Best Hiking Trails in Los Angeles: 11 Must-Do LA Hikes!

From the coastal canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains to Mount Baldy’s snowy summit, get out of Los Angeles city and onto the trail. We have something to suit everyone ranging from intense hikes to tranquil strolls.

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From snowy mountain summits to lush riparian canyons, the top trails within a stone’s throw of LA offer a variety of natural landscapes perfect for escaping from the city’s hustle and bustle.

Whether you’re admiring the City of Angel’s famous Hollywood sign or taking in panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, this area’s hikes provide unforgettable views and classic Southern California scenery.

In this guide, we’ll cover the top hikes near LA, including descriptions of each trail, parking info, difficulty, length, and all the highlights you can expect to see along the way.

1. Malibu Lake Trail, Malibu Creek State Park

M.A.S.H. site at Malibu Creek State Park
In true LA style, this trail takes you through the scenery of a number of TV shows and movies.
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Length: 6.6 miles

Malibu Creek State Park is a recreation area and historical filming location near Calabasas, California. Planet of the Apes, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and M*A*S*H* were all filmed around here. 

The park encompasses over 10,000 acres of land and 25 miles of Malibu Creek, all in the stunning Santa Monica Mountains. Popular activities here include horseback riding, bird watching, rock climbing, swimming, fishing, and hiking. The park has also been home to filmmakers over the years.

The Malibu Lake Trail is a 6.6-mile round-trip trek that takes a little over 2 hours to complete. The hike starts at Las Virgenes Road and Waycross Dr with a parking area close by. 

The first 6 miles follow Malibu Creek, and the trail ends at the scenic Malibu Lake, where you’ll find many areas to stop for a picnic or just take in the views.

The temperate Southern California weather allows for year-round hiking along this busy trail. Visit throughout the year for a picturesque hike near LA, but keep in mind that dogs aren’t allowed.

2. Sturtevant Falls, Angeles National Forest

Sturtevant Falls, Angeles National Forest
Take a hike in ‘LA’s backyard’.
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Length: 3.3 miles

One of the most rewarding short hikes near Los Angeles is the one to Sturtevant Falls. This hiking path in the San Gabriel Mountains dates back to the early 1900s and offers a shady forest walk along Santa Anita Creek. It’s located in the Angeles National Forest, which is known as LA’s backyard. 

Starting at Chantry Flat, the trail goes down into Santa Anita Canyon and crosses a bridge before reaching the 50-foot waterfall. Along the way, you’ll see some interesting cabins and smaller cascades. There’s an option to extend the hike and visit another waterfall nearby, Hermit Falls.

Since this hike can get quite busy, the optimal time to visit is on a weekday morning. Parking is available at Chantry Flats, but you will need to buy a pass to park. 

Warning: Sturtevant Falls Trail is currently closed due to the Bobcat Fire.

3. Griffith Observatory, Griffith Park

Views of L.A. from Griffith Observatory, Griffith Park
You’ll be rewarded with incredible views on this short hike.
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Length: 2 miles

Comprising over 4,210 acres, Griffith Park is home to LA’s iconic Griffith Observatory and one of the largest urban parks in North America. The park offers something for everyone, including the Los Angeles Zoo, golf courses, museums, and a variety of outdoor activities like biking, hiking, horseback riding, and more. 

One of the most popular hikes in the park, the West Observatory Trail features incredible views of the Griffith Park Observatory, the famous Hollywood sign, the Hollywood Hills, part of the San Fernando Valley, and the city. 

The hike begins at the creek past the restrooms by the Fern Dell Picnic area close to Los Feliz Blvd. Once at the creek, stay to the left and head up the hill toward the observatory. Once at the observatory, take a peek inside, continue to the summit of Mount Hollywood, or head back to Fern Dell to complete the roughly 1-hour hike.

4. Mount Baldy

Winter views of Mount Baldy, L.A. California
Take a trip up the tallest peak in the whole of LA county.
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Length: 11 miles

At 10,069 feet, Mount Baldy, officially known as Mount San Antonio, is the highest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains and Los Angeles County. Trekking to the summit is one of the top trails in Southern California

The steep trail climbs 3,950 feet through the subalpine zone to the peak’s rocky summit. Here, you’ll enjoy sweeping views of the inland desert, the city of LA, and the Pacific. 

There are two main paths to the top of the mountain. If you’re an experienced hiker looking for a challenge, ascend to the summit via the unmaintained Register Ridge Trail. This route has a 4,100 feet elevation gain in under 4 miles.

