Take Five: Southern California Hikes

Travel Lists

When you need a break from the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles city-life, the Transverse Ranges—a group of southern California mountain ranges that lie between San Diego and Santa Barbara counties and create over 200 hiking trails—offer a serene hideaway. Trade in people watching for wildlife stalking—hawks, squirrels, lizards and even rattlesnakes are regularly spotted—with these hikes of varying intensity and unique vibes (it is Southern Cali, after all).

1. Runyon Canyon

Just a couple of blocks from Hollywood Boulevard, Runyon Canyon (pictured above) boasts breathtaking views, even on a smoggy day. Although you won’t find much solitude on this trail, your furry friend will love the park’s liberal off-leash policy, and since it’s nestled in the Hollywood Hills, celebrity sightings are not uncommon.

Runyon Canyon has five entrances (the most commonly used entrance is off Fuller Street) and three main trails. The easy trail, Runyon Canyon Road, is a steady climb up a paved road, leading to panoramic views of the city at Clouds Rest. Medium in intensity, the Star Trail leads to Inspiration Point via man-made wooden steps that help hikers navigate the steep hill, before merging with Runyon Canyon Road at the top.

The most difficult route, the Hero Trail, takes approximately an hour, challenging hikers to a taxing 18-degree climb. The canyon also has several shorter hikes closer to the Mulholland Drive entrance.

2. Solstice Canyon

If you’re in the mood for a more secluded walk, Solstice Canyon is a wonderful place to spend a solitary afternoon and offers six trails.

An easier and family-friendly option is a 2.6-mile round-trip hike through the Tropical Terrace, which leads to a small waterfall and the ruins of Roberts Ranch House, built in 1952 and destroyed in 1982 by a fire.

The 3.9-mile trek through the Deer Valley Loop is one of the more challenging trails in Solstice Canyon. This is the kind of trail you curse while traversing but endure for the view from the top. This particular challenge leads to spectacular canyon and ocean views as far as the eye can see, in both directions from Malibu to the Santa Monica Bay.

3. Temescal Canyon

Temescal Canyon is a great workout just off Sunset Boulevard in the Pacific Palisades. Although it’s a popular hike, Temescal’s trails are never as crowded as Runyon Canyon’s can be, and once you reach Skull Rock, the trail becomes completely tranquil.

There are a number of paths to choose from, but keep in mind dogs are not welcome on Temescal Ridge Trail, so you’ll have to stick to the lower areas if you bring your pup. Finding your way around can get a little tricky, especially if you’ve never been before, so keep an eye out for the trail signage because the paths are not well marked.

Allow yourself plenty of time to explore. It’s quite easy to spend three or four hours wandering about and there are even a couple of areas ideal for picnicking, so pack some snacks. Time it right and catch the sun setting into the pacific, changing the sky from a beautiful blue to pink, red and orange hues.

4. The Wonder View Trail and the Wisdom Tree

The Wonder View Trail climbs to the top of Cahuenga Peak, leading to the magical Wisdom Tree at approximately 1,700 feet. The trail has only been open to the public since 2010, when it was purchased as a result of serious fundraising efforts and added to Griffith Park.

After a massive brush fire destroyed much of the region in 2007, this lone pine tree was the only charred survivor in the area. Many visitors leave notes, poetry, sketches, dates and names in the logbook at the base of the tree. Some of these philosophical musings are even featured on website entitled Notes at the Tree.

The hike, beginning on Wonder View Drive, is steep with an aggressive, zigzagging climb and on a clear day, hikers can enjoy a breathtaking view of the San Fernando Valley and the San Gabriel Mountains. To reach the Hollywood sign make a right when you meet Mount Lee Road and take the paved road; you won’t be able to get right on the sign, but you’ll be quite close.

5. Bronson Canyon

Bronson Canyon is home to the Bronson Caves and is also a part of Griffith Park. The cave has become a very well-known filming location for science fiction flicks and is famous for being the mouth of the Batcave from the 1960 Batman television series.

This beginner hike is less than a mile round-trip. To get there take Franklin Avenue in Hollywood, and merge onto Canyon Drive until the road ends. The trail begins and ends shortly after the Camp Hollywood parking lot.

Neelou Malekpour is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and blogger at The Viceless Vixen.

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