4 great day hikes to do in LA instead of Runyon Canyon

Lululemon stockholders rejoice! After a four-month closure, Runyon Canyon Park is back in service. Runyon is arguably the most popular hiking spot in the city. But in a city full of amazing hiking trails, why Runyon?

Anyone who’s been there can tell you that Runyon is a “scene.” If one were to total the value of all yoga pants present in Runyon Park on any given Tuesday afternoon, it would likely be the equivalent to a small country’s GDP. The men take styling cues from the cast of The Bachelorette…. BEFORE they hit the trail. Can you even imagine how bad that hair product stings when it gets in your eyes?

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A typical day at Runyon and/or The Bachelorette (Courtesy ABC)

If $100 yoga pants are your jam, cool. If you are one of the guys above, cool. Or if you are generally not a misanthropic hermit (comme moi) who just enjoys fresh air and a good cardio workout, cool. Don’t let me dissuade you from hitting the trail and having a great time. Yay for fitness and being outside!

But if you’re like me, you’re looking for something a bit more chill… something where you don’t have to be signed by CAA in order to participate… read on.

1. The Bird Sanctuary / Mount Hollywood Hike, Griffith Park

Just a few miles east of Runyon, Griffith Park’s rolling hills and sandy peaks keep watch over the city. With more than 4,000 acres of land and dozens of trails (almost all of which connect to one another), the hiking options are nearly endless.

One of my favorites: a 2.5 mile out-and-back trail that starts at Griffith Park’s bird sanctuary and takes you to the top of Mount Hollywood. The climb up takes about 25 – 35 minutes, which doesn’t seem like much. But it will definitely get your heart rate bumping. And then it will take your breath away with amazing views of the Hollywood Sign and downtown LA at the top.

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Directions and Parking: Head north on Vermont from Los Feliz Boulevard. Pass the Greek Theater on the right and find parking on the left. Walk north to the bird sanctuary and the find the trailhead just to the left of the sanctuary’s entrance. Follow the trail to the top of Mount Hollywood and then head back the same way you came.

2. Temescal Canyon / Temescal Ridge Hike, Temescal Gateway Park, Pacific Palisades

Westsiders have plenty to choose from when it comes to day hiking. Throw a rock from PCH and you’ll hit an amazing trail. A trail like the 4.5-mile loop in Temescal Gateway Park in Pacific Palisades.

Taking the Canyon Trail up, you’ll get a booty-busting workout to the top of Temescal Ridge. About halfway up, there are the skeletal remains of a waterfall (it was no match for five years of drought), but the underlying rock formations are fun to climb around on. The park is an explosion of wildflowers in the spring, and a cool ocean breeze is a lifesaver in the summer.

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The trail down (Temescal Ridge) rocks some incredible views of the ocean and the surrounding Santa Monica Mountains.

Directions and Parking: Take Temescal Canyon Road north from PCH. The road will dead end in the park, which charges a fee for parking. To avoid a fee, park along Sunset or Temescal Canyon outside the park. Head north into the park and watch for signs pointing to the Temescal Canyon trailhead. For details on the hiking loop, click here.

3. Baldwin Hills Overlook, Culver City

While this hike only amounts to just over a mile in length, it packs a punch. That’s because the trail is literally a staircase that rises nearly 260 feet in .15 miles. And climbing the stairs is like doing a series of intense lunges.

Once you catch your breath at the top, take in the beautiful views of the entire city and do some people watching – the Baldwin Hills park attracts people from all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Use the easy switchbacks on the way down to give your knees a break.

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Directions and Parking: The park is along Jefferson Avenue between Duquesne and Rodeo Road in Culver City. Park at the meters on Jefferson and follow the flow of people to the stairs. More here.

4. Echo Mountain via the Sam Merrill Trail, Altadena

This is the perfect hike for people who like being outside and also like exploring the history of old Los Angeles. Echo Mountain was the site of a glamorous resort called the “White City” from the early 1890s to 1938. A railway whisked the rich and powerful from the base of the San Gabriel Mountains in Altadena to the top of Echo Mountain. Upon arriving, guests could use the turn-of-the-century spa, play tennis on courts carved into the mountainside, or do the Lindy Hop in the dance hall.

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The ruins of the resort are scattered atop the mountain today, and are fun to explore and climb around on. The 2.5-mile hike up the mountain is pretty intense (with steep switchbacks and relentless climbs), but well worth the effort to witness a slice of old LA. Click here for pictures of how the resort looked then and what it looks like now. The whole trip is about five miles long.

Directions and Parking: Drive north on Lake Avenue in Altadena until the road dead ends at East Loma Alta Drive. Street parking is free, but pay attention to signs for restrictions. Pass through the gates to the Cobb Estate and follow signs to the trailhead. More explicit directions here.