Once you’ve seen enough of the breathtaking vista at the summit, you can head south on the Baldy Bowl Trail to see a unique barren landscape scattered with pine trees deformed by the fierce mountain winds and a bowl littered with boulders. 

The trailhead and parking area for the Mount Baldy hike are located just beyond Manker Campground, a little over an hour east of Downtown Los Angeles. 

5. Temescal Canyon Trail, Topanga State Park

View of L.A. from Temescal Trail, Topanga State Park
Would you believe this wildland is still within LA’s city limits? (Photo by Marty B / CC BY-SA 2.0)
  • Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Length: 3.8 miles

With 36 miles of trails along the Santa Monica Mountains’ cliffs and canyons, Topanga State Park is considered the world’s largest wildland within a major city’s limits. The park is home to open grassland, live oak trees, and breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. 

Temascal Canyon Trail is a moderately difficult 3.8-mile loop that takes about 2 hours to complete. Along this route, you see unforgettable vistas of Malibu, Downtown LA, the mountains, the ocean, and even Catalina Island. 

The path passes unique and otherworldly rock formations (like Skull Rock), seasonal wildflowers, a wooded canyon floor, and a waterfall near the bridge. The trail ascends up to a ridge close to Temescal Ridge Trail.

The trail starts just off Sunset Blvd in Pacific Palisades at the Temescal Gateway Park. 

6. Solstice Canyon Trail & Rising Sun Trail

Solstice Canyon Trail & Rising Sun Trail
An easy Sunday stroll in the shade.
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Length: 3 miles

Those looking for a wilderness escape near Los Angeles should head north to the hills along the Malibu coast. Located in the tranquil Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, the Solstice Canyon Trail is one of the region’s most popular day hikes.

This easy, 3-mile out-and-back hike is shaded by forests of oak and sycamore trees, and winds alongside a creek. The trailhead starts at the small parking lot and is paved for about the first half mile. The built-up path eventually turns to dirt and heads up a gentle slope toward Solstice waterfall. 

Along the way, you’ll encounter the remnants of the Keller House, a stone cabin that was built over 100 years ago. Just before arriving at the falls, you’ll reach the Tropical Terrace and the Roberts Ranch House ruins.

Once at the falls, you might get to see some of the local birds, including acorn woodpeckers and red-tailed hawks. On the way there, you’ll also enjoy incredible views of the Pacific Ocean, the Sandstone Peak, and, of course, Solstice Canyon. 

After the waterfall, take the steep switchbacks to the top of the hills to the Rising Sun Trail. Above the canyon, you’re rewarded with gorgeous panoramic views of the ocean. 

7. Escondido Falls Trail, Escondido Canyon Park

Upper Escondido Falls, Escondido Canyon Park, LA
Enjoy a refreshing dip at the foot of Escondido Falls. (Photo by Monica Nuñez / CC BY 2.0)
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Length: 4.2 miles

Escondido Canyon Park near Malibu is home to the highest waterfall in the Santa Monica Mountains, Escondido Falls. These 150-foot tall, multi-tiered falls are the 4.2- mile, out-and-back hike’s highlight, but there’s plenty more to enjoy along the way. 

To get to the trailhead, take the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) from Santa Monica until you reach East Winding Way, near Solstice Canyon. Park in the parking lot and head towards the mountains along the paved road to the Escondido Canyon Park entrance. 

Once at the trailhead, the trail follows a paved path for about a mile, then meanders along Escondido Canyon Creek for another mile before arriving at the waterfalls. It’s a gentle ascent with spotted shade along the canyon walls. There are several river crossings on the way, so wear waterproof hiking shoes during the rainy season. 

Take a refreshing dip in the pool below the falls to cool off mid-hike. The water level is usually at its peak during the spring. The upper falls are closed off to the public since they are located on private property.

8. Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook

Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, LA
Take this short trail for city views and to see the Hollywood sign in all its glory. (Photo by Tracie Hall / CC BY-SA 2.0)
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Length: 1.3 miles

Those looking for a short yet challenging hike near LA should head to the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook.

Located past Culver City’s oil rigs, this park is an unexpected find hidden in southern LA’s industrial zone. It covers 58 acres and offers unique north-facing views of the city of Los Angeles with the mountains in the background. Hiking, birdwatching, and observing the native wildflowers are all popular activities here. 

