Seven Hikes You Can Squeeze In After Work
Who is a fan of the daily drudgery that congestion brings us Angelenos? Not me, especially when Daylight Savings is in effect and the sun shines well past the routine nine-to-five. My solution at these times is to skip rush hour and hike instead. It's a nice way to decompress as L.A.'s temps cool and light softens, begetting those awe-inspiring sunsets. A handful of post-work hiking suggestions are below, but most of our alternatives to Runyon Canyon work, too, and if we didn't list something you love, throw it in the comments.
At the top of Los Liones Trail (Photo by Zach Behrens)
For workers in the Santa Monica area
As Sunset Bouleverd nears its ocean terminus, this hike into Topanga State Park provides a short, but nice incline into the Santa Monica Mountains for views from downtown to over the bay. From the Los Liones trailhead to its lookout bench and back is a verdant 2.6 miles. If you've got more sunlight and steam in you, continue from the top of Los Liones to the next bench overlook at Parker Mesa for a total roundtrip of 7.2 miles. As a popular trail with many narrow sections, this is a good place to practice unofficial, yet well worn trail etiquette: uphill hikers get the right of way!
Los Liones Trailhead at Topanga State Park (closes at sunset, no dogs), across from 575 Los Liones Drive, Pacific Palisades
A view from the trails of Towsley Canyon (Photo by JefferyTurner via Flickr)
For workers in the North Valley and Santa Clarita area
Tucked on the north end of the Newhall Pass, this hike of more than five miles is one of the longer ones on this list. It's a good hull for an after-work hike, but beautiful in the waning sun at its apex. The loop, known either as the Don Mulally Trail or Towsley Loop Trail, is best begun by hanging a left (south) after you leave the parking lot. This route takes you through a riparian canyon and up a steep climb to an oak-lined ridge with views over the Santa Clarita Valley, dropping back into its tasty finale that is a sweet rocky and narrow canyon. There is a parking fee, but choosing to walk a few extra hundred feet from the parking lot outside the gate on The Old Road will save those bills.
Towsley Canyon (closes at sunset, dogs on leash allowed), 24335 The Old Road, Santa Clarita
The many steep steps to the top (Photo by Zach Behrens)
BALDWIN HILLS SCENIC OVERLOOK
For workers in the Culver City area
What was once known as the southern flank of the Cahuenga Valley is now an extremely popular destination for those in Culver City and South L.A. The Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook is a small state park that can provide a hefty glute workout, thanks to its famous staircase made up of 282 unforgiving steps. Your reward is an excellent view of all that is around, from downtown to the San Gabriel and Santa Monica mountain ranges, the ocean, and southward. You can get in a good 1.5 to 2.5 miles in here. Parking in the the lot at the top of the hill (for a fee!) defeats the purpose of a hike. It's best to let your car rest below, along Jefferson Boulevard. If this spot is too crowded for your tastes, try the nearby Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area for the calm 2.5-mile hike (there's a parking fee). The area is also home to the Ballona Creek Bike Path and the expanding Park to Playa Trail.
Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook (closes at sunset, no dogs), 6300 Hetzler Road, Culver City
Hiking along the X trail (Photo by Zach Behrens)
ERNEST E. DEBS REGIONAL PARK
For workers in Northeast L.A., Eastside, and downtown
Once slated for public housing, Ernest E. Debs Regional Park today offers several miles of trails in a sizable section of the Repetto Hills. A good five-mile loop can be yours, but with so many trail connections, shorter tours can be made. As home to an Audubon Center, Debs Park is also good place to start birding, a hobby that appears to be on the rise. Birding here is best in late April. This park is also near two Gold Line stations.
Ernest E. Debs Regional Park (closes one hour after sunset, dogs allowed on leash), 4700 North Griffin Avenue, Los Angeles
For workers in the Glendale and Burbank area
Often mistaken for the San Gabriels, this small mountain range rises behind Burbank and Glendale, creating the Crescenta Valley, home to La Cañada Flintridge, Montrose, Sunlund, and Tujunga. The range holds a number of park properties and trails, Wildwood Canyon being one of the more popular ones. In all, it's steep 2.8-mile climb to the top of Verdugo Peak, the tallest peak in the range, for a total of 5.6 miles. But this can also be made into a three-mile hike by stopping at a bench, which marks the end of the Vital Link Trail. For photos of this hike, check out this LAist gallery.
Wildwood Canyon Park (closes at dusks, dogs on leash allowed), 1701 Wildwood Canyon Drive, Burbank
From inside Cave of the Munits (left) and the view from Castle Peak (right) (Photos by Zach Behrens)
CAVE OF MUNITS AND CASTLE PEAK
For workers in the Warner Center and West Valley
Even if you skip the cave and the peak, a hike through the rolling Simi Hills and its oak-sprinkled ridges is a delight, especially in the spring when the non-native grasses go green. But a cave is hard to pass up. This mythical cave, according to one account, was home to a sorcerer named Munits who was hired to avenge a death and then was killed in revenge for said killing. The cave is elevated, so there is a about 15 feet of scrambling needed to enter, making this venture not the best idea for dogs, which are allowed here. Once inside, explore the small cave and wind your way to the back, where again, you need to climb if you want to head to Castle Peak, which came from a Chumash Indian word for tongue (kas’ele’ew or kas’elewen). This hike can be done in about two or three miles, depending on which trailhead you pick. Either way, I would not recommend scaling down eroding Castle Peak. Head back the way you came or take a trail from west of the top of the cave back down.
El Escorpión Canyon Park (closes at sunset, dogs allowed on leash), Vanowen Street at Valley Circle Boulevard (go 500 feet west of the intersection to trailhead) or Upper Las Virgenes (closes at sunset, dogs allowed on leash), trailhead at dead end of Victory Boulevard), West Hills
For workers in the Pasadena area
A quintessential L.A. hike, the Sam Merrill Trail begins at the Cobb Estate at the northern end of Lake Avenue in Altadena. Named for lumber magnate Charles Cobb that owned the land for a quarter-century in the 1900s (and later owned by the Marx Brothers), the parcel, which some believe to be haunted, was eventually purchased for public enjoyment. As for the trail itself, walk east through the property before it winds its way toward the ruins of the "White City" atop Echo Mountain, a 2.5-mile climb (for a roundtrip of 5 miles). Two hotels, a railway, an observatory, a zoo, and other structures—nearly all painted in white—were all abandoned after a series of natural disasters from 1900 to 1928, according to local hiking author John W. Robinson. A trail was later built by the Pasadena Conservation Club and later maintained by Merrill himself until his death.
Sam Merrill Trailhead (no nighttime closure), Lake Avenue/Alta Loma Drive, Altadena, CA
Zach Behrens is a freelance outdoors writer based in Los Angeles. Follow his adventures on Instagram.