Just how far outside of Los Angeles do you have to drive to get into nature? Less than you might think. There are many great hiking trails in and around the city, providing great views of mountains, oceans and skylines, and in some cases, a surprising amount of solitude. Depending on how much time you have and how far you want to drive, here are some of Southern California’s greatest hiking trips – by distance from downtown Los Angeles (defined, as on Mapquest, by Broadway and 1st St.)
Within 10 miles:
Just over 7 miles from downtown, Griffith Park is one of the biggest outdoor areas near any big city in the U.S. To be sure, this is not the place for solitude and quiet reflection, but the 4,000-plus acre park offers a great variety of trails. The challenging and scenic East Side Loop (6 miles) is great on clear days; you can expect to see the downtown L.A. skyline, the San Gabriel and Verdugo Mountains, and even the distant shape of Southern California’s tallest peak, San Gorgonio.
Also consider: Elyria Canyon Park, a nice little pocket of open space only 6 miles from downtown. While it doesn’t have the variety of number of trails found at Griffith, it’s a pleasant urban oasis, worth a visit if you’re in the area.
Within 20 miles:
Bailey Canyon Park is located in the foothill community of Sierra Madre, just 18 miles from downtown L.A. The park serves as a trailhead both for small but attractive Bailey Canyon Falls and the challenging hike to Jones Peak, which provides great views of the L.A. Basin.
Also consider: Sullivan Canyon, a long, scenic loop on the west side of L.A., just over 19 miles from downtown. A gradual climb through the canyon brings you to a ridge, with great views of the Santa Monica Mountains, the San Fernando Valley, the Hollywood Hills and more.
Within 30 miles:
The Backbone Trail runs through the Santa Monica Mountains. One of the most scenic stretches is located just 27 miles from downtown. Starting in Topanga State Park, the Backbone Trail climbs through Hondo Canyon, visiting some of the area’s characteristic geology and some oak woodlands, before emerging high on a ridge, with great ocean views.
Also consider: Switzer Falls, one of Southern California’s most popular waterfalls. In the front country of the Angeles National Forest, it’s located only 23 miles from downtown L.A.
Within 40 miles:
Placerita Canyon Park, located off the 14 Freeway, is 33 miles north of downtown L.A. Highlights include the seasonal waterfall and Manzanita Mountain, a difficult climb that rewards hikers with incredible views of the Antelope Valley and the high desert.
Also consider: Solstice Canyon Park, also 33 miles from downtown, but to the west. After a nice drive along the Pacific Coast Highway, you arrive at Solstice, where your destinations may include the ruins of the Tropical Terrace mansion or the scenic Deer Valley Loop, with great ocean views.
Within 50 miles:
Mt. Baldy. San Antonio. Whatever you call it, this summit is 45 miles from downtown and can be seen throughout almost all of Southern California. Whether you use the ski lift, hike the Ski Hut trail or make the challenging ascent through Bear Canyon, your So Cal hiking resume is not complete without this summit.
Also consider: If you’re not quite up for tackling Baldy, try Mt. Islip. The 8,250-foot summit can be reached from the popular Crystal Lake Recreation Area, only 48 miles from downtown L.A. The challenging 8-mile loop travels through some of the scenic high country of the Angeles National Forest, with wide-ranging views in all directions.
There you have it – proof positive that even when L.A. feels like an endless urban sprawl, there are some great places to escape it all, get some exercise and enjoy some great views, and some may be practically in your backyard.