Hiking, Los Angeles
Arrive in Los Angeles on a moderate smog day, and you will be stunned to find a major mountain range backs right up to the city limits. The San Bernardino Mountains help and hurt LA, simultaneously. They protect the city from the harsh desert climate to their East, but also trap in air masses - playing the largest hand in LA's poor air quality. Nevertheless, a jaunt up into the Angeles National Forest is exhilarating. It's bewildering to depart Mt. Wilson(5,710'), cling to the curves and dips, and arrive back in the city limits in twenty minutes. Who cares if gang members dump bodies in the canyons late at night. It's pretty!
The best approach is to ascend Big Tujunga Canyon Road from Tujunga/Sunland and descend via the Angeles Crest to La Canada. However, finding the former will be tough if you're not adept with maps. In this case, simply follow the 2 Fwy to "Mountain Ave", turn right at the end of ramp, and then left onto the Angeles Crest. Travel as far as you wish. Mt. Wilson is, I believe, nineteen miles from this intersection. Disclaimer: This road is not for the faint of heart!
Skiing or snowboarding on Big Bear Mountain, located in the San Bernadino National Forest - what a great time i had here, we drove from my brother's place in Corona to Big Bear; when we got to the base of the mountain it took about 1 hr to drive from the foot of the mountain to the top for winter weather to prevail at about 7000 feet. What beautiful scenery, and what enormous bruises i had after the end of an adrenalin filled day up there, i'm surprised i never killed myself or anyone else for that matter. I believe it cost us about 50 dollars for the day lift pass and 20 dollars each to hire equipment so with food, drink and transport it comes to about 100 dollars for the day - not cheap if you're a budget traveller but well worth the price if you're into winter sports. The views driving back down the mountain in the early evening were spectacular and as they say California sunsets are up there with the best of them - orange and red in the skies as vivid as the colours on a painters pallet - fantastic for photographers looking for sillouette landscapes against rich skies at night. Drive carefully though because those Yanks think nothing of overtaking you on an icy corner.
I know when you think of LA, hiking is probably not the first thing that comes to mind, but LA really has some great hiking trails in the Santa Monica Mountains. Go to the web link below for a listing of hikes in the area. I used to do a lot of hiking in the Topanga canyon area and it was really nice.
Every Spring, just outside Lancaster, the valley comes alive with flowers. Supposedly, when settlers first came to this area, they found poppies, the state flower, stretching from the mountains to the ocean. Now all we have left, besides the poppies that are in almost everyone's front yard, is this poppy preserve.
Lancaster is easily reached by freeway from Los Angeles. Just take the 5 or 405 north. Then transition onto the 14 North, which will become the 138. Exit W Ave I and go left. You'll follow Ave I for a long time. At 120th St. W turn right. Going to the left should be 120th St but to the right is Lancaster Rd. You'll follow this road for quite a ways as well, as it angles towards the hills. The entrance to the park is located near Lancaster Rd. & 160th St W. Total from Hwy 14/138 to the entrance to the park is about 15 miles.
I think it costs about $5 to get in and it is worth every cent. The park is gorgeous - hill after hill of bright orange poppies as well as several other kinds of flowers. There are trails but the further you get from the visitors' center the more peaceful it is.
Please note the poppies are at their peak usually mid-March to about mid-May and some years are better than others, all depending on what kind of winter we had. Before making any definite plans, please check the website to find out if it's a good time to visit.
Dogs are not allowed. However, there is another park nearby - Ripley Desert Woodland Park - that has Joshua Trees. This is a free park and dogs are allowed here if they are leashed.
With all the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, the fact that the greater Los Angeles area presents some great hiking opportunities seems to get lost.
You have hikes all around the city:
- Coastline (Malibu, Palos Verdes, etc.)
- Basin & Foothills (Santa Susana Mtns, Griffith Park, Hollywood Hills, etc.)
- Santa Monica Mountains (Topanga, Malibu Creetk, etc.)
- Angeles Ntl. Forest (Tujunga Canyon, Arroyo Seco, Mount Wilson, San Gabriel, etc.)
- Catalina Island (Avalon, Two Harbors, etc.)
Words of Wisdom:
* Make sure you have the proper equipment with you (including water!).
* Be aware of any parking restrictions (especially in Angeles Ntl. Forest).
* Map out your trip beforehand (Google-Earth is a great resource).
We use a fabulous book to decide on hikes, and then double-check the info online. The book is "Afoot & Afield in Los Angeles County" by Jerry Schad. You can also find some hiking-groups that meet on a regular basis at www.meetup.com (type in hiking and zip-code 90001)
Just off of Pacific Coast Highway between Malibu Canyon Rd and Kanan is Solstice Canyon. Very pretty place to walk and explore with a small stream, waterfalls, remnants of burned down homes and an information center that has occasion talks.
Turn at Corral at the gas station. It is a very short drive to the park entrance.
