franklin Canyon Park
Franklin Canyon Park (photo: David Lofink)

Los Angeles is a big city.

Covering roughly 469 square miles, the city proper is about 5.5 times larger than Seattle and more than 11 times larger than Paris — though the entire L.A. metropolitan area, which includes suburbs and surrounding cities, is more than ten times larger than that.

Los Angeles is a true megalopolis.

Any L.A. native will attest to the vastness of Los Angeles and the nearly interminable traffic jams and densely packed sidewalks.

Still, few realize that the crowded urban environment has more than a handful of natural secrets.

These five breathtaking Los Angeles hikes will take you far and away from the bustling city streets so you can get a taste of nature during your stay.

1. Franklin Canyon Park, Beverly Hills

Located in the geographical center of Los Angeles, you can conveniently access Franklin Canyon Park from any hotel around Los Angeles — and you can look for a good deal on sites like Expedia.com.

The park got its start as a natural summer retreat for a wealthy oil family in the 1930s, but today the area contains more than five miles of hikes, varying in difficulty and scenery.

Plus, Franklin Canyon is commonly used as a backdrop to major Hollywood films, most notably the memorable hitchhiking scene in Clark Gable’s “It Happened One Night,” so you can easily inject some pop culture fun into your day of hiking.

You can reach Franklin Canyon Park by heading north, following signs on Beverly Drive for Coldwater Canyon.

After a series of left turns (at Coldwater/Beverly Drive, Fire Station Number 2, and Franklin Canyon Drive), you must continue through a small residential area to reach the park.

MYLF Frog
The MYLF Frog can be found in Eaton Canyon (photo: USFS Region 5)

2. Eaton Canyon Natural Area, Altadena

A nature preserve aiming to protect the indigenous animals, plants, and geological formations of the area, Eaton Canyon spans more than 190 acres of what would be prime Los Angeles suburb.

At the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, the area is teeming with attractions for visitors, from picnic areas to equestrian trails.

The best hike is the eponymous Eaton Canyon trail, which seems absurdly easy to start but quickly becomes rugged and fun, especially when it concludes at a remarkable 40-foot waterfall.

After a leisurely drive on the 210 Freeway, you should take Altadena Drive north until you spot the unmistakable park entrance.

3. Will Rogers State Park, Santa Monica

There is more to Santa Monica than its world-famous pier.

Will Rogers, one of the earliest, biggest, and best stars of Old Hollywood, once owned these 186 acres as his seaside ranch.

After the land became protected by the state, visitors were invited to tour Rogers’ beautiful ranch house and grounds.

The park contains two amazing hikes: Inspiration Point, which is a two-mile trek culminating in expansive Pacific Ocean views, and Backbone Trail, which is a grueling adventure into the Santa Monica Mountains.

Once you get to Santa Monica, it isn’t difficult to find signs pointing toward Will Rogers State Park.

Just east of Chautauqua Boulevard on Sunset Boulevard, you will see the main road to the park, which will take you to a small parking lot with a nominal fee — though, you should be used to paying for parking by now.

Topanga Canyon
Topanga Canyon (photo: David Lofink)

4. Topanga State Park, Topanga

Topanga Canyon has long been a haven for hippies and considering the exquisite scenery at this state park, it is no surprise why.

It is easy to spend entire days wandering through the lush greenery in Topanga, and the longer hikes in this park are always more rewarding.

A favorite, the Los Liones Trail to Parker Mesa Overlook, is an alarming seven miles in length.

Still, the tantalizing glimpses of the Pacific, especially close to sunset, make the journey worthwhile.

Topanga is easiest to reach from Santa Monica — perhaps after enjoying one of the hikes in Will Rogers State Park.

Following Sunset Boulevard west, you should turn north on Los Liones Drive, and soon you’ll run into the park’s parking lot.

Griffith Park
Trails at Griffith Park (photo: Clinton Steeds)

5. Griffith Park, Hollywood

It may seem like the best-known park in the city, Griffith Park, would be so over-hiked that its trails offer nothing to the enterprising visitor.

In truth, several popular trails, especially the famous trek to the Griffith Observatory, which boasts picture-worthy views of the Hollywood sign and the entire city basin, will be densely crowded no matter when you go.

However, while some areas of Griffith Park are teeming with activity, others are relatively vacant.

For example, Bronson Canyon, featured in plenty of films and TV series from “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” to “Army of Darkness” to “Batman,” offers an otherworldly landscape, and Brush Canyon is perfect for peaceful, solitary trail runs.

Where you enter Griffith Park depends entirely on which trail you choose to trek.

Spanning over 4,300 acres, you basically can’t miss the place, but the most convenient access to trailheads is north of Los Feliz Boulevard.

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Kellie

Wednesday 23rd of December 2015

This is a great share. I end up in LA area frequently for work but usually end up wanting to pull my hair out from traffic and excess of people. I've never been able to keep my cool long enough to find the pleasantries. Thanks for sharing!

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