To reach the overlook, take the path at the park entrance on Jefferson Blvd. From there, take the direct route to the top of a steep staircase. Climb the 260-stone steps for an intense workout with rewarding views of Los Angeles at the top. Take the switchbacks down, as they winds back and forth across the stairs until you reach the bottom.

This is a popular exercise spot and gets busy after work hours until the sun sets and on weekends. Visit midday during a weekday for fewer crowds. You can park along Jefferson Blvd or drive to the parking area at the top of the overlook. 

9. Eaton Canyon Falls, Eaton Canyon Natural Area

Eaton Canyon Falls, Eaton Canyon Natural Area
What’s better than ending a hike with a waterfall dip! (Photo by Person-with-No Name / CC BY 2.0)
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Length: 3.5 miles

The Eaton Canyon Natural Area is a 190-acre nature preserve at the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains near Pasadena. The onsite Eaton Canyon Nature Center houses exhibits with live animals and helpful information for visitors. One of the highlights of the natural area is the 40-foot-tall Eaton Canyon Falls.

The trailhead is located on the northern side of the parking area. From here, walk on the well-marked Eaton Canyon Trail through oak forests and riparian woodlands towards the waterfall. Follow the path under the bridge into the canyon. 

At this point, the trail becomes less clear and you may encounter creek-crossing and boulders. Be sure to wear waterproof hiking shoes during the rainy season. Once you traverse the main canyon, you’ll reach the refreshing and pretty waterfall. 

10. Inspiration Point Trail, Will Rogers State Historic Park

View of Santa Monica Bay from Inspiration Point trail, LA
A relaxing stroll with views of Santa Monica Bay. (Photo by Sergei Gussev / CC BY 2.0)
  • Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Length: 2.2 miles

Will Rogers State Park was once the private ranch of an early Hollywood star. Inspiration Point Trail is a loop within the park that connects with various trails, including parts of the Backbone Trail System. 

This loop was Will Rogers’ favorite trail and he would often invite his famous friends for a hike. In 1944, the ranch was given to the California State Parks system by Will’s wife as a living memorial to the star.

You can hop on the main path from the trails near the park’s polo field. The path is covered by eucalyptus trees and climbs to an overlook called Inspiration Point, which provides great views of the Los Angeles basin and Santa Monica Bay. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Catalina Island, Saddleback Peak, and Chino Hills. 

11. Los Liones Trail to Parker Mesa

Los Liones Trail to Parker Mesa, Topanga L.A.
Another glimpse of the whole of Santa Monica Bay on a more challenging hike. (Photo by daveynin / CC BY 2.0)
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Length: 7.3 miles

Located in Topanga State Park, Los Liones is considered by some to be one of the top trails in Los Angeles. The 7.3-mile hike starts off in the Pacific Palisades and leads up to Parker Mesa, a spectacular overlook. 

The path begins on Los Liones Drive at a marked gate. There are multiple parking lots nearby for this popular hike. 

The trail is lightly shaded and begins by passing through a verdant riparian canyon. After that, it connects to East Topanga Fire Road, which climbs up to Parker Mesa Overlook. There’s about a 1,300-foot elevation gain on this hike. Stop to take in the scenic views of the Santa Monica Bay and San Bernardino Mountains before heading back down. 

Best Hiking Trails in Los Angeles: Happy Hiking!

Whether it’s summiting Mount Baldy’s 10,069-feet, strolling through the canyons, or taking a refreshing dip at the base of the 150-foot-tall Escondido Falls, the greater Los Angeles area has something for everyone. 

Have we missed any of the best hiking trails in Los Angeles? Let us know in the comments below! And if you enjoyed this article, feel free to share it with your friends.

Last update on 2023-06-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Kristina Large Avatar

Kristina Ros is an adventure travel writer and outdoor enthusiast. Whether it's backpacking to alpine lakes in Colorado or camping on white sand beaches in Mexico, she’s always seeking more time in nature.

A lifelong native of southern California, she had much to learn about cold weather living after moving to Colorado. A few slips on the ice and numb fingers later, she adapted to life in the snow. Moving to the mountains allowed her to enjoy a greater variety of outdoor activities, like snowboarding and snowshoeing, aside from her previous experience as a certified scuba diver and avid snorkeler.

Kristina has been traveling full-time since 2018, including many hiking, backpacking, and camping adventures. Most recently, she and her husband have spent over a year exploring the western United States and Mexico in their self-converted Sprinter van. 

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