Top L.A. Hiking Trails

In the summer months, nearby beaches may feel as crowded as an L.A. freeway. But you can get away and head into the hills, whether you're interested in a solitary trek, a hike with your dog or an encounter with ghosts in the mountains. Many of the region’s trails go back to the 1930s, when they were put in place through federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) programs. Today you can get comprehensive picture of nearby trails as the Department of Parks and Recreation website for trails in Los Angeles County. In the meantime, we asked Deirdre Durkan ’18 to tell us about a few of her favorite nearby hiking trails.

Burbank Peak Trail (Wonder View Trail)
Round-trip, this 3-mi. hike will take you about two hours to complete. The 872-ft. elevation on the newest section of Griffith Park offers a challenge for hikers and incredible views. Once you reach the top, you’ll see the only tree in the area that survived the Hollywood Hills Fire in 2007. Since that tragedy, people have dubbed it the Giving Tree and have made it an area to leave notes in an ammo box placed under the tree. The tree even has its own Instagram. Adding to the gorgeous landscape is an American flag, an unofficial 9/11 memorial. Difficulty: challenging

Eaton Canyon Trail
Although this popular trail in Pasadena’s Eaton Canyon Natural Area can get crowded on weekends, it has two major incentives: it is dog-friendly and has a 40-ft. waist-deep waterfall at the end. Along the way, you’ll encounter the Henninger Flats, which marks the change of the trail terrain to a rockier section. Once you get to the waterfall at the end of the relatively easy hike, however, it is not advised to try to climb past the waterfall to reach a second off-trail waterfall. Inexperienced hikers have lost their footing and perished.
Difficulty: easy

Runyon Canyon Hike
This brisk and easy trail, in Runyon Canyon Park near West Hollywood, has become one of most popular trails in the area. Located just two blocks north of Hollywood Boulevard, the trail offers outstanding views that span from Catalina Island to the Santa Monica mountains. Friendly dogs heavily populate the route, which makes it great hike for dog lovers. The workout destination has doubled as an Instagram photo op for years, but will definitely get your heart pumping.
Difficulty: moderate

Los Liones Trail
This lush 7.3 mi. hike in the Pacific Palisades leads to the popular Parker Mesa Overlook in Topanga State Park and unparalleled views of the Pacific Ocean. The greenery is vast along the single track up the canyon, with ivy then chaparral. Or you can stop at the first vista point, about a mile into the hike. It’s perfect for students on a demanding schedule because it only takes about 45 minutes to get to the overlook. The location also features an unobstructed view of the Santa Monica Bay.
Difficulty (full trail): moderate to difficult

Hollywood Sign Trails
There are three routes to the Hollywood sign: the Mt. Hollywood Trail (5.3 mi.), the Canyon Drive Trail (5.9 mi.), and the Cahuenga Peak Trail (3.7 mi.) to look over the city’s iconic letters. Along the way to the trail, you’ll encounter Griffith Park’s other trademark landmarks including the Griffith Observatory and the Greek Theatre. If you opt for the full hike, you’ll see the greatest head-on views of Los Angeles and get a challenging workout. The 6-mi. trek is usually lightly populated and filled with foliage, with wild flowers and views that will take your breath away.
Mt. Hollywood Trail difficulty: easy
Canyon Drive Trail difficulty: moderate
Cahuenga Peak Trail difficulty: difficult

Deirdre Durkan has worked in L.A. newsrooms including NBCUniversal, E News! and The Hollywood Reporter. Her work has appeared in The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, Los Angeles Loyolan and Her Campus. Earlier this year, her first play, “Death by Lean Cuisine,” was selected for LMU’s annual New Works Festival. Durkan graduated this past May with a major in English in the Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts.