Support for LAist comes from
Made of L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

Play In LA

Top Places To Hike In LA With Someone You’re Getting To Know

A lush shot of Debs Lake, aka Debs Pond.
Debs Lake
(Megan Tan
Our June member drive is live: protect this resource!
Right now, we need your help during our short June member drive to keep the local news you read here every day going. This has been a challenging year, but with your help, we can get one step closer to closing our budget gap. Today, put a dollar value on the trustworthy reporting you rely on all year long. We can't hold those in power accountable and uplift voices from the community without your partnership.

I was seven years old when I first got lost in the woods. Luckily, I wasn’t alone. I was with my first-grade best friend, Abby. We were in Northeast Ohio, close to where my family has a cabin. I’m talking about a cabin with no running water and not a lot of cell reception. No neighbors. If you screamed, no one would hear you.

Erick Galindo's podcast takes you through those moments big and small that transform us forever.

We were off “exploring” (pre-cell phones and walkie-talkie days) the woods on our own when we totally got turned around. We went off-trail and soon every hill we climbed over and every hill we climbed back over looked the same. My sense of direction was dizzying.

Finally, after what felt like an hour of crying and screaming, the sun was setting. And then, I heard a car echoing through the forest. We ran toward it and it led us to a road, which led us to the cabin where my mom was making dinner.

Support for LAist comes from

Listen to Episode 4 of WILD

Mount Rushmore, Part 2: Erick and Luna each have epiphanies ... but they aren't necessarily the good kind.
About this season
  • Season Two of LAist Studios' WILD podcast is out now. We recommend you listen to Episode 4 as an accompaniment to this piece. The second season is a nine-part serialized fiction rom-com for your ears. It centers a couple from Southeast L.A., who embark on a road trip adventure across America. Will their relationship survive the trip? Find out on WILD Season 2: I Think I'm Falling In Love, co-hosted by Erick Galindo and Megan Tan, and starring Melinna Bobadilla, Gabrielle Ruiz, and Atsuko Okatsuka.

Abby and I stopped hanging out a couple years after that, but I bet if I called her up today, she would remember getting lost in the woods too.

Nature has a way of bringing you closer to people, and sometimes closer to yourself.

It’s a beautiful backdrop for getting to know someone. Based on the terrain, you can determine how you work together, how you put each other at ease, and how you encourage each other to keep hiking up this mountain (which is a metaphor for life anyway, right?).

If you’re going on a date, here are my three favorite places to hike around Los Angeles.

Lower Arroyo Seco Trail

Less than a 10-minute drive northeast of the Gold Line, Las Cazuelas, and Ichijiku Sushi (which are all located on Figueroa Street in Highland Park) is another beautiful place to take a first date. No high heels, makeup, or money needed. Just a good pair of tennis shoes and stories about yourself that will last you about an hour.

Support for LAist comes from

When I go to the Lower Arroyo Seco Trail, I like to park at the San Pascual Stables because seeing horses in the thick of Los Angeles is still magical to me. But if you’re not a horse person, you can also park at the Lower Arroyo Seco parking lot, which is close to a secret (but also not-so-secret) casting pond.

The Lower Arroyo Seco Trail is flat. You don’t have to have any kind of hiking experience for it. All you have to do is put one foot in front of the other, which feels like the slow crawl of getting to know someone.

It’s a loop that runs along the edge of the Arroyo Seco River. Post-rain the river can serve as background music, and texture in between the talking. But if you’re walking during the mid-summer months, it may be silent.

The Arroyo Seco is the type of trail that makes you feel like you’ve walked out of Los Angeles into another country. Even though the trail is flat and easy, you won’t be bored. As you walk along a wide dusty, dirt road, you’ll be in between lush, green expressive trees, overgrown bushes, and high hillsides.

If you keep walking, the hillsides will disappear, and get pushed back, and you’ll have the option to go off the main trail onto a hidden trail. If you park at the stables and walk north, you’ll pass the casting pond on your right, and as you continue, you’ll cross over a bridge. It’s casual, concrete. You’ll start to loop around, and then pass archery courts on your right.

As you walk back south toward the stables, you may come across what looks like Andy Goldsworthy-inspired artwork, made out of the materials along the trail. Maybe you add a stone or a stick as a memory.

This is one of the best first-date trails because there isn’t a lot of pressure on your body, and yet if you keep walking, you won’t see the same thing twice. It’s a fun, light, casual walk — just like a first date should be.

