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.
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)
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.
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.
This jewel of a park, almost completely undeveloped, is one of Hollywood's best kept secrets. The canyon is a steep gorge which runs from Hollywood to the top of Mulholland Drive.
Today it is used by hikers, dog owners who love the freedom not found in many parks, and nature lovers enjoying the vistas offered. Also heard rumors that stars have been spotted here along with being filmed in movies and shows like Six Feet Under. Recognize the gigantic park bench?
North entrance: From Ventura Fwy (101) - take Laurel Canyon and go right (south) for about 3 miles. Turn left at Mulholland Drive.
South entrance: From Hollywod Fwy (101) to Highland Avenue. South to Franklin Ave. West on Franklin to Fuller, north on Fuller to dead end. Park on street.
The backbone trail is a trail that runs more or less along the ridgeline from Will Rogers State Park near Sunset Blvd 70 miles up the coast through Malibu to its end in Point Mugu. You can access the backbone trail from many other trails that dot the coast from Pacific Palisades.
Will Rogers State park is a great place to start and parking costs around $7 or so. The park is open from Sunrise to Sunset. You can even bring a dog here...keep in mind that many of the other trails are not dog friendly..head south to Palos Verdes for that. The Backbone trail is not a hard trail per say...I've done different parts of it in Vans tennis shoes which are more deck or skate shoes...no hiking boots required unless you want to head up some of the harder trails. There are numerous books on the area that you can buy at Boarders or B&N plus countless internet sites where you can print maps etc. It's a great way to see the native plants, the coast, the old filming site of the "MASH" TV show which was a Korean War comedy with Alan Alda staring in it where they have a few old jeeps etc. laying around. Come up here when it has been raining and you can see some cool waterfalls that make for some good photos.....Check my other off the beaten path tips for more photos. There are some good mountain bike trials that will bloody the shins of even experienced riders. Check the net and you can also find info on horseback riding here.
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.
Although restoration will not be complete until some time in 2006, the ranch that belonged to Will Rogers and his wife Betty was deeded to the State of California in 1944. Polo continues to be played, something that Will Rogers loved. Miles of hiking trails connect to the Backbone Trail that runs through the Santa Monica Mountains.
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.
Getting up close and personal with the back of the Hollywood sign, with views over Los Angeles, is an excellent way to get acquainted with the topography of the city. The iconic sign is located in the Hollywood Hills, within Griffith Park. A hiking trail wraps around the sign giving the visitor views over the city, the San Fernando Valley, and the mountains beyond. It takes 2-3 hours to complete the trail and it is not too difficult. Bring sunblock, water, a hat and comfortable walking shoes.
For more photos of this fun hike, take a look at the travelogue: "Hiking in Griffith Park."
Topanga Canyon is an LA car destination, but totally worth getting the car and driving here. The largest wilderness inside a city IN THE WORLD. More than 12,000 mountainous acres. Visit one of the many ranches. Or stop in the village for food (Froggy's). Or catch some open-air Shakespeare in the summer at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum. Combine this with a trip to the best So Cal beach, Zuma, and you'll have the perfect "storybook" California experience.
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.