The Best LA Hikes
|In This Guide|
Hiking isn’t what comes to mind when you think of LA, but there are actually some pretty awesome LA hikes. You have cool trails and parks like Runyon Canyon nestled in the middle of the city. There’s also the iconic hike to the Hollywood Sign. If you’re in the north part of the city, Topanga State Park is a big outdoors playground with lots of good hikes. If you’re on the south side of LA, check out the hikes in Orange County. The great southern California weather means that most can be hiked year round.
Best LA City Hike
Nestled in the middle of Hollywood, Runyon Canyon is popular not only with hikers and fitness buffs, but also celebs. Every time I hike at Runyon, I see someone I recognize or kind of recognize. The trails aren’t pristine wilderness, but are in good condition and offer a great hiking fix without the drive. If you’re staying in a Hollywood hotel, chances are you can even walk here.
Full Runyon Canyon Hike Directions
Best Tourist Hike
If you’re visiting LA and want to do a hike that checks off a tourist attraction, do the hike to the Hollywood Sign. It’s relatively easy, you can do the hike in about 2.5 hours, and you’ll get a nice little workout in too. It’s a good one to do early in the morning before the heat.
Hollywood Sign Hike Directions
Best LAX Hike
If you want to get a quick hike in close to LAX, Kenneth Hahn Park is your move. Just minutes from the airport, it offers nice trails and iconic views of the LA skyline. I’ve done this hike on layovers and before red-eye flights. It’s just a quick Uber ride from LAX.
Kenneth Hahn Park Hike Directions
Best LA City Mountain Hike
If you want to do a mountain hike without driving far, hike Echo Mountain. It offers a good climb (with 5 and 10 mile options), right outside of Pasadena. If you have time to do something more challenging, I recommend checking out these LA mountain hikes. Otherwise, hit Echo Mountain up, you won’t be disappointed. The top has ruins from an old resort, and you have 5 and 10 mile options.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions
Tallest Mountain in LA
Mt San Antonio, aka Mt Baldy, is the highest mountain in LA at 10,064 ft. This hike is no joke, it’s a tough climb to an alpine summit that doesn’t feel anything like Los Angeles. Hiking Mt Baldy is an iconic rite of passage for LA hikers and I highly recommend it.
Mt Baldy Hike Directions
(or try it the tougher way on Bear Canyon)
Best Bucket List Hike
While not technically an LA hike, Mt Whitney is close enough (4 hours away) that lots of people use LA as a base to get to the hike. Mt Whitney is the tallest mountain in the lower-48 states, and you can hike to the summit without any mountaineering experience. It’s truly one of the great USA hikes, I recommend you check it out.
Mt Whitney Hike Directions
More LA Mountain Hikes
The mountains that surround LA offer some great alpine hiking, with many peaks over 10,000 feet. If you want to explore the best LA mountain hikes, I have a full page of hikes and recommendations.
Browse LA Mountain Hikes
Don’t Forget Hiking in Orange County
If you’re in the LA area and are looking for something close but different, I highly recommend hiking in Orange County. There are hikes for all levels, great summits with ocean views, and big mountain climbs that you can do in winter without the hazards you’d find when snow hits Angeles National Forest.
Browse the Orange County Hikes
List of The Best LA Hikes
All The Best LA Hikes
The 6 hour, 10.5 mile Bridge to Nowhere hike in the San Gabriel Mountains is one those hikes that you have to do at least once in your life. As the name suggests, you hike along the San Gabriel River in the beautiful Sheep Mountain Wilderness for about 5 miles, and then, out of nowhere, there’s a huge, 120-foot high bridge! The hike is fun, especially on a hot summer day, because there are plenty of stream crossings and water holes to cool off in. It’s a classic Southern California hike that every local knows about, and is worth doing at least once.
The easy Hagen Canyon Trail hike takes you through a colorful geographic landscape that was once all underwater. The colorful layers are sediment washed down from the old Sierra Mountains. Over the last 10 million years plate tectonic movement and erosion have formed what you see today. At one point it was a tourist attraction run by the Hagen family, today it’s a state park. The hike is short and shouldn’t take you more than an hour.
The Red Cliffs Trail is an easy 1 mile loop hike in a unique Mojave Desert landscape. You’ll pass the namesake Red Cliffs, rock formations of eroded sandstone, mudstone, and volcanic rock, thrusted up above the desert floor by faulting. It’s also been the backdrop of many movies and television shows. The Red Cliffs Trail is a great place to stretch your legs if you’re traveling between LA and the Eastern Sierra or Death Valley.
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike to Mt San Jacinto is a great way to bag Southern California’s second highest peak without putting in a huge effort. It’s still a tough 11 mile hike, but it’s nothing like climbing to Mt San Jacinto from Palm Springs or Idyllwild. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway cuts about 6,000 feet of climbing off the hike, and offers a nice base station where you can grab a snack after your successful summit. The summit of Mt San Jacinto is one of my favorites because it straddles the line between Coastal California and the Sonoran Desert, allowing you to see the transition between the two. On a clear day you’ll see from the Pacific Ocean to Mount Charleston in Las Vegas. A really fun and insanely beautiful hike.
