Hikes at the Gas Pump Don't Have to Stop You From Hiking in the Mountains

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Photo by David Lockeretz of Nobody Hikes in L.A.

By David Lockeretz of Nobody Hikes in L.A. / Special to LAist

Many California residents have experienced a big hike lately—and unfortunately, it's not on the trails, but at the pump. Compared to many other recreational activities, the costs involved with hiking are pretty low: many short hikes can be done with virtually no special equipment, many trails have free parking and even the $15 to get into Orange County's Crystal Cove State Park is a lot cheaper than Disneyland. However, with gas prices being at their highest in almost four years, the cost of driving to a hiking trail is starting to become a factor, especially when the destination is a remote one such as Idyllwild or Big Bear Lake.

Yet, with some creative thinking, hikers can still access the trails they love without taking too big a hit on the wallet. Here are some ideas.

CARPOOLING: This may seem obvious, but how do you find other hikers who want to carpool to the same trail on the same day as you? Meetup is a good place to start; sites such as Facebook and Pinterest make it easy to let people know about where and when you want to hike. Carpooling not only saves on gas, but in some cases the cost of parking. It also can help on trails where the parking lots tend to get crowded (anybody who's been to Chantry Flats on a weekend knows about that).

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: You may be surprised at how many bus routes go right by trail heads. Popular Temescal Gateway Park is right off the 2 and 302 routes on Sunset Blvd. The 96 bus goes past Griffith Park. Route 243 provides access to the popular trails in the Porter Ranch neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley. Even more remote areas, such as the Angeles National Forest, can be reached by bus: route 268, which ends at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, passes by the Arroyo Seco Trailhead. After a mile of less-than-inspiring scenery, the Arroyo Seco enters the Angeles National Forest and instantly transports hikers to another world. Granted, public transportation presents limitations in terms of time and distance, and you probably wouldn't want to carry a lot of equipment with you on the bus, but for shorter hikes, it's certainly worth considering. Visit Metro's website for more information about public transportation in L.A.

VOLUNTEERING: Many parks rely on volunteer efforts to help with trail maintenance. While volunteering may not lower the price at the pump, often organizations that lead volunteer efforts can provide other perks, such as free admission to the parks, canteens, T-shirts and more. In addition to being a worthwhile way to spend one's time, volunteering can be a good way to network with other like-minded people, facilitating carpooling (see above!) to future hikes. For some ideas about where to start researching volunteer opportunities, visit the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

CITY TRAILS: Depending on the city where you live, you may be surprised at the number of recreational trails that may be literally in your back yard. The 12-mile "Fullerton Loop" is well known among that city's mountain bikers, but it is also accessible to hikers. The City of Monrovia operates the popular Monrovia Canyon Park, just a mile or two from the edge of the San Gabriel Valley, home of the popular Monrovia Canyon Falls and the challenging Ben Overturff Trail. Riverside's Mt. Rubidoux is a popular and scenic destination, and on the eastern end of the city, the Box Springs Mountain park provides some challenging trails. Many city websites have parks and recreation pages that may list trails.

DAYLIGHT SAVINGS: Daylight savings? What does that have to do with saving money at the gas pump? When we push our clocks ahead next Sunday, the extra hour of sunlight will become a surprisingly helpful tool. You will have an extra hour of daylight to squeeze in a hike after work on a nearby trail, and you'll have an extra hour of sun on the weekends for longer hikes. No matter how far you have to drive to hike, being able to hike for longer makes it a more cost-effective experience.