Quick facts:
Length: 3.0 miles (but only if you do the whole loop)
Time: Takes about an hour to complete
Difficulty: Easy

Debs Pond

(Via Scrub Jay Trail and City View Trail)

Less than 10 minutes from the Arroyo Seco Trail, closer to Chico's, the Southwest Museum of the American Indian, and El Pescador, is Debs Lake (though people sometimes call it “Debs Pond” in passing). There are many ways you can reach Debs. For a second date, I recommend parking on Griffin Avenue and entering a gate that passes the Audubon Center. This is because some of the other trails are a little steeper. From here, you can go straight on the Scrub Jay Trail, take a right when the trail first diverges, and then hook on to the City Walk Trail, which will take you straight to the Debs Pond (see the map below).

I deeply encourage packing for a picnic.

It’s a gradual incline, but an incline nonetheless. You’ll go from 459 feet to 840 feet in less than half a mile. Bring water, good shoes and a snack. If it’s sunny, bring a hat.

This is the type of climb that will make you two live in the moment. As you work out your legs, you can work out your questions. As you ask each other about the life you’ve lived, you can create a new memory together, exploring a new place you’ve never seen before even if you’ve lived in Los Angeles your whole life. Sometimes, when you’re dating, you just need a new route, a new way of looking out over a city you’ve known for a long time.

Along the trail, you’ll kick up dirt and dust in between story swaps. You’ll wipe your head as sweat starts to roll down, and you’ll both feel that accomplished sensation when you reach the top.

As my WILD co-host Erick Galindo likes to say, “The steeper the climb, the greater the view.”

Debs Pond is a bizarre yet magical place. It’s a pond that doesn’t look like it has a water supply, on top of a large hill that overlooks East Los Angeles. When you peek through the tree you may be able to see L.A.’s downtown skyline.

The regulars here are the fishermen fishing for fun and the turtles who peek their heads out to see who’s visiting. At the top of Debs Pond, you can catch your breath. Enjoy that picnic you both planned. Take a sip of water. See if you can sit in silence together. Enjoy the romance of tall trees with their own stories hugging you.

And then you can decide how you want to return back to your cars. It’s a place where, after you reach Debs Pond (depending on the mood), you can choose your own adventure.

Quick Facts:
Length: Less than 2.0 miles
Time: Takes a little more than an hour to complete
Difficulty: Moderate

Hellman Trail

A map of the Peppergrass hiking trail.
Google Earth)

35 minutes east of Debs Pond, close to Sala Coffee, Phlight, and the Poet Gardens, is a third date type of trail. Off Greenleaf Avenue in Whittier, it’s the Hellman Park Trail.

You’ll park on Greenleaf Avenue. Enter through a gate that warns if you stay past dawn, the gate will close. Then you will have to call a number and you will be fined.

Past that gate, you’ll go straight onto the Peppergrass Trail. From there, everything gets very steep very quickly. You’ll go from 459 feet to 1,000 feet in less than a mile. This is the real-life Stairmaster — the place where you will lose your breath, you will feel the burn, you will ground yourself in every step.

This is the trail you climb once you both have known each other for a little bit. You’ve already asked each other the hard questions and now you’re next to each other as you do something difficult. Ascend the side of a hill. This is the moment where you root each other on, you encourage each other to keep going. You live through a hard experience you’re both experiencing and see how you react and respond to each other.

Don’t worry, the view is worth it. On a clear day you’ll be able to see Long Beach and the ocean, straight south of you, as well as the skyline of downtown to your right. If it's even clearer than that, you can squint your eyes and you’ll see the Hollywood sign. But most of all you’ll be able to see if the person in front of you is the person you want to climb mountains alongside, well into the future.

How do you react to them when they’re having a hard time? How do they encourage you when you want to turn back? Can you laugh when you both are in pain? Can you enjoy a view that looks out over most of Los Angeles, even if you’re panting and sweaty?

If you keep walking up Peppergrass, it does start to plateau. You’re not hiking an incline forever (though it may feel that way). And when you round the corner you’ll see the whole San Gabriel Valley on the other side.

It’s the only place I’ve been able to walk up and feel like I can see all of Los Angeles.

In Episode 4 of WILD Season II: I Think I’m Falling in Love, the show opens with my co-host Erick Galindo and I heading to this exact destination.

It’s where he tells me, "Nature made me feel things I wasn’t really ready for."

I laugh and think to myself: Love has a funny way of doing that too.

Quick Facts:
Length: Less than 1.2 miles
Time: Takes a little more than an hour to complete
Difficulty: Difficult

How do I find the WILD podcast?

It's now available from LAist Studios. Check it out wherever you get your get podcasts! Or listen to the fourth episode on the player above.

We want to hear your love story

Most Read