If you’re in Lone Pine, CA, don’t miss the Mobius Arch Loop Trail in the Alabama Hills Recreation Area. It’s an easy hike that has one of the best photo opportunities in the Eastern Sierras. You’ll be able to perfectly frame Mt Whitney and the Sierras within a natural rock arch formation. And there’s more than just Mobius Arch, Alabama Hills Recreation Area is full of natural beauty and unique rock formations. You might even recognize some of the spots in Alabama Hills from Django Unchained, Gladiator and Iron Man.
This Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest hike takes you through awe-inspiring groves of the oldest trees in the world, the Ancient Bristlecone Pines. This trail will take you past living trees that are up to 5000 years old, shaped and gnarled by thousands of years of wind coming off of the Sierras and Nevada Basin, which you will also get incredible views of. This hike is relatively easy, on a well marked trail, and includes a very cool visitor center and interpretive info along the route.
Hiking on Catalina Island offers some beautiful options, but I think the hike to and overnight at Parsons Landing campsite is the best. Parsons Landing campsite sits on a secluded beach, with the sounds of the waves as your camping soundtrack. There are only 8 campsites, the hike is not too tough, and the scenery is breathtaking. Do it. Do it. Do it.
The hike to Pumpkin Rock is one of those things you just have to do at least once. It’s obviously a great Halloween hike, and there are lots of photo opportunities. The hike is easy but the trails to Pumpkin Rock can be confusing — this guide gives you the main route up, complete with parking and bathrooms.
The White Mountain Peak hike brings you to the third highest peak in California, only a few hundred feet lower than Mt Whitney, and the highest outside peak of the Sierra Nevada. The hike is tough, but doable, and meanders through the White Mountains Wilderness section of Inyo National Forest: a rugged a beautiful mountain desert, tucked into the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada. The summit of White Mountain Peak offers great 360 views from the Eastern Sierras to Nevada.
The Mt Whitney hike is on every hiker’s bucket list. At 14,505 feet, it’s the highest point in the lower 48, and is one of those rare high peaks that you can hike to without any mountaineering skills. There is some prep work you need to do, like getting your Mt Whitney permit and dealing with the altitude. This hike guide has everything you need to know to successfully climb Mt Whitney. Keep reading for all the info.
The Cactus to Clouds hike is epic. It was rated one of the hardest day hikes in the world by Backpack Magazine. You start in downtown Palm Springs and climb over 10,000 feet to the summit of Mt San Jacinto, with a large stretch on the treacherous Skyline Trail. The Cactus to Clouds hike should only be attempted by the very experienced and very fit hiker, and only under the right conditions. This guide gives you all the info you need to do this incredible hike safely.
Everyone hikes Mt Baldy from Manker Flats, but have you done it on the Bear Canyon Trail? Also known as Old Mt Baldy Trail, this hike leaves from Mt Baldy Village on it’s way to the summit. Unlike the main hike up Mt Baldy (via Baldy Notch), the Bear Canyon Trail is usually not as crowded. That’s because it’s harder. It climbs 5740 feet in 6 miles. There are sections that are very steep. It’d doable with a decent level of fitness. This hike is a good choice for those who have hiked Mt Baldy from Manker Flats and now want to do it again, without all the hub-bub.
The Three T’s Trail hike is one of the more peaceful hikes in the Mt Baldy area. This loop hike starts at Icehouse Canyon, climbs to Icehouse Saddle, then hits Timber Mountain (elevation 8,303ft), Telegraph Peak (elevation 8,985ft), and Thunder Mountain (elevation 8,587ft), and then descends down to Baldy Notch, Manker Flats, and back to Icehouse Canyon. It’s a long hike, but a favorite for those avoiding crowds.
The Echo Mountain hike packs a lot of bang for the buck. You’ll hike up the Sam Merrill Trail, which follows the old Mt Lowe railway route up to Echo Mountain, where you can see the old ruins of the Echo Mountain mountain resort. USA Today included the Echo Mountain hike as one of the “10 Great North American Hikes” and Sunset Magazine called it one of the top 45 hikes in the west. The hike is easy to follow, has an interesting history, offers great views, is a good workout, and is close to LA. Overall it’s a win. These directions have an optional hike extension to a scenic viewpoint at Inspiration Point.
At 11,503 feet, the San Gorgonio hike brings you to the highest peak in Southern California. The hike to San Gorgonio is an iconic SoCal hiker rite of passage, and I highly recommend it. There are a few ways to hike to the peak. This hiking guide takes the Vivian Creek trail, which is the quickest way to the summit at 10 hours roundtrip. It’s a tough hike but doable in a day if you train for it.