Again a car is a necessity - there is no other way to get to Palm Springs - it takes about 2 hrs by car, but you can enjoy a very scenic route through some mountain valleys and slightly desert terrain. We had done an internet search for things to do in Palm Springs and discovered that in this tropical oasis lay a tramway ride that would take passengers 5'500ft up to the top of a mountain were it was possible to cross-country sky if you're fit enough, or just have fun sledding, hiking and walking - oh and of course - picnic, we like to eat wherever we go. The tram itself rotates 360 degrees twice during the ascent to the top so everyone is allowed to see the spectacular views and spot wildlife on the mountainside. After a couple of hours up there we decided to make our way to Indian Canyons, just a further 15 mins down the road, we could have ridden horses cowgirl style around these Canyons had we booked in advance but alas we settled for exploration on foot, trying to heed the warnings that rattle snakes were to be found in the area. We spent the later half of the day in Palm Springs main district, browsing the shops and market stalls that were opening in the early evening. We had some great ice-cream from Ben & Jerry's here and walked leisurely along the sidewalks - this was when i made the executive decision that i needed to return to Palm Springs another year and stay a few nights to enjoy some of the great cocktail bars that were about.
If you have a car and like to hike, drive to Eaton Canyon in Altadena (north of Pasadena) and park in the lot. Walk a quarter mile up the canyon road to the falls, cross the bridge, and take the Altadena Crest Trail which is the dirt trail on your right. With a moderate grade and clear wide path, you quickly rise above the skyline--not just of Pasadena, but of the entire City of the Angels. You can see Downtown, Palos Verdes, Long Beach, etc. and on a clear day, the ocean and Catalina Island. 2-4 miles roundtrip depending upon how far you want to walk.
The highest Point in the Santa Monica Mountains, Sandstone Peak/Mt. Allen is a "get sweaty" hike at 6 mi and 1,400 ft elevation gain. The trail covers volcanic rock and lush vegetation, especially in spring where you can see a variety of wildflowers. You may also catch glimpses of the Conejo and San Fernando Valleys and the Pacific Coast.
From Ventura Fwy (101) - Take Westlake Blvd and go south until it merges with Mulholland Highway. Turn right onto Little Sycamore Cyn which becomes Yerba Buena Rd. for for 4 miles to trailhead.
From Pacific Coast Hwy (PCH) - to Yerba Buena Rd. for 5.5 miles. Park at the turnoff near Triunfo Pass. About 1 mile east of Circle X Ranch.
There is actually some fabulous hiking in the local mountains of Los Angeles. Literally minutes of walking away from a busy street like Sunset Blvd., you can find yourself on a solitary trail with occasional deer. Get a good guide before you go. REI has some good ones available online.
Malibu State Park in Malibu - If nature is what you are looking for, take a drive into the park. There are tons of hiking paths and in the summer its real nice along the creeks. It's also where the famous television show 'Mash' was filmed.
There are some great hiking trails in the Santa Monica Mountains as well as some great single track mountain biking. Mandaville Canyon and Temescal Canyon (not sure about spelling) are some great locations. The easiest to find is Temescal. Take PCH north off of I-10 West and turn right on Temescal Canyon Road. Drive up the hill until you come to Sunset Blvd. Go straight through light and you will enter the park. Their are plenty of signs to direct you to good hiking trails.
Placerita Canyon according to legend (and my hiking book) is where gold was discovered when a local pulled up an onion and found gold in the roots.....anyway this is a easy hike for most people and if you are able to do it after a recent rain you may be treated to a nice little waterfall that is about 10-15" tall. When we were there the tap was turned down to a trickle.
Either way the hike to the falls from the parking lot is 5 miles round trip with gentle inclines and it is dog friendly which works for us.
This hike is a bit out of the way and is acutually located in Santa Clarita which is a 45 min drive from downtown LA. The trails are groomed so all you need is a good pair of walking shoes and some water and maybe a snack if you get hungry
Newcomb's Ranch is a historic roadhouse oasis, 27 miles up the Angeles Crest Highway from Los Angeles.
The first time I drove this far up the crest and saw the lonely "food ahead" sign aside the road, I thought I must have altitude sickness. But, no, here in the middle of the Angeles National Forest is a historic diner, popular with bikers in the summer, and oftentimes snowed-in during the unpredictable winter.
An Asian couple recently purchased Newcomb's and cleaned it up...in fact, they polished a little more of the charm out of the old shack than I would approve of. Still, it's a sweet little getaway, with pool tables, nachos and a few beers on tap.
Take the Angeles Crest from La Canada Flintridge, past Mt. Wilson. Straight shot, and related to my Mountains tip in this same section.
Definitely a unique experience in Metro Los Angeles.
Must have a rental car and water for this hike: from Del Cerro Park in Rancho Palos Verdes, there is a splendid fire road with numerous side trails to hike above and down to mostly undeveloped Portugese Bend, all the way to the ocean if you like. Not too heavily used by hikers & mountain bikers, you can vary the difficulty & distance from moderate to steep single track and easily find your own peace & quiet with beautiful views of the peninsula, ocean and Catalina Island. You start from the top, so the farther down you hike, the farther up you need to return. To get there: Take PCH south to Palos Verdes Blvd. and turn right. Stay on PV Blvd. as it winds and becomes Palos Verdes Drive West. Stay on PV Drive West as it winds around the peninsula to Hawthorne Blvd. and turn left. Take Hawthorne up the hill to Crest Road and turn right. Stay on Crest until Crenshaw Blvd. and turn right. Go to the end of Crenshaw and there is a parking lot at Del Cerro Park. The trailhead is at the very end of Crenshaw above the park with a large yellow gate prohibiting vehicles.