The San Bernardino Peak (10,649 feet) hike is tough but rewarding. The San Bernardino Mountains were named after San Bernardino Peak, which was named by one of the pioneer friars in California, Francisco Dumetz in 1835. I like this hike a lot. The crowds are light, the fauna is beautiful, and it offers sweeping views of Mt Baldy, Mt San Jacinto, San Gorgonio, Big Bear Lake, and the Inland Empire.
There are a several routes to hike Mount San Jacinto. This route from Idyllwild is my favorite. The climb is not as steep as the other routes, you don’t need a special permit, and the views on the whole hike are spectacular. John Muir called the views from Mount San Jacinto the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth. On a clear day, you can see from Catalina Island to Southern Utah. That’s because Mount San Jacinto, at 10,834 feet, is one of the most topographically prominent peaks in the USA, rising 10,000 feet above the San Gorgonio Pass below. This hike to San Jacinto includes a stretch on the famous Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) where you can channel your inner Reese Witherspoon. The hike is long, and you need a good level of fitness to do it.
If you want a great Angeles National Forest mountain hike without the crowds, hike Ontario Peak (8,696 ft) and Bighorn Peak. The hike begins on the popular Icehouse Canyon trail but soon moves off to the much less traveled Ontario Peak Trail, where you might see more bighorn sheep than people. The Ontario Peak Trail roughly follows a ridge line, offering great views culminating in the “rock nest” summit of Ontario Peak. There’s also a short spur trip to Bighorn Peak, because, why not? This is a tough hike but worth the effort–one of my favorites.
With one of the coolest summits in the San Gabriel Mountains, the Cucamonga Peak hike is a favorite. Cucamonga Peak, at 8,862 feet, has spectacular views of the LA sprawl, the desert, and surrounding peaks. The climb is tough but not brutal, the scenery and views are awesome, and the crowds aren’t as bad as Mount Baldy. You might even see some bighorn sheep!
Mt Wilson, at 5,710 feet, is the peak with all the radio towers that sits behind the LA skyline. It’s not the tallest peak in LA, but it’s a great hike with a fun summit. Multiple hiking trails ascend Mt Wilson. This hike starts at Chantry Flat, which gives you a gentler climb to the Mt Wilson summit, a trailhead store, bathrooms, and great views of LA on the way down. It’s a fun hike and a good long hike for beginners.
This 11 mile Mt Baldy hike brings you to the highest point in LA at 10,064 feet. With about 4000 feet of climbing, it’s a tough yet popular hike, and well worth the effort. You can see from the Pacific to the Mojave on a clear day. There are a few ways to hike Mt Baldy, and this guide takes you on the most popular route.
The Mount Baden-Powell hike packs a lot into a relatively short distance. On your way to the summit of Mt Baden-Powell (9,399 feet), you’ll experience the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) where you can channel your inner Reese Witherspoon, 40 hardcore switchbacks, a monument for Mt Baden-Powell’s namesake, Lord Baden-Powell, they guy who founded the Boy Scouts, a barren saddle with jaw-dropping views, and a 1500-year old limber pine. And at the summit you’ll enjoy sweeping panoramic views of the San Gabriel Mountains. So you got all that going for you if you do the hike. It’s tough but very doable, I highly recommend it.
The Kenneth Hahn Park hike brings you through a natural oasis in the middle of west LA. There’s tons of wildlife, great sunsets, and views of downtown LA. In fact, Kenneth Hahn Park is where many professional photographers come to get a photo of downtown LA with the San Gabriel Mountains in the background.
The Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook hike offers views and quick hiking fix in the middle of LA. The trail to the summit goes up switchbacks that climb a tough 300 feet in about a mile, making it also a popular workout spot. If you want to skip the switchbacks and just punish yourself, you can hike up all 282 steps of the Culver City Stairs. Or you can just take the stairs on the descent. This hike takes the more scenic switchback route to the top of Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, where you’ll get sweeping views of LA, the Hollywood Hills, the Pacific Ocean, and the San Gabriel Mountains. It’s a fun hike to hit right in the middle of LA, and great training for the tougher peaks that you tackle on the weekend.
Runyon Canyon is a fun hike tucked right into the middle of Hollywood. It’s a great place to see celebrities, view the Hollywood Sign (in the distance), visit a hidden sculpture, and get a good hike in. In fact, Runyon will give you sweeping views from Catalina Island to the Santa Monica Mountains on a clear day. There are crowds here, so don’t come expecting a pristine hiking experience. Runyon Canyon won a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, and is worth hiking at least once.
The Hollywood Sign hike is one of those iconic hikes that you need to do at least once in your life. It’s a popular hike, but also beautiful. On your way to the Hollywood Sign (actually, you end up right behind and above it), you enjoy the natural wonders of the urban oasis called Griffith Park, one of the largest urban